Graduate work in Modern Languages at Oxford has led to a variety of careers — academic and non-academic in the UK and elsewhere. The ability to work independently, to organise complex material and meet deadlines are skills which are valued in many different contexts.
Postgraduate Online Research Training (PORT)
This site offers a comprehensive guide to research students in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Czech and Polish studies. More information is available at the PORT website.
Teacher Training and Certification
Teaching experience is something that all graduates intending to go on to an academic career should acquire. As part of its initiative entitled “Embedding Graduate Studies”, Oxford launched a scheme some years ago.
Under this scheme, as adapted for our Faculty, all interested students at PRS stage or later should expect to attend brief training courses addressing the separate issues of literature and language teaching: these courses are called PLTO (Preparation for Learning and Teaching in Oxford). They are then invited to apply for the next stage, DLT (Developing Learning and Teaching) in the following academic year.
There are five elements to DLT: observation, reading, teaching, mentoring and the writing-up and submission of a portfolio. These individual elements are not intended to be completed in order, as this list might imply. For example, participants do not need to wait until after they have completed some teaching before observing others’ classes or vice versa. Rather, these activities are most effective when undertaken in parallel. It is recommended that participants complete the activities and the portfolio that records them in the course of one or possibly two terms. Participants will probably need to plan to do this around the term or two terms in which they start to teach.
Observation: You will be encouraged to observe at least one language class (by arrangement with the appropriate Faculty Language Instructor or other faculty or college class tutor), one literature tutorial or seminar, and one lecture, to make brief notes on what you have learned from these, and to discuss them with your mentor.
Reading: The Humanities Division organizes reading groups, at which you discuss some short academic studies of the teaching and learning process in higher education. The reading and discussion will feed into your reflection and your portfolio.
Teaching: will be arranged by your mentor as required. If you are already doing sufficient teaching, this may not be necessary. You may well be paired with another graduate, so that you can observe each other in action, you may do some co-teaching with another graduate or with your mentor; but your mentor will normally observe at least one session. Teaching done under this scheme is not paid, but it is the gateway to paid teaching. What you do will vary: it may involve being responsible for teaching some parts of the syllabus (some period tutorials, or a prescribed author, or translation), but it may be more in the nature of revision tutorials, or introductory seminars for a paper, or for literary theory, or extra language support. There may be the opportunity to give one or more lectures as part of a graduate-taught course.
While it is not possible to complete a portfolio without having any teaching experience at all, the minimum requirements are relatively low and most researchers who are determined should be able to fulfil them.
Participants either need to experience two different teaching settings (i.e. a lecture and a class; a tutorial and undergraduate dissertation supervision) or a more extended experience in one setting (e.g. a series of tutorials or classes or lectures). Co-teaching is encouraged, however, participants must be actively involved in some part of the teaching. Assessing undergraduate work and providing feedback count as active involvement.
Mentoring: For all these you will be assigned a mentor, who may be your supervisor or another member of the academic staff. Students should contact their supervisors in the first instance for advice about mentors; though individual sub-faculties might well have their own ways of assigning mentors. You should see your mentor to reflect on what you have done and what you are about to do. Preparation, materials, feedback and general debriefing will be part of these conversations.
Portfolio: At the end of the training you should write up a short portfolio of about 5000 words, addressing general principles and/or specific issues of teaching, in relation to your own experience and the academic studies you have read. You may wish to argue for or against particular strategies, or just reflect on the outcomes. This portfolio is read by one assessor from the CETL and one from the Faculty, and if approved, it will normally entitle you to receive certification from the Higher Education Academy.
What next? It is the expectation that the Faculty’s list of graduates willing to offer teaching will in future include only those who have completed both PLTO and DLT, and who can therefore be asked with confidence to do (paid) teaching when the need arises.
PLTO courses are held annually at the end of Trinity term — the date for this academic year is Friday 14 June 2019. The session is hosted by the Faculty Training Officer, Professor Ben Morgan.
Details of Humanities Training is available on the Humanities website.