How we learn: paddling pool or immersion?

29 May

Like many people involved in teaching, I like nothing more than learning something new myself. It's a pleasant bonus when the lesson comes from a student.

There's a lesson for me in the apparent contradiction in what one of our placement year students writes about how to learn about two areas of public relations practice.

On crisis communications, she writes: 'crisis is an area that you can only gain experience from when you are thrown in at the deep end'. Yet, on social media just a page later: 'I spoke to a lecturer regarding the lack of social media tuition at university and the opinion was that since we are of a younger generation … we are assumed to already have this knowledge. This is not true and there is an academic gap that needs to be addressed.'

So, for one area of public relations it's 'learning by doing'; in another, it's 'back to the classroom'. This contradiction is the subject of a paper on 'teaching social media' I'm jointly presenting at the Stirling 21 conference in September, so this is a timely contribution.

2 Responses to “How we learn: paddling pool or immersion?”

  1. Greg Smith 30/05/2009 at 10:52 am #

    Hi, Richard. Just written a new unit for Notre Dame University (the Aussie version in Fremantle) titled e-PR. It comes into play next year, although I’ll be introducing elements into the Intro to PR unit next semester. Amazing how some (former) academics ignored the shift. Some even write books about “new” media and they can’t even put together a blog. It’s worrying.

  2. Heather Yaxley 06/06/2009 at 8:15 pm #

    I’m more worried by the idea that you can only learn about crisis management at the deep end. I can’t imagine other professions involved in handling emergency situations taking the same approach. Anyone fancy flying with a pilot who has not had any crisis handling training – or what about being the patient of an ignorant surgeon or expecting a firefighter to handle a dangerous situation without training?
    PR professionals not only need to understand the nature of a wide range of crises situations, but to develop the skills that enable them to anticipate issues, offer counsel to avoid this escalating into a crisis, write holding statements, prepare crisis plans, etc etc.
    Of course, experience (and real life simulation) is vital to improving our competencies, but waiting until you are in a crisis before discovering how to handle it, seems to me a pretty stupid strategy.

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