Fostering industry relevance in a final year unit
Fitch, K. (2005) Fostering industry relevance in a final year unit. In: Teaching and Learning Forum, 3 - 4 February, Murdoch University, Western Australia.
Industry relevance is a buzzword, but one with real implications for student learning, curricular development and graduate outcomes. The challenge is to develop a meaningful and intellectually rigorous degree, which fosters analytical skills and critical thinking, and the development of professional values and practical skills.
The shift of MSC307 Media Planning from a summer unit, wholly taught by an industry practitioner, to a semester unit offered an opportunity to trial alternative teaching methods in order to better prepare final year public relations students for communication related careers. Rather than assessment based on tests and an examination, assessment centred on the production of documents relevant to professional communication practice. This contextualised assessment demanded students apply the higher level learning processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation and encouraged students to adopt a 'deep' (rather than a 'surface') approach to learning. The unit used a combination of the lecture-tutorial teaching model and two hour seminars (for 80 students), both of which were designed to foster active participation. Small group discussion in tutorials centred on case studies and hypothetical scenarios and encouraged students to draw on their theoretical knowledge and to consider the ethical implications of their choices, as well as improve their professional communication skills. The final session in Week 13 focused on career development.
This presentation reflects on the unit, which ran for the first time in semester mode in 2004, and incorporates student responses. Some changes are planned for 2005, when the unit will be offered externally for the first time. The big question is: did the active learning approach foster a deeper understanding of professional communication practice, without compromising academic excellence?
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