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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?

Until this year, most of my work has consisted of membership of 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. 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, all across the London area.

I’m still working on the PGCE, but this year, more of my time is spent teaching and tutoring on three different masters programmes: including the Education MA and the Professional Education and Training MA for which I lead a module on Professionalism and Expertise. Finally, I am one of the module leaders for an exciting new Engineering and Education MSc which is being launched in September 2018. This is a joint initiative between the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and the UCL Faculty of Engineering, and looks at the engineering workplace as a site for learning and innovation in contexts of change.

The module I’m designing and co-ordinating is called Engineering and Education: Innovation, Practice and Leadership, and will cover topics including: how best to train engineers for a rapidly-changing industry; leadership and management in international partnership projects; apprenticeship as a model for learning in the context of engineering; improving the recruitment of young people and especially girls into engineering careers; and the impact of Brexit on engineering research and innovation. This is an exciting new development, enabling me to work with colleagues with completely different specialist knowledge and professional experience from across UCL and beyond.

There are always interesting opportunities at IOE: last 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 was the Director of the programme between 2012 and 2017. 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 Education 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 writing it up and expect to complete it in summer 2018.

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.