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Institute of Education

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Q&A with Jay Derrick

1  What is your role and what does it involve?
My main role is leading the Post-Compulsory PGCE team, which trains new and already-working teachers for the post-compulsory sector of education and training. Most of our students already have subject knowledge, gained either from university or from their work, so the focus of our programme is mostly on generic aspects of teaching and learning. Apart from formal teaching, we work with practitioner mentors to support and assess students on teaching practice placements, which are provided for us by dozens of partner colleges and other education and training providers, mostly in the London area. I also teach one-off sessions, on a number of MA programmes and on the Education EdD.

I’m one of the co-Directors of the Centre for Post 14 Education and Work, which bids for and works on development projects, mostly focusing on post-school education, on topics such as apprenticeships, employer-provider collaboration vocational training courses, supporting English and mathematics, and on local skills partnerships and ‘ecologies’.

There are always interesting opportunities at IOE: in January this year I hosted a visit to the IOE by a British Council delegation of 20 Colombian educators and policymakers. We had organised a programme of seminars on education, young people and post-conflict situations: colleagues from the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) spoke about their research on citizenship education, literacy and numeracy as bridges to employment, teachers as peacemakers, and supporting ex-service personnel to become vocational teachers. It was completely out of my normal routine, but I was enormously stimulated and reinvigorated by seeing the impact of research in action.

2  How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I started teaching part-time on the Post-Compulsory PGCE programme in 2008, and became the Director of the programme in 2012. Before that I ran an educational consultancy for 8 years, and before that I worked as a teacher, curriculum manager and finally as Head of Department in Further and Adult Education institutions, in London since 1981. I started teaching in Brighton in 1976, as an adult literacy teacher in a local voluntary adult education centre. Bob Dylan had quite a lot to do with this choice of career, but that’s another story….

3  What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your students about the subject you teach?
That effective teaching needs teachers who work at the highest level of professionalism, who are expert communicators, and who can empathise with their students.

4  What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
When working as Head of Department for a large London FE college, we won a contract to design and deliver a system for providing Basic Skills (English and Mathematics) support for employees of London Underground Ltd, as it was then. The LUL colleagues were wonderful to work with, many staff signed up, and we soon had classes and support centres in dozens of locations all over the network. Our teachers had a whole new working routine, travelling up and down the network, teaching in staff rooms, offices and workshops, rather than always in the same classroom.

We all learnt enormously from this project, and what resonated with me, and still does, is that the workplace is a largely unrecognised site for effective learning, for both young people starting employment, and for adults throughout their working lives.

5  Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I’m working on my EdD thesis, which is investigating the links between workplace learning, team-working and innovation. I’ve been collecting data, mainly through interviewing practitioners in two organisations working in different industries, both high-performing in their fields, one an outstanding FE college, the other one of the top digital engineering companies in the UK. I’m now beginning the analysis of my data, and the writing-up. I’d like to finish it by the end of 2017, but I think it will be a little longer than that in practice.

6  What would it surprise people to know about you?
I play keyboards in a pub band called King Toadfish, based in north and east London. It’s wonderful fun, but also a quite demanding apprenticeship. I’m learning to play much more by ear and with others, after being taught as a child to play by eye, and on my own.

7  What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
I’m fascinated by the latest phase of development of automated systems and their potential to change all our lives profoundly – not least through replacing people in employment. This will impact on the work of teachers too: automated systems for marking assignments are surely only just around the corner.

For me, what’s amazing about this is that no consciousness needs to be involved – so we are not talking about scenarios in which computers take over the world, well not yet at least – good results are produced by lightning fast crunching of statistical data – the same technology used in Google Translate. I’m very much looking forward to being relieved of my marking duties, but rather worried about the disappearance of jobs and employment on a huge scale, which I think is a real possibility.