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A place at the University of Oxford for Kings teacher Latoya

01 Aug, 2019
A place at the University of Oxford for Kings teacher Latoya

In a superb achievement, Kings Oxford teacher Latoya Van Der Meer has recently been offered a place to complete an MSc in Learning and Teaching at the University of Oxford.

Here, she tells us a little more about the course, and what she is most looking forward to about her studies at this prestigious institution.

Hi Latoya. How long have you been at Kings, and what subject(s) do you currently teach?

I have worked at Kings for about 8 years now. Initially for a year at Kings Oxford after which I spent a year studying to complete my PGCE in Physics with Mathematics. I then spent 2 years at Kings Bournemouth before returning to Kings Oxford where I have worked since 2015.

I predominantly teach Physics and Mathematics as A-level/ Foundation subjects. Outside of these courses I have also taught engineering principles, creative writing, interview techniques, medical physics, and astrophysics.

What subject was your undergraduate degree in, and where did you complete it?

I hold a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics (double major), along with a Master of Science (MSc) by research in Medical Physics. My first MSc was in the field of radiation biology, entitled Combining Hyperthermia and Ionising Radiation: The Cell Killing Effect on Mouse Leukaemia Cells. I attained both at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

You are about to begin an MSc in Learning and Teaching at the University of Oxford. Can you tell us a little more about what the course entails, and your reasons for applying?

The MSc in Learning and Teaching is a part-time, two-year, professional development course for qualified teachers who are currently working in schools. It focuses on developing research informed teaching practices.

In the first year I will be partaking in a number of workshops and lectures at the university, have weekly articles/ books to read, and complete assignments and essays. The second year is devoted to carrying out my own research within Kings.

During both of these years I will be still teaching at Kings full-time, so most of the work will have to be completed during the evening or on weekends.

I'm particularly interested in English literacy development in the Physics classroom. There are many synonymic expressions that come up in questions that don't necessarily reflect ordinary key vocabulary. For example, the phrases 'shine a light on a surface', 'illuminate a surface', or 'photons incident on a surface', have effectively the same meaning but can confuse students. This can create a linguistic minefield that can often impede student enjoyment of studying physics, or make the subject feel inaccessible leading to a negative impact on grades.

With its many international students, Kings is the perfect place for research in this area. My main reason for applying is to find a practical solution to avoid hearing, "Miss, I don't understand the question". I find that this still occurs even after two years of study, where the issue is not their mathematical skills or understanding of physics but simply the language used in the question.

What are you most looking forward to about it?

To update my understanding of the latest research in education, especially in cognitive science, student anxiety when studying STEM subjects, and literacy development in STEM classes. I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to debate ideas, and study research methodologies and statistical analysis as applied in education.

What are you most looking forward to specifically about completing your studies through the University of Oxford?

Oxford University has a strong 100+ year history of conducting high calibre, educational research. Its Department of Education splits into three main areas: language, cognition and development; policy, economy and society; pedagogy, learning and knowledge. Having access to highly qualified professionals in these fields is a privilege, and I particularly look forward to learning from them.

How do you think your studies will benefit your students and colleagues at Kings?

I'm hoping to share what I learn about the latest research informed practices with my colleagues at Kings through workshops and talks. My students will benefit directly from this knowledge within the classroom as I put the research into practice.