Attending the Assessment Centre in York was a daunting prospect; so much information had been provided on what to prepare and yet, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Though I was scheduled for the afternoon interview session, my degrees are in science, not maths, and so I arrived mid-morning for the written assessment.
My assessment was scheduled for early August - by this point, I was more than halfway through a 16-week SKE course. I felt somewhat prepared for the exam due to this, though worried that the modules I still had to cover might play heavily in it. The questions ranged from fairly simple to very challenging. On a couple, I put my faith in intuition to reason an answer, such as where I was yet to refresh my knowledge of moments. I enjoyed the challenge, however. It reminded me why I enjoy studying maths and of my appreciation for the complex and somewhat intricate nature of calculus.
My fellow interviewees were arriving as I finished the assessment. It was great to sit and chat about various things; where we were from, what drove us into teaching, and some ideas we had come across while preparing for our interviews. We wished one another luck as half of us were led away for their group interview and presentations while the rest of us waited for the individual part.
I found the individual interview very enriching. The questions we were asked had been supplied in our preparation notes, so I had an idea of where it was leading, but the opportunity to talk to people who had been teaching maths and involved in research was one I am glad to have had. While nervous, they made me feel more at ease and able to talk freely about why I wanted to teach, my passion for the subject and why I wanted to be a scholar. I had the chance to ask them about their own experiences and any advice they might have to offer as I started on the path to becoming a qualified teacher.
The group discussion followed. The topic surrounded the idea of mathematical vs numerate and what we understood those to mean. The four of us in the group had very similar ideas about the relevance of both and how it could compare almost directly with English Literature and English Language which are assessed separately at GCSE. We also considered whether the current exams, or those we knew, failed to identify children who were numerate but not necessarily great at maths and the implications that might have on their future studies and careers.
Finally, we gave our presentations to the group - how would we address ‘Why do I need to learn about xxx? I’ll never use it after school!’ My given topic was trigonometry and there is a wealth of applications ranging from the sciences to the humanities to the arts where it is directly relevant. The other topics presented were challenging in themselves and I felt like maybe I had had it easy, but interestingly, the others felt similarly about their own assignment. The main take away from the session was that, ultimately, we can relate these fundamental principles to so many different aspects of life and so many careers that no child should ever have to feel like what they are learning is only relevant for the exams. It is sad when that is all they see and I hope to change that when teaching myself.
All in all, I feel I gained more than I gave at the assessment centre. While they may have been assessing my suitability as a maths scholar, I took away a lot of information and things to think about. Even had I not been successful in my application, being a part of that process and learning as much as I did was a great way to spend my time and set me up with good questions and ideas for starting my PGCE.
By Hannah Cook