NACE is partnering with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David to support initial teacher education in Wales. Nanna Ryder, Senior Lecturer (ALN), explains how this collaboration is helping trainee teachers better understand the often complex needs of more able learners.

The Athrofa Professional Learning Partnership (APLP) at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is proud to be the first initial teacher education (ITE) provider in Wales to become a member of NACE. This is a significant step forward for both staff and students in enhancing their knowledge and understanding of innovative approaches to supporting and challenging more able and talented (MAT) pupils in the classroom and beyond.  

Our student teachers from across all programmes regularly identify this as a complex and challenging aspect of teaching experience. Jennifer Evans, a third-year student on the BA Primary Education with QTS course and chairperson of the UWTSD Teacher Society comments: “from a student perspective whilst working in schools and completing teaching experience, these groups of learners are sometimes disregarded and unsupported due to the necessity to develop independent learners.”  

Jennifer also notes that from her experience as a student teacher, “our MAT children are generally grouped with the higher ability group for every area of learning, experience or subject, but may need more support in specific areas. Sometimes they are merely encouraged to become more independent so teachers can concentrate on the lower or middle ability groups or the most challenging students within the classroom.”

Expertise and research alongside practical experience

In line with the APLP model of teacher education, gaining access to expertise and resources from NACE will help our student teachers to embrace complexity; develop their understanding of the relationship between knowledge and experience; form meaningful relationships; and enable them to research, practise, model and reflect on their own classroom practice. With the development of a new curriculum in Wales and the emphasis on progression, there has been no better time to reflect on how we can further support our student teachers with the knowledge and skills to extend and challenge the learning and experiences of MAT pupils.  

During the 2018-2019 academic year, over 300 primary and secondary student teachers from both the Carmarthen and Swansea campuses have benefitted from the expertise of the NACE Associate for Wales, Rhiannon Jenkins. She has delivered sessions to raise awareness of the current provision for MAT, the NACE Challenge Framework and other support and resources available through NACE to student teachers at this early stage in their careers. Many of these students are currently on placement in some of our lead partnership schools who have already received the NACE Challenge Award. 

Developing a learning environment to challenge all learners

To date, we can see how being a member of NACE is already proving beneficial to our students, with some choosing MAT as a focus for their research project and others adapting their pedagogy with different groups of learners. Jennifer Evans adds, “For me, the insightful session on the work of NACE have developed my confidence to challenge my own practice for my upcoming placement and to rethink my style of teaching and how I can modify the learning environment to support all learners. This will hopefully ensure that my MAT learners will be challenged more frequently and develop skillsets to become independent learners without the boredom and low self-esteem that they may have previously experienced. NACE has developed my understanding to adopt a personalised teaching approach to support all my learners in regards to their academic, social and emotional needs.”

Our staff can also reap the benefits of NACE membership with access to a whole range of resources and expertise to further support their teaching. A welcome addition to those working with student teachers in Welsh medium schools is the Welsh language version of the Challenge Framework. Over the coming year, we look forward to further developing our partnership with NACE so that in the words of our current Cabinet Secretary for Education in Wales, Kirsty Williams, “By learning together, we can develop a better Wales.”

The Athrofa Professional Learning Partnership APLP is a partnership between UWTSD and partner schools across South and West Wales. It combines the expertise of the school sector and all its practical hands-on experience with the expertise of the higher education sector in teaching and mentoring undergraduate and postgraduate student teachers. 

Nanna Ryder is a senior lecturer within the Athrofa and leads on Additional Learning Needs provision for ITE courses. She is a former primary school teacher and has been a lecturer at UWTSD since 2008.

To find out more about NACE membership for your school, university or as a student teacher, view our membership information or get in touch
Friday, April 12, 2019