Quite a few staff have expressed interest in teaching into honours, or at least in wanting to find out a bit more. So here goes.
- You need to recognise disciplinary difference
- You need content expertise
- You do not need disciplinary expertise (that is the role of the supervisor)
- You will be a member of the honours committee
Next steps for those that are interested in teaching into honours are:
- attend one of the informal information sessions (email Adrian Miles firstname.lastname@example.org)
- email Adrian Miles (email@example.com) indicating what specific lab (slow, unfiction, advocacy) or course (Research Strategies, Media and Communication Futures) you are interested in
- outline what you think you would do in that lab or course (just to get a sense of what ideas/theories/approaches you want to explore and how, and why), a paragraph on each max
It is a pretty long list, I think, so as you read it and perhaps wonder why or do you want to, remember that one of the key aims of honours is to let you shape the content of the curriculum to reinforce and reflect your own research. The model here is pretty much the graduate research seminar which has traditionally been premised on the value of teaching to your current research to help solidify your ideas and arguments, as well as providing the opportunity for insights and understandings that otherwise might not happen.
The key tenets of the pedagogy in honours are that we recognise the multidisciplinary nature of the cohort. We may have students from as diverse disciplines as creative writing, through public relations and journalism, into media production, photography, music performance, games design and at the other end game programming. This means there is no teaching in honours that is grounded in a specific disciplinary practice – you can’t teach just as a media studies scholar, or creative practitioner, or qualitative researcher. To help with this there are two main things in place. The first is that students are to be able to submit work in a form that is relevant to their disicpline/practice/research project. If it is a poster, then that is what is submitted. With one important caveat. Where work is not an essay (assuming that an essay is what is thought to be required) but some other artefact is to submitted then there must be a written accompaniment which outlines to you how the artefact argues for, interrogates or responds to the question. This written component has to (for want of a better term) translate the language of the artefact and of the practice, through writing, so that it can be communicated by others. The second is that all honours teaching staff will have the opportunity to discuss, share and support their honours teaching through regular meetings with each other and the program directors. These are to help support the teaching, address any problems that may arise, and to also develop and share things that work.
Now, while we are clearly asking for content expertise on one hand, it seems we are then turning around and wanting to take away your disciplinary expertise! (Drives ya crazy, doesn’t it?) It is not quite as black and white as that because you can’t really leave that stuff behind. But you can and need to acknowledge the legitimacy of other practices, and that you can teach ideas in a way that can help other disciplines and practices find purchase. Which I guess is saying it is not “teach and they will come” but more “teaching is meeting everyone half way – except your half way might not be someone else’s half way”. This is one of the reasons why regular meetings with teaching staff about teaching matter, it is not only to find methods for doing this, but to develop best practice, share it, and build the recipes and frameworks that others can follow and use.
Supervision is targeted to semester two, but during the early part of semester one students will have their research questions. For this first iteration of honours we are wanting to have a list of ready to go research topics from possible supervisors, which may or may not be disciplinary specific, and students will also be able to frame their own. This happens in the strategies course, but does require input from disciplines to ensure that they are appropriate. However, your role is content, not supervision, as we have made a structural separation in the labs between their content (what the theme is about) and what individual students need to do so that their research aligns to their disciplines (supervision).
Finally, in terms of administration, teaching staff, with the program directors, will form the honours committee. The University requires such a committee, and the main role is oversight of the academic progress and standards within the program. At this point I would envisage four meetings for the year, two in each semester.
The curriculum has two distinct halves. One is the coursework,the other the labs. Coursework is made up of Media and Communication Futures and Research Strategies. The labs are themed and run for the entire year.
The coursework will be taught as a single large group. A teaching assistant is included. The teaching assistant, who in the future will be a graduate of the honours program, is there to facilitate the small and large group activities in class. For example if they are in smaller groups discussing something there will now be two staff members to go around to listen, intervene, model, prompt and probe. When material is being collated, for example when groups report back to the whole class, the assistant can be the one making all the notes freeing up you to concentrate on asking questions, listening, or even taking additional notes. You will assess all work. Media and Communication Futures has two key assessment tasks, the first can be a draft or smaller scale version of what the final one will be. Research strategies is where students will develop a research plan and write out two pieces of work that are, in effect, a literature review. However, assessment outcomes are not set in stone and are certainly up for discussion.
The labs will have approximately 15 students in each. It is expected that semester one will concentrate on content as there is no assumption that incoming students will know anything about the topic, so it is an intense 12 week seminar with the aim of moving them from naive to informed expert. What happens in the labs in semester 1 needs to strongly inform the research outcomes of semester 2, and so the assessment involves two presentations that are intended to focus student understanding of the lab theme in light of their research question and discipline. These presentations are highly constrained (and might take place across a single day where all labs hear and see each others work in progress), a bit like the three minute thesis competition (or a pecha kucha presentation). The labs continue in semester 2 but here students are expected to be working full time on their research outcomes.
Finally, it might be unnerving for some, but the program is deliberately intended to be what some might call ‘agile’. This means it can change quickly – if something doesn’t work it will be changed, what works well will be shared and become a more visible part of the program. This also means that parts of semester two are not clear yet. We have not taught in themed multidisciplinary labs in the honours context and so really are not sure what has to happen in semester two. The lab structure lets us do this, and the care to keep explicit content out of the coursework also means we can refashion these. What is fixed is the desire to focus honours research, and to develop a research curriculum that embraces multidisciplinarity and is relevant to all students in media and communication who are capable of completing honours.