Teaching students the practice of public relations is rewarding. Using the curriculum I developed also feeds my passion. My background in policing, community relations, public information officer, outdoor leadership, and as public relations counsel helps. Combined they make a perfect mix to teach introductory public relations, corporate communication courses, research, communications management and social media.
Since pursuing a formal public relations education over the last decade, I’ve dedicated my time to coaching, mentoring, teaching, and developing courses and educational materials.
My first teaching experience was at the postgraduate level at Seneca College. In 2009, I taught the “Introduction to Research” course and the “Research Project” course in the School of English Studies, Corporate Communication Management Program. It was a baptism by fire as I was responsible for every aspect of running a course, including creating a syllabus, choosing textbooks, developing assignments, supplementary materials, presenting lectures and participating in the promotions board.
In 2010, I taught “Writing for Public Relations I” course at Seneca College.
In 2011, I designed and developed the course syllabi for the “Foundations of Corporate Communications and Public Relations” course as part of the Bachelor of Public Relations degree for Centennial College.
In 2012, The Centre for Creative Communications, Centennial College hired me to teach the “Communication Management” course for the winter term. I particularly enjoyed this foundational course because of the breadth and variety of skills development. September 2012, I taught the “Business for Corporate Communicators” and the “Professional Practice” course. In 2013 I taught the “Communication Management” course a second time with many great elements coming together for very rewarding outcomes for both of sides.
Over the last 12 years in my practice I created teaching materials to develop clients as spokespersons, focus group leaders and to conduct strategic planning and communications audits. In the law enforcement field I developed and delivered the “Covert Video Surveillance” course for the Atlantic Police Academy (1995); I instructed fellow students attending the Institute of Police Technology and Management at the University of Florida in Jacksonville (1995) “The Gentle Art of Persuasion – Verbal Judo Train the Trainer” course as a student presenter. I facilitated this same course with adult learners working in the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Office for the New Brunswick Department of the Solicitor General. I delivered in-service lectures at the Canadian Police College as a student presenter in the “Multicultural Education Trainers” course (1995).
Teaching is like public relations, it is more than a one-way transmission of information and knowledge, it is a two-way symmetrical interactive process that, engages both the student and teacher in shared discovery and application.
The most important thing that we can teach public relations students is the ability to think critically and strategically. My experience has been that public relation students tend to be in the course because of their interest in the subject and they are easy to teach. However not all students arrive in the classroom in this state of mind. I take the responsibility to present the material in an interesting and engaging manner to nurture each student’s latent desire to learn. Illustrating to students how the Public Relations process works and its applicability in solving concrete and real-world problems.
It is important to teach students how to approach the subject. This is especially true for the introductory level courses. Public Relations and Corporate Communications courses build on Bloom’s taxonomy where they don’t just have the ability to remember facts, but take them through understanding to where they can apply it to communications, and to analyze the problems critically so they can evaluate and create a plan that meets the needs of the situation or problem.
My personal style of teaching is based on the following principles:
Engage the students. Students must be active participants in the learning process, rather than passive observers.
Establish fair and clear grading policies. Despite our best efforts to inspire students to learn simply for the joy of learning, there will always be many students who focus primarily on whatever aspects of the material they believe will result in their receiving a good grade. However, this is not always a bad thing, the proper grading and assessment policies can guide these students to focus their attention on the essential points.
It is also important that grading policies be fair and relevant to the objectives of the course; few things are more discouraging to students than receiving a low grade for work that they believe is good. Grading standards must also be flexible.
Set clear and realistic goals. Students respond best to goals that are both challenging and achievable. For example, extremely easy assignments are boring, allow students to become careless, and do not give the students any sense of accomplishment. In contrast, excessively difficult assignments are frustrating and intimidating.
Identify and fix misconceptions early. Once a misconception takes root, it is difficult to remove. Waiting until the next assignment or test has been graded to discover that students are confused is a grave mistake.
Let the students make mistakes. Learning what doesn’t work is just as important as learning what does. Students learn more from understanding why an incorrect answer is wrong than from simply memorizing the correct answer. Experimentation is essential to education; students must be encouraged to learn from their mistakes.
Always respect the students. A teacher must respect the goals, needs, and individuality of each student and help each student do his or her best to achieve these goals. Not all students respond to the same methods, come from the same background, or have the same level of preparation.
Teachers must also respect that students have other interests and engage in time-consuming activities outside of the classroom; there are limits to how much time students can reasonably be expected to spend on one course.
My role in teaching is that of a guide, facilitating the learning experience….directing. Through case studies and the use of best practices gleaned from cases that have won awards from our professional organizations like CPRS, IABC and PRSA.
Creating new assignments is important and challenging but it is also the most interesting and rewarding part of course development. Good assignments must be interesting and relevant in order to engage the students, and they must match the ability and background of the students. Assignments must also be written in a manner that explains clearly, concisely, completely and coherently what the students are expected to do and how their answers will be evaluated. In most cases, assignments must also provide some amount of guidance about how the concepts the students have been learning can help them complete the assignment.
The best way to organize and structure my lectures is to begin by asking myself what questions I want to enable the students to answer. I usually work back from where I want students to be upon conclusion of the course, then, develop the stepping stones, or the bridge that will get them there. So we are not only building bridges in the classroom but building a bridge to their chosen career.