This week Cathy Leahy has interviewed Noel Maloney, program coordinator of Professional Screenwriting in the School of Media and Communication, about his work in researching extracurricular student activity.
Recently I caught up with Noel Maloney, program coordinator of Professional Screenwriting in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University. The focus of our discussion was his role as the Design and Social Context (DSC) Innovation Teaching Fellow 2015, in which he is undertaking a project called “Crossing Borders: Empowering Teachers to Support Discipline–Related Extracurricular Activity”. This project will resource teachers and academics to better manage extracurricular, interdisciplinary projects.
What lead you to your interest in this project?
In the School of Media and Communication, and more specifically within the area of professional screenwriting, there has been a long history of projects or events set up with students, or that students initiate, that are not part of formal learning.
There are several important questions these types of projects raise. What do students learn in this sort of activity that they don’t learn in formal learning environments and how do they imagine it benefiting their employment in the future? How can we best support teaching and academic staff to deliver these projects to provide appropriate environments for students, while preserving their characteristic autonomy?
What can be gained through these experiences?
Staff and students I have interviewed for this project value their participation in discipline-related extracurricular projects in several ways. These projects are seen to enhance student experience and create a sense of participation and belonging. They develop employability skills through managing contingencies, developing agency and working collaboratively with people across various disciplines, in environments that often simulate industry conditions but are safe. Students experience a certain freedom in these activities. They also provide an opportunity to showcase work. While students are not formally assessed in these projects, they still find opportunities to reflect and contextualise their experiences. In these projects students typically make something from beginning to end and this is highly valued. They experience working in a really intense way, and dealing with chaos. These were not negative problems. They talk about these challenges in a very positive way.
In addition these activities build up the profile of the programs, and for the teachers and academics concerned this can work very much in their favour. It can put people and programs on the map.
What are the challenges for staff to support these activities?
Time and money.
Often staff are not allocated time in their work plans to run these sorts of projects. Inevitably they sit above and beyond their formal duties. This is one of the operational aspects that this project can look at and highlight. Also, these projects often require funding, and a high degree of pre-planning, if they are to be effectively resourced.
What activities have recently been undertaken in DSC?
Two of the larger projects are:
- The “9 Slices” project, bringing students together across a number of disciplines to produce a book in nine days as part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival.
- A Fashion and Textiles event, where students work collaboratively in a global environment to deliver a “Fashion Challenge”. This project has run over a number of years, originally with RMIT University and Salford University in the UK, and more recently expanded to include Columbia College in Chicago.
Other activities include:
- The RMIT Screen Network, a university wide initiative for media students
- Young Ones, an online magazine developed by VE design students
- A film anthology, One Minute to Go, produced by screenwriting and screen production students, with performers from 16th St Actors’ Studio.
- A photobook project between writing and photography students
- Various study tours
What are the outcomes you are hoping to achieve through this project by the end of the year?
There will be a symposium in late November, as well as resources to help teachers and academics better manage these activities.
The symposium will bring together both Vocational and Higher Education staff involved in these initiatives, providing a supportive environment to present and share their experiences to a wider audience. There is a growing enthusiasm for this type of opportunity: it’s something that has always been there, but when you start to talk about it, people light up with its potential.
Inspired and want to know more?
If you know of a discipline-related, extracurricular project that deserves mention, get in touch with Noel Maloney, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or come along to the symposium that will be held in late November.