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PGCE in History - How much subject knowledge is needed?

Discussion in 'Thinking of teaching' started by Coeus2, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. Coeus2

    Coeus2 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I am in my final year of University studying history, and I plan on doing my PGCE next year with a view to teaching KS3/4 history in the future.

    I am however slightly worried having looked at the curriculum as I have very little knowledge of most of the subjects. My history degree has covered very little of the topics mentioned, and there has been a large gap between college and University where I was pursuing a different career (retail management, I am 28 and left College 10 years ago), so previous knowledge has been lost.

    My question then is how important is subject knowledge and how difficult is it to get up to scratch? I plan on improving my knowledge between now and (hopefully) the start of my PGCE course in September. I appreciate I don’t need degree level knowledge of the subjects, but I was wondering how much knowledge is needed, and if anybody has been in a similar position before.

    Any help/advice would be appreciated!
    pepper5 likes this.
  2. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    I'm not a secondary teacher but I reckon you've got plenty of time to do a bit of reading around your subject between now and when you start your PGCE. I'd suggest having a look at the KS3 history curriculum and the syllabus for the exam courses you're likely to be teaching. The content and skills required to be taught will be covered during your PGCE but you'll be in a good position if you've done a bit of reading before you start.
    pepper5 and agathamorse like this.
  3. Coeus2

    Coeus2 New commenter

    Thank you for your reply, I will look more into the things you’ve mentioned as I’m sure they will help! I am probably worrying more than is necessary, but I’ve recently decided that teaching is what I really want to do with my life so I want to make sure I don’t fail at a potential interview because of a lack of knowledge etc.
  4. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    If you've not had a PGCE interview yet, try to get some experience in a school beforehand. Ask local primary and/or secondary schools if you could come in to observe for a couple of days or offer to help in class hearing readers etc. If you can't arrange this, try helping out with a youth club, Scouts, Guides etc. Any experience working with children will go down well with interviewers. It shows you've tried to find out a bit about what the job is actually like.
  5. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    I taught a number of subjects by keeping one page ahead in the textbook. In my main subject in the early days with topics I wasn't too familiar with I just made sure I read up and had a go at some of the exam questions to make sure I could cope with anything that came up.

    These days, although your subject is history, you could find yourself teaching all sorts from RE to science or even maths.
  6. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    You are not hired for your topical knowledge at the start of a course. You are hired for your ability to research any historical topic chosen and to understand the principles of historical study. During the one year PGCE, you’ll carefully craft a range of experiences of teaching through a range of teachers' classes across two placements. At the end, you’ll have a foundation of knowledge ready for your ECF.

    Read Shulman and the three principles of subject knowledge.

    • Topic knowledge of your subject (what you referred to)
    • Knowledge of teaching your topics (what you learn on the course)
    • Curriculum and assessment knowledge (knowing your specs, exams and how to answer 12 mark questions etc.)
    So you can build topic knowledge by reading the KS3 framework and the GCSE spec and read up on areas you aren’t so familiar with. However, all the above takes a one year course to build up.

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