A Q&A with Professor of Education Debra Myhill.
How did you become involved in education? What drew you to this subject area?
Before I moved into university teaching, I was a secondary English teacher. I wanted to teach English because I loved the subject myself and wanted to share that love with other young people. But I also felt that reading literature helps us to understand ourselves and our world: novels, poems and plays deal with all the gritty issues of human existence, and I still believe that reading is not just an intellectual pursuit, but a fundamentally important way of learning about human enterprise and the human condition.
Once I was teaching in real classrooms, I became much more aware of social disadvantage and alongside my love of literature, I became more and more socially conscious: I saw firsthand the enormous disadvantage some children have to deal with, and how others have such a strong headstart in education just because of the accident of birth. Education changes lives, and as a teacher, I wanted to be part of that change, including challenging social injustice in the education system, and believing that children of all social backgrounds can be successful, with the right support.
Can you tell us a little bit about the MA in Education and why it’s a good choice for someone considering an advanced degree?
We should never stop learning! I can’t imagine a time when I cease to be interested in learning something new or having a new experience. And as a teacher, teacher educator and researcher, what I love about my job is that I am continuously learning about what it means to be a better teacher or learner. The MA is a strong impetus for this kind of critical and reflective learning, linking your own professional experience with international research in the field. It will make you think differently about teaching and learning, and if you are an educational professional, it has the potential to change your practice.
An online course can be a new experience for many potential students. Can you talk a little bit about what the experience is like and how Exeter supports its students?
Studying online is becoming an increasingly common way to study. Its big advantage is that you can study in your own home and often at a time that suits you. This is particularly valuable for students who are also working, which is very often the case on MA Education programmes. It can be a very satisfying experience because of this flexibility, but it can also be a little lonely. So one thing we have done at Exeter it is to try and create a vibrant online community, where you can collaborate with others on the course, and engage in online debate.
What advice, if any would you have for incoming students?
My principal advice to incoming students is simple: you will get as much out of this course as you put into it, so commit yourselves to really engaging with all aspects of the programme.
On a more practical level, be very disciplined about managing your time: decide when you will be working on your studies and stick to it! And read, read, read!
Debra Myhill is the Director of the Centre for Research in Writing. She is committed to the bringing together of teaching, teacher education and research so that children and young people's experience of learning to be literate enables them to be confident, articulate citizens of the future, able to use language and literature for personal fulfilment and economic well-being.