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Digital education

Curiosity revived the Catherine: reflections on PCUTL

21 July 2015

by Catherine Emmett (LTET)

Learning Technology Enablement Team logo

One of the paths of staff development possible to teaching staff, and teaching-related staff such as learning technologists, at Cardiff is the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning (PCUTL). I’ve been doing PCUTL myself and found out last week that I’ve passed. Having received the good news, it seemed like a good time to write about my personal experiences of doing PCUTL.

What is PCUTL?

PCUTL is one of the ways in which the University supports staff to develop and reflect upon their teaching and support of learning. The programme provides an opportunity for personal development through critical, scholarship-underpinned exploration of teaching and learning support for all staff across their career span.” (from the PCUTL website)

Taking up PCUTL gives you the tools to help you reflect on and improve your knowledge, experience and thinking about what pedagogy means in the context of higher education. Developing those skills is important. As any good teacher will tell you, there’s no such thing as an instruction manual for how to teach; there’s a reason it’s sometimes described as both an art and a science!

What did PCUTL mean to me?

For me the PCUTL journey has been one of revivification, of a deepening interest in the pedagogical underpinning of learning technologies. PCUTL inspires sustained inquiry and relates it to the depth of human experience in learning and in learners (in all their glorious individuality and diversity) in HE. I’ve certainly made choices in the past in relation to training about learning technologies that are based on what others have done before. I know I’m not alone in this, but without seeing and reflecting on the evidence (or lack of evidence) of the success of learning, how can we know what the most effective strategies and choices are? 

Part of this means recognising when something is wrong; at least having an initial perception about whether our strategies are effective, ideas that we can then work on, research and experiment with. What I know is that we can’t continue making the same choices and expecting different outcomes simply because the learner group might have changed; it’s never that simple.

If you let it, PCUTL can open your mind to the possibilities of learning and teaching, when it’s usually all too easy to get bogged down in the practicalities and constraints. This is not to say we can ignore those practicalities and constraints, but it does means we can (and should) challenge them. For me, this means challenging myself more (and my colleagues) to think much more critically about teaching and learning in relation to the use of technology.

What are the benefits to doing PCUTL?

There are the obvious extrinsic motivators for doing PgCUTL – it allows you to get a postgraduate certificate in teaching. It’s also one way to gain Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a widely recognised indication of professional development in learning and teaching in UK HE. These are both useful for the learning technologist’s CV.

But I also found some other benefits. PCUTL gives you the tools to develop the ideas and skills I described above, and to actively demonstrate them. This is something I think is valuable for every learning technologist; to feel confident to fully support (and if necessary challenge) colleagues’ ideas and perceptions about the use of technology in learning and teaching.

PCUTL is carried out in a supportive environment in which every participant has flexibility in the path you choose to take. Doing so can improve your confidence in your own ideas in a way that’s directly relevant to you, and which you can then take forward into your own practices.

Unexpected bonus

To add a very personal note to this post, I also formed friendships amongst my PCUTL peer group, one good friend in particular (you know who you are!) who has since introduced me to a new hobby. So as an indirect result of PCUTL, I can also now say I’ve started learning to sing, a hobby which brings me much happiness 🙂


  1. Dewi

    Congratulations Catherine, great news! It’s been great for me to hear about your journey over the duration of the course. Llongyfarchiadau!

  2. Simon Wood

    I’ve had the privilege of peer reviewing some of your excellent PCUTL work, and witnessing the effort and enthusiasm you’ve ploughed it – as well as benefiting from your insights! There’s no doubt it’s a demanding course as well as a rewarding one, so congratulations on this achievement.

    • Catherine Emmett

      And I’ve had the amazing privilege of benefiting from your thoughts and feedback, Simon. I can’t thank you enough!

  3. Lindsey Nickolls

    Congratulations Catherine!

    I have the wonderful privilege of working with you on the ISF training module and benefiting from the fruits of your hard labour. Simon and Jin have been contributing also and I greatly value your expertise and support. I’ve enjoyed reading your article and wish you well with the singing 🙂

    • Catherine Emmett

      Aw, thanks Lindsey, great to work with someone so enthusiastic!

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