Case study

Inspiring Joanna to push for her ultimate dream

Joanna Wilkinson had always believed that her dreams were beyond her. No longer. Joanna has been inspired, challenged and pushed past what she thought was possible on our BA (Hons) Education Studies with SEND pathway. She now has her sights set firmly on a PhD and a career as an Educational Psychologist.

Changing aspirations

Confidence and knowledge. That’s what Joanna has taken from our course. And her career aspirations have changed. When she enrolled on our Education Studies degree, she was a mum of two who wanted to build on her experience and qualifications as a teaching assistant.

She had chosen our SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) pathway because one of her children has autism spectrum disorder. Her goal when she enrolled was to become a primary school teacher but that changed as the course progressed.

Joanna explains: “The Education Studies programme highlighted just how much I enjoy working with children who have special educational needs and disabilities but also how much I love psychology and understanding why people develop and behave differently.

“I always believed that becoming an Educational Psychologist was out of my abilities. But, as the course progressed, my career aspirations changed from becoming a primary teacher to following my ultimate dream of becoming an Educational Psychologist.”

And she credits our teaching staff with being a big part of that change. She says: “The lecturers inspire you to become more confident and knowledgeable practitioners by pushing you to produce the best work you possibly can. I can honestly not fault my experience.”

A new addition

Joanna chose to study at Derby partly because of her parental responsibilities. She says: “Derby was the perfect location for me to commute to the University and still uphold my caring duties etc. Then, during my first year, I discovered I was pregnant. Therefore, the need to be close became even more essential.

“During my first year, I realised that the staff at Derby are quite possibly the best for advice and guidance, especially when I began developing complications.”

Joanna says being pregnant in the first year and then having a newborn in her second year may have curtailed some of her extracurricular opportunities but she was able to develop her skills on placements as part of her course.

She says: “I had two placements over my three-year degree. The first was during second year and gave me the opportunity to experience an alternative setting to what I already had experience in. I made the decision to go to a nursery and develop my understanding of the EYFS (early years foundation stage) framework.

“The second placement was during third year. This placement had a specific focus on SEND and offered me the opportunity to build on my SEND knowledge. The accompanying assignments gave me an outlet to express my knowledge and the lecturers offered ongoing support and ideas to ensure I got as much from my placements as possible.”

The next stage

After completing her BA, Joanna has now signed up for a Psychology conversion MSc as a step towards a PhD and her ultimate goal of becoming an Educational Psychologist.

She says: “The University of Derby has been a brilliant place to study Education. It is an incredible place to study with an impressive library and even more impressive staff. I would always recommend studying and the University of Derby. The staff are knowledgeable and always on hand to offer support and advise through course-related problems and personal.

“I hope that, as I progress through the levels of study, this experience continues to develop and grow and the connections I have made with lecturers will remain.

"I have more confidence and more knowledge. I also have bigger aspirations and want to continue my study to be the best I can possibly be.”

a teaching using sensory objects with a pupil with special educational needs

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