Case study

Supporting teacher education through Futures Fund - University of Sunderland

21 Mar 2016

For more than 100 years the University of Sunderland has become renowned for its teacher education in all sectors, developing a wide portfolio of provision. Our Department of Education promotes excellence in all aspects of education through study, research and practice, producing skilled and competent practitioners.

Futures Fund in the last 10 years has made a significant contribution towards helping many of those student teachers develop their professional skills through a variety of experiences and making an impact, not just at home, but in all corners of the globe, and inspiring generations of pupils.

Natalie Graham and Marycatherine Spence – Thailand and Singapore
Small changes in a short time made a huge impact on a group of children’s education when two Sunderland teaching students arrived at their school in rural Thailand determined to make a difference.
Natalie Graham and Marycatherine Spence, who are both training to be primary school teachers, travelled to Asia to take part in a voluntary English Teaching programme through the company Original Volunteers, after being granted £500 each for the trip through Futures Fund.

Natalie said: “This experience has taught us so much about how to go about teaching our somewhat complex language to children who know very little of it.”

The school the students taught in was based in rural Thailand, in Takupa, where the pair both quickly became familiar with the cultures and customs of the Thai people. They learned to communicate through actions as well as language, as both pupils’ and teachers’ levels of English were so basic. Natalie explained: “The Thai children were very used to didactic teaching, whereby they had very little interaction with their teacher, and as English Volunteers, we aimed to bring the fun back into the classroom, as well as an enthusiasm for learning our complex language. We did this by allowing the children to move around the classroom and involve themselves fully.”

Thanks to their Futures Funding, the pair were able to buy a full set of whiteboards, pens and magnets for the school, as well as alphabet letters and chalk for the playground.

Natalie explained: “It was clear to us how much the children appreciated this and the use of whiteboards in our lessons brought their learning to life.”

She added: “Throughout my time teaching in Thailand, I was able to reflect on how lucky I am to have been given this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it is with great thanks to the Futures Fund that myself and Marycatherine were able to embark on such a journey.”

In addition to teaching in Thailand, the students were also able to visit a British International School in Singapore, and given a tour of the school of 2,700 pupils.

“As a result of this experience, I have now decided that at some point in the future I would like to work in an international school in Asia, and without the funding support I would never have been given these life-changing opportunities. Most importantly we wouldn’t have been able to make even just a small impact upon these children’s lives.”

Jana Alidon – Japan
Jana Alidon was selected to take part in the first ever exchange programme between the University of Sunderland and Kibi International University in Japan.

The experience saw Jana living and studying in Japan for almost three months. The main purpose of her visit was to give Sunderland’s TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages) students who are interested in teaching in Japan, a chance to study there. A £500 award aided Jana’s travelling and living expenses, from there she was able to carry out English language observations, improve her language competency, the experience supported her personal development and growth, offered her career opportunities, and she was able to act as an ambassador of behalf of the University of Sunderland.

KIU focuses on foreign language studies, the courses the students take are mainly English language classes.

Jana said: “The main purpose of studying in Japan was related to my course TESOL, as it offered opportunities of observing how English language lessons are taught in international  universities such as KIU.

“From this I was able to interact with students by getting involved in activities, assisting the teachers and sometimes explaining certain terms and customs in England.

“I received helpful advice and support from experienced English teachers. This was an experience that tested my skills and abilities to teach and gradually gain confidence in every lesson I taught. Moreover it has been challenging, interesting and enjoyable to teach and meet incredible students and staff.”

As a result of these experiences, Jana said: “I have become more independent and gained more confidence in my ability to adjust to a new environment – vital skills to possess in my journey to teaching English abroad.”