An Interview with Sophia Biegon – Full MEd
Sophia has been studying with us since 2015 and is due to complete the final module of her MEd in SEND in August 2021. We met up with Sophia to discuss how she found her time studying with us and how the programme’s flexibility has helped her to manage to study, work and raising a family over the past 5 years.
How did you find out about Real Training?
The SENCO at my school was completing a course with Real Training and pointed me in their direction. At the time I was interested in becoming a SENCO myself, as inclusion within education has always been important to me. I knew that I wanted to give myself a deeper understanding of SEND and therefore began the MEd with Skills and Knowledge courses. As my SEND knowledge and school experiences progressed, I decided to change my initial pathway and not pursue the NASENCO route. Instead, I decided to focus on other MEd modules which would better compliment my developing role in my school.
Why Real Training over other providers?
The fact that Real Training had a base in my area definitely made me feel a little less wary about the idea of an online learning experience. The affiliation with Middlesex also left a positive impression on me along with the high standards that were clear from my colleague’s recommendation. The courses looked interesting, well organised and challenging. Despite the fact that it’s not a face-to-face university experience, the high-quality standard of learning is most definitely still there. Real Training is a very professional and well set up provider.
What was your first experience of learning with Real Training?
I would not have considered Real Training if it wasn’t so flexible and allowed the setting of your own timelines. I am a working mother of two fantastic youngsters and learning how to balance life has been important. I didn’t know what to expect from the modules but appreciated the array of resources and videos and other multimedia that complimented reading and writing tasks. I appreciated the vast amount of links to government documentation/legislation as this gave me an insight into the bigger educational picture – and how schools subsequently need to engage. I enjoy learning about ‘what works’ according to educational researchers and being able to apply this to my school setting. Upskilling myself throughout the MEd has allowed me to reflect upon how I learn best, which has definitely affected my practice positively.
How have the courses helped make an impact at the school?
Our school SENCO kindly commented that “Sophia has developed bespoke packages of learning for students working within our specialist resource provision for SpLD. This is underscored by her wide understanding of cognitive and SEMH considerations. Sophia has delivered valuable whole school training and has created initiatives at all three tiers of intervention.” From my point of view, my learning has given me the confidence to go into school and create training for colleagues and initiatives with students that I know are evidence-based; I have found this to be particularly powerful. I now also know where to look for additional resources such as government documents, or which SEND-focussed websites are best to access. Some aspects of the courses call for negotiations with staff which can be quite challenging as I am in school part-time. However, they are always so beneficial when completed. My newly acquired skills and knowledge have equipped me with efficiency to introduce appropriate and budget-fitting initiatives into school, such as reading tests, guidelines for literacy and development of a bespoke resourced provision.
How have the courses helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills?
Thanks to the courses I have gained a greater understanding of my students – seeing them not as a reflection of one single aspect of their learning or behaviour, but rather understanding them holistically. Working to the strengths of my students, working ‘outside the box’ when it comes to helping them access their learning is something that I feel proud about. Another important mindset that I have picked up through my studies is an improved understanding of seeing SENDs from a parental perspective. I hope that I am a better practitioner because of it; I certainly feel that it has helped my own parenting skills! I ultimately hope to help my school create a learning environment that allows all types of learners to feel included – that they feel that they can achieve wonderful things without needing to fit into a one-size-fits-all box.
How was your experience of online learning vs. your expectations?
Campus Online has been really easy to use, with useful and accessible resources, such as EBSCO. Alongside this, their strong IT team has been really useful for me as I am not the most technically savvy! TheTeam was always easy to reach and happy to help, which put me at ease. In regard to tutor support – I cannot fault my tutors. They provided a challenge and got back quickly with knowledge and solutions. I was initially concerned about all the communication solely over email, however, I soon became comfortable with this. Studying online did actually help me ensure the flexibility I wanted and allowed me to manage my personal life, work commitments and studies.
Which parts have you found most interesting?
I have really enjoyed the literature reviews; finding out about educational paradigms and psychologies. The action research element of the EPI was challenging given my situation, however, I enjoyed collecting the data and watching the tool I created in action within the classrooms. Pushing myself as an educational professional has been such a beneficial process, especially understanding the importance of a critical eye, multiple perspectives and the ability to challenge viewpoints. Thanks to my training I feel so much more knowledgeable.
What are your hopes and expectations for the enquiry module and the future?
I have a few ideas for my enquiry module, but nothing solid as yet! I would love to further investigate the links between movement/sport and how this impacts cognitive processes or SEMH considerations. I would also really like to investigate the effects of engaging parents more obviously in the learning projects of our children. It seems hard at the moment to narrow my thoughts down! I do have some concerns due to the current pandemic and how this may impact my timetable and any personal limitations that may occur. Jane Yeomans is my tutor for the Enquiry module however and I feel very confident that I am in good hands. I have done some pre-course reading and feel excited to start. After completing my Enquiry module and MEd, I will look to gain the SpLD Assessment Practicing Certificate so that I can assess for Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. I know that Real Training offers a route to gain this qualification.