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Institute of Education

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Q&A with Verna Brandford

What attracted you to take up your position at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?
Having taught for almost 5 years, I felt ready to register for a Master's degree. I was interviewed and was accepted at several universities, and it was by chance that I came across details of the MA in Language and Literature - Modern Foreign Languages at the IOE. I applied and was successful in obtaining a place on the course. The two year part-time experience transformed my practice as I was still working in school. The teaching on the course was inspiring, intellectually stimulating and engaging.

I went on to become a Head of Department in three schools, an advisory teacher, consultant advisor in two local authorities and an Ofsted inspector for Modern Foreign Languages for both secondary and primary phases. There is no doubt in my mind that studying and completing the MA at the IOE played a pivotal role in my career and helped me to develop a more secure conceptual understanding of the teaching and learning process in languages education.

Which UCL graduate programmes do you contribute to in the current 2016/17 academic year?
I currently contribute as a lecturer on the Secondary PGCE Languages course and the London Teach First Secondary Modern Languages programme as the Subject Lead.

How has being in London and/or at UCL in particular benefited you?
As a lecturer at the IOE, I have access to up-to-date research, resources, partnership schools and work with colleagues who are experts in their field.

How long have you been at the IOE and what was your previous role?
I have been at the IOE since 1994 when I started as part-time tutor on the PGCE Modern Foreign Languages course. I continued to work in schools and then as a part-time consultant advisor/inspector before becoming a full time member of staff.

What do you most enjoy about your position and why?
I am passionate about languages and language learning for all. I have taught languages to primary and secondary pupils as well as adults. I have had the privilege of working with phenomenal like-minded colleagues across the disciplines, student teachers and participants at the IOE as well as in schools who have been and continue to be so knowledgeable, collegial, professional and kind.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I initiated a project between three partnership schools and with the head teacher of Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in Kensington and his colleagues. The partnership schools hosted pupils from the Lycée for a week. It was not only a successful cultural and linguistic experience for all the pupils involved but it also encouraged several pupils from the partnership schools to consider applying for the A level French course.

At the end of the project, I was nominated by the head teacher of the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle for the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques. I received the medal from the head teacher on behalf of the French government in a graduation ceremony at the IOE in 2007.

What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries and/or insights will bring?
The focus of my research is the use of the Storyline approach in Modern Foreign Languages classrooms. I am hoping that my findings will provide insights from the pupils' perspectives into how simulated narrative structures can be deployed in a cross-curricular way to engage and motivate learners to be creative and confident as they communicate in the target language.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences at UCL?
I have recently taken on the role of Departmental Equal Opportunity Liaison Officer (DEOLO) in the Department of Culture, Communication and Media, and as a fervent believer of social justice for all I hope to work with colleagues and continue to enhance the professional experience of staff and the working environment at the IOE.