Academic Spotlight: Kelly Davey Nicklin

With a huge variety of wonderful staff members and academics teaching our courses and shaping the futures of our students, we wanted to unpack their stories and discover how they got to where they are now.

Kelly Davey Nicklin, PGCE Secondary Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in Music Education, shares an insight into her career and work.

What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University?

I currently wear a few different hats in regards to roles that I undertake at BCU. When I first came to BCU nine years ago I was Senior Lecturer in Music Education. I still undertake this role, supporting our trainee secondary school music teachers and I have also been the Course Leader for the PGCE Secondary course for the last six years, overseeing all subjects on our postgraduate secondary teacher training programme. I have been part of the University for a very long time having completed my own PGCE at the University back in 2004. During my time as a secondary school music teacher, I also worked with BCU as a mentor for BCU trainees in school.

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?

My musical career started at a very young age when I composed my first song at the age of seven. I have played a range of instruments over the years including the piano, saxophone, clarinet and trumpet but my heart has always been in composing. At the age of ten I composed a Christmas carol for my primary school for their Christmas Concert in 1993 – when I left the school they asked if they could keep the carol so that they could perform it every year. In 2018 I was delighted to be invited back to the school to hear it being performed for the 25th year!

I chose a degree that would enable me to specialise as a composer and during my degree I composed music for documentaries on BBC Radio 4. Following my undergraduate degree, I embarked on a PGCE because I wanted to combine my love of music and education. I spent ten years teaching music in secondary schools before coming to BCU and composing pedagogies have always been at the heart of every music classroom I have taught in. I always draw upon my range of experiences in the classroom to support the teaching that I undertake now, supporting trainees and preparing them for the teaching profession.

I also have experience of being an examiner and moderator for a few different exam boards and I was also a Head of Faculty during my time in school. Whilst I have been at BCU I have continued to build upon my experience in the education sector by becoming a school governor and I have also been an external examiner for other teacher training programmes across the country.

What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?

My biggest achievements at BCU have been linked to research that I have undertaken as part of my role but also as an EdD student. I became very interested in how trainee teachers use social media as training professionals, and established the hashtag #BCUITEChat on Twitter a few years ago. We undertook a collaborative project with La Trobe University in Australia – trainee teachers in Australia and the UK chatted via #BCUITEChat to compare their experiences. We use #BCUITEChat to provide opportunities for our trainees to collaborate online and share experiences during their teacher training journey and beyond.

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What makes the course you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like?

One very distinct feature of the PGCE Secondary course is our focus on subject pedagogy. We have a large team of tutors who are subject specialists and have taught their subject in secondary schools. I recently calculated that on average, our combined tutor team have the experience of teaching a total of 81,000 pupils – not only do we bring this experience to the course, but we also deliver the subject pedagogy module which enables trainees to explore and critically evaluate subject-specific pedagogical approaches.

On campus we have a range of different teaching spaces that replicate similar spaces in the school environment. To name a few, we have music rooms, a sports hall, science labs, theatre space and art rooms that are all used for our subject pedagogy sessions at the University. As a trainee on the PGCE you will have a BCU tutor who is a subject-specialist as well as having a subject-specialist mentor in school so our focus on your specialist subject is a significant feature of the PGCE Secondary course at BCU.

Why do you think Birmingham is a good place to study?

Birmingham is a fantastic place to study for so many reasons. Birmingham is a vibrant and diverse city which provides variety and opportunity both professionally and personally. The number of pupils in primary and secondary schools in Birmingham continues to grow so there are lots of wonderful pupils in Birmingham who need teachers to teach them! On the PGCE we ensure that trainees have contrasting school placements and we work with over 200 schools in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

What can students do to help prepare them for the course you teach?

There is a myth out there that suggests that applicants to teacher training must have prior experience of working in a school before applying for a PGCE – this is not the case! It is always beneficial to be able to draw upon prior experience at interview, if you have it, but please do not feel that you must have been in a school recently to apply. At interview we are looking for your potential to teach, your enthusiasm for working with children and a passion for your subject. Once you have secured a place on the PGCE, get reading as soon as possible – have a look at the Chartered College of Teaching and the Times Educational Supplement. We will support you in identifying gaps in your subject knowledge at interview so that you can start working on closing these gaps before the PGCE begins.

What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?

My favourite thing about working at the University is having the privilege to work with amazing trainees who all have the potential to become outstanding teachers. The PGCE is only a year-long course, but the best part of my job is seeing the vast amounts of progress that our trainees make and seeing the impact that our trainees have on the pupils that they work with. Once our trainees get their jobs in schools, they very often become mentors for future cohorts, so it is also a pleasure for our alumni to be part of our training processes too!

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