Primary Education staff: Mark Taylor

I was a terrible student. I think I went to only one lecture in my whole second year of my Physics degree course. But I was always curious and took modules in history of art and philosophy much to the consternation of my Physics professors. So I have some sympathy for students who want to take ownership of their own learning and be independent. I am more interested in learning than teaching.

After university I went to drama school and spent the next seven years working in theatre and theatre in education. As a result I suppose I can’t help seeing teaching as a performance-probably not a good thing overall but being an actor has given me some useful transferable skills.

I trained as a secondary science teacher but quickly moved to primary teaching. I realised I was more interested in teaching children than teaching science- the more holistic relationship with the learners in primary appealed more. Nonetheless I was a pretty rubbish teacher and it took me a long time to develop my skills, I was lucky in every school I worked in to have superb colleagues who showed me what good teaching looked like. I think it was my own difficult journey to becoming a teacher that made me so interested in teacher training.

Rather surprisingly to me I realised I was actually getting pretty good at teaching but shortly afterwards I also realised I was stagnating and needed new challenge. I had started teaching on a school based teacher training course for one day a week and this led me to move from primary teacher to become a university lecturer in primary science education. Once again excellent colleagues supported the transition. Alan Mortiboys was inspirational in showing the role or emotional intelligence in teaching, Paul Adams taught me the courage to genuinely adopt constructivist approaches and let learners find their own way. Being paid to really reflect and think deeply about the process of learning and the nature of teaching as part of my job was very satisfying.  I went on to become a course director for a small primary school based route delivering M-level PGCE. This was quite an intense experience and the small cohorts meant individual success was as much down to building relationships and supporting people as delivering content. It is only recently that I have come back to university and started once again teaching large undergraduate programmes.

This year my daughter has started a degree at Manchester university – seeing the world of university through her eyes has made me far more sensitive to the experiences of our first year undergraduates.

I remain fascinated by what learning means for the individual and how knowledge is constructed and mediated.

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