A group of PGDE students from the University of Strathclyde are helping the Intergenerational Mentoring Project to tutor S5 and S6 pupils in specialist subjects such as Chemistry, Biology and English. We spoke to Ewen Buchanan who is currently doing his Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in Chemistry with Science at the University of Strathclyde.
As part of his course he is doing a module called Professional Specialisation where he must choose and participate in an experience where he can offer support directly related to his main subject on the PGDE course. Through contact between the Intergenerational Mentoring Network and University of Strathclyde staff associated with the PGDE programme, we were able to offer PGDE students the opportunity to practice their professional specialisation by tutoring and mentoring S5 and S6 students in local Glasgow high schools associated with IMN.
Ewen has been tutoring a pupil in chemistry at Springburn Academy in Glasgow. So far they have had four tutoring sessions and have focussed on the recent chemistry prelim exam. The pupil seems to be quite happy as she did very well in the areas of the exam where they had revised the material together but slightly less well in the areas they hadn’t had time to cover. She feels that Ewen’s tutoring has had a positive impact and they have time to cover all of the necessary material as they work between now and final exams.
Ewen said tutoring has been a good experience for him on several levels. He said that one-to-one tutoring has been enjoyable because the pupil is really interested and engaged with science which is a little different from his experience of teaching on placement. Even though he has had a good experience while out on his PGDE teaching placement, he knows that there are some pupils who aren’t so enthusiastic about science. Getting the chance to work with a truly engaged student has been a rewarding experience.
It has also been a good chance for him to refresh his memory of Higher Chemistry. It has been a few years since he was in high school and did his own higher chemistry so it is good to get back into it and see what has changed. He has noticed that there is a bigger focus on literacy and numeracy skills in science through the Curriculum for Excellence which wasn’t present when he did his higher. Students will often get the help they need from Supported Study but when it comes to specialist subjects such as chemistry, individual attention from a dedicated tutor is of great value.
His initial approach to working with the student was just to ask the pupil questions about what she needed, what she was stuck with and what her plans were. As a PGDE student, Ewen appreciates the opportunity to broaden his role from that of a classroom teacher and really get to know a young person:
“I’m really enjoying the experience and getting a lot out of it. I’m finding the whole idea of mentoring someone to be quite rewarding.”
They spend time discussing what she might study at university, UCAS, SAAS, and alternative paths such as TEFL courses and working abroad. He said these discussions have been more informal and it has been satisfying to use his knowledge and experience to help the pupil explore her options and what processes she will have to go through depending on which path she chooses.
Overall, Ewen said that he has enjoyed working with the Intergenerational Mentoring Network as it has given him an opportunity to work with a school pupil in a less formal setting and according to their needs, to refresh his knowledge of chemistry while helping someone to achieve higher grades. He said he would recommend connecting with the Intergenerational Mentoring Network to anyone who is doing a PGDE and would like a worthwhile experience as part of their Professional Specialisation module.