Annie McGuire: Giving a hands-on approach a bit of a kick-start

Anything that makes students more enthusiastic about their subject can only be a good thing. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Anything that makes students more enthusiastic about their subject can only be a good thing. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THERE ARE better ways to educate than by essay writing, says Annie McGuire

Think of university assessments and, like me, you may be cast back to a world of writing essays on books you’d read several journal articles on – but never actually got past chapter two of the novel itself.

Some might say this was perfect preparation for a career in journalism, but now as an educator myself I’ve begun to think about whether there’s a better approach.

University of the West of Scotland, where I teach both journalism and our specialist degree in Sports Journalism, is always ready to look afresh at the ‘norms’ of education and how best to create stimulating learning environments.

We took our students to St Mirren FC’s training ground for our own bespoke media conference to assess their Introduction to Television Journalism module. With the help of club chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick and manager Alex Rae, all 18 students conducted interviews with a first-team footballer.

Going back to first principles, the point of assessment is to measure knowledge and understanding. There’s no reason why this can’t be done when students are interviewing well-known footballers.

For students on our BA journalism course, we replicated the experience the following week by organising an almost identical day with those leading the bid for Paisley to be City of Culture in 2021.

Educators like UWS who deal with an increasingly diverse group of learners and subjects to teach are rightly embracing an equally diverse range of teaching and assessment options – and anything that makes students more enthusiastic about their subject can only be a good thing.

• Annie McGuire is a journalist and lecturer in journalism at University of the West of Scotland.