Our graduatesDr Claire Dunn, PGDE Secondary Chemistry with Science

Tell us a little bit about your journey to studying the PGDE Secondary programme...
I am from Glasgow and I undertook the PGDE in Chemistry with Science in the academic year 2020/21. I began my science journey having gained a First class BSc.degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology from the University of Strathclyde, following which I worked with the NHS on an epidemiology clinical research post investigating the impact of the recently introduced Meningococcal vaccine. This vaccine research led me to then undertake a WellcomeTrust Masters and PhD in the field of Infection and Immunity through the University of Glasgow. After gaining my PhD, I worked as a post-doctoral research scientist in the field of pharmacology where I also gained experience working with undergraduate and post-graduate students before making the leap to secondary school teaching.

Tell us about the format of the programme. What were you doing week-to-week?
The PGDE programme involves placement rotations in school amounting to 18 weeks total, with another 18 weeks of teaching taking place at the university. Teaching within the university involved studying the following modules: Education Studies; Professional Values, Professional Learning Through Enquiry, Professional Skills: Curriculum and Pedagogy and Professional Practice. On a weekly basis this would include prior reading in advance of tutorials, where in small groups there would be discussion and elaboration of topics, development of curricular resources and experience of lesson planning allowing me to feel fully prepared for the school placement rotations.

What were the most enjoyable parts of your degree?
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to develop my teaching skills in the school environment through strong relationships with both pupils and staff on placement. In terms of the University based modules, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to research areas of personal interest to myself such as the role of mentoring in the school environment.  

Tell us about your new role and what your job is like?
I am going in to my third year of Chemistry teaching following my PGDE and I am a permanent employee with Glasgow City Council. I am undertaking dual qualification in Biology, allowing me to teach both Biology and Chemistry to secondary school pupils.  I teach pupils from S1 to S6 and am also volunteering as both an MCR mentor and a Sutton Trust mentor which allows me to incorporate a pastoral element to my role within schools. Teaching in Glasgow secondary schools is every bit as rewarding and impactful as I anticipated, and I am very grateful to those around me who encouraged me to take the leap of faith and apply for the PGDE.

How do you feel your degree helped prepare you for this role?
The PGDE university modules combined with the in-school placements gave me a thorough training and understanding of the curriculum and pedagogy involved in secondary school teaching. Learning and working alongside peers and school colleagues strengthened my confidence in my classroom teaching while the research informed approaches of the PGDE course developed my reflective stance allowing me to question, analyse and develop my own classroom pedagogy.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering working in a similar role to yours?
Gain as much experience as you can working with school age pupils in varying environments, be open to curriculum and policy changes, remain reflective throughout not just your training but your future teaching career.