Putting the Action into Politics: Embedding Employability in the Academic Curriculum
We have developed a module which seeks to address the challenge of balancing academic and professional skills development. The Politics in Action module is currently delivered to approximately 80, second year undergraduate politics and IR students. After a period of confidence and trust building, students are tasked with working in small teams, to scope, develop and implement a project which aims to tackle one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a local level. The module is resource intensive. It takes specific competences and motivation to successfully lead this pedagogical model. For instance, the current module leader has expertise in digital capabilities, extensive experience of being a facilitator, teaching skills development and professional recognition and working with part-time professional students. The teaching team needs to be ‘agile’ in its approach, to deal with real-time issues as they arise. The module has been influenced by the requirements of the Quality Assurance Agency’s Benchmarks for Politics and International Relations (QAA, 2019). Students in their individual reflective assignment must engage with the graduate skills and knowledge they have gained through the year, linking this with their personal SWOT analysis. There is a focus on experiential learning to complement and reinforce the theoretical knowledge taught elsewhere. This co-created module gives students an opportunity to shine, to develop confidence and enhance their strengths. Practical research skills and ethics are also incorporated into the hidden curriculum to help those who go on to take the politics dissertation. Politics in Action is about giving students the opportunity to gain experiences of working on projects in a place where it is alright for the project to ‘fail’. This real-world experience can be included in the Higher Education Achievement Record at the same time as gaining academic credits. Where does politics fit? Firstly, students have to engage with and debate about the merits of the UN SDGs. They must also consider and explore the concept of what local politics in action means to them. Additionally, students are exposed to the theory and practice of project management, leadership and team development, which they might not otherwise encounter. Students have created projects which have raised awareness and acted on a range of issues such as food poverty, homelessness, and waste reduction. The projects have involved developing relationships with a number of external stakeholders. Students have commented how proud they are of their achievements and recognise their impact. The module aligns strategically with the University by working with the public engagement team (DMU Local) and embracing Universal Design for Learning. This module is seen as a template of good practice and the concept has been used to design a stand-alone module which could be embedded into any programme across the institution. The Politics in Action module does offer a model where skills development and employability take priority. But this is within a framework of academic integrity and personalised learning, linked with the concepts of education for sustainable development and political activism for a highly diverse group of students.
ECPR Virtual Conference, 24-28 August 2020 This was the virtual replacement for the annual ECPR conference which was planned for Innsbruck, Austria for August 2020
Citation : Lishman, R. and Jones, A. (2020) Putting the Action into Politics: Embedding Employability in the Academic Curriculum. ECPR Virtual Conference, 24-28 August 2020
Research Institute : Local Governance Research Centre (LGRC)