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## Mixing theory and practice

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**Mixing theory and practice**Reflections on teaching a large Level One module leedsmetlearns**Structure**• Who? • Richard Bailey, new to Leeds Met in 2003 • What? • Introduction to Public Relations Theory and Practice is a core level one module for > 200 students • How? • What modes of teaching work best for our students? • So what? • What lessons can we learn?**Who am I?**• Joined the university with PR and professional training experience • Unrelated academic qualifications • Limited university teaching experience • Not attended PGCHE because of a Wednesday timetable clash (three tutorials and a lecture)**Who are our students?**• Drawn from multiple courses: not all students on PR course are PR students • Recruit nationally (with some international students) • Preponderance of females (c 90%) • Know little of PR – not an A level subject**Widening WP issues**• Some vulnerability to the charge that PR students are white, middle class females • But Schools Minister David Miliband spoke with pride of the ‘educational rise of middle England’ and of the progress of girls**Understanding students**• ‘Of course, it is misleading to talk of ‘students’ as if they were a homogeneous body. As more and more students enter university, the range of their abilities, prior knowledge, technical skills, attitudes to education, and behaviour widens. Universities have to adapt teaching styles to suit their intake…’**Understanding students**• ‘Of course, it is misleading to talk of ‘students’ as if they were a homogeneous body. As more and more students enter university, the range of their abilities, prior knowledge, technical skills, attitudes to education, and behaviour widens. Universities have to adapt teaching styles to suit their intake…’ Alan Clements, professor of computer science,University of Teeside, writing in The Times 12 August 2004**Cooking up a metaphor**How did you learn to cook?**Cooking up a metaphor**• Cook books? • TV chefs? • Mother’s apron strings? • Lecture theatre? • Trial and error?**How do we teach?**• Lectures:ideal for theory • Tutorials:for testing understanding and for student participation • Placements:on-the-job learning • Text books:traditional learning • Online tools:not tied to location**How do we assess?**• Group presentation on applied theory • Individual portfolio of practical work achievements**Student feedback**Modes of learning rated by PR students (out of 5)**Student feedback**• 80% though balance of individual and group work ‘about right’ • 67% said they preferred the practical aspects of the course to the theoretical • 33% of respondents had joined IPR as student members**Where did I go wrong?**• Assumed that all students studying PR are ‘PR students’ • Assumed that all students on this vocational degree course have ambitions to work in PR • Failed to define PR practice in week one (‘I refuse to spoon feed students’)**What happened?**• Some opted for a more didactic approach and a more ‘scientific’ course • Some challenged the early emphasis on practical work experience • Some skipped teaching to pursue work placements**What happened?**• Most passed, and produced a substantial portfolio of work • Some joined professional body and volunteered to write for student publication • All learnt about university life and about the world of work**Remaining problems**• Attendance • Placements and overseas students • Group work and individual marks • HND cohort: same teaching, worse outcomes • Do we dare to fail the worst students?