Background
The value of a work experience or professional practicum component of a course is well recognized. A professional practicum can enable students to gain valuable "real life" experience as well as enhancing their understanding of their discipline through the practical application of knowledge. It also offers a chance to form networks and engage with the discipline’s community. Comments from students who have completed the science communication practicum at The University of Western Australia are uniformly positive and reflect the opportunity to put course‐acquired skills into practice. Comments, however also equally detail the development of new skills and experiences. Students appear to have learnt skills that have made them more "work‐ready" than they would otherwise have been. Members of the science communication community who have been hosts of practicum students have also been equally supportive of the practicum program.

Objective, Hypothesis
This study reports on the value of the practicum experience for science communication students in terms of development of work‐readiness skills. The objective is to begin to answer the following questions:
a) What knowledge and skills are required to be successful in the science communication workplace?
b) What knowledge and key skills are acquired and developed in the science communication program?
c) Do the knowledge and skills acquired in UWA’ science communication program reflect requirements of the communication work place?
d) Has involvement in the science communication practicum unit provided an opportunity to apply practical skills and knowledge leading to an improvement of work‐place skills and hence, work‐readiness?
We hypothesise that participation in the science communication practicum unit enables students to enhance their work‐readiness as program‐acquired skills are extended and awareness and development of other important skills grows.

Methods
Becoming work‐ready is a generic term that in essence means developing skills and knowledge needed for employment. This pilot study explores what work‐readiness means in the context of science communication. There are 2 stages to the study. In the exploratory stage of this research, three past students and their practicum hosts will be interviewed. The four key questions listed above provide the basis of the interviews. The interviews will be used to pinpoint which questions should be asked in the second stage: a survey. Responses to the interviews (stage 1) will be used to construct a survey (stage 2) that will be administered to a larger group.

Results
Interview data will be analysed by coding responses. Categories for the survey instrument will be identified through analysis of these responses. The survey will be analysed using appropriate methodologies for nominal, ordinal and numerical data.

Conclusions
Following analysis of data the value of the science communication practicum unit in terms of enhancing work readiness will be discussed.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Becoming work‐ready
Practicum experiences of science communication students

Jan Dook   The University of Western Australia

Nancy Longnecker   The University of Western Australia

Background
The value of a work experience or professional practicum component of a course is well recognized. A professional practicum can enable students to gain valuable "real life" experience as well as enhancing their understanding of their discipline through the practical application of knowledge. It also offers a chance to form networks and engage with the discipline’s community. Comments from students who have completed the science communication practicum at The University of Western Australia are uniformly positive and reflect the opportunity to put course‐acquired skills into practice. Comments, however also equally detail the development of new skills and experiences. Students appear to have learnt skills that have made them more "work‐ready" than they would otherwise have been. Members of the science communication community who have been hosts of practicum students have also been equally supportive of the practicum program.

Objective, Hypothesis
This study reports on the value of the practicum experience for science communication students in terms of development of work‐readiness skills. The objective is to begin to answer the following questions:
a) What knowledge and skills are required to be successful in the science communication workplace?
b) What knowledge and key skills are acquired and developed in the science communication program?
c) Do the knowledge and skills acquired in UWA’ science communication program reflect requirements of the communication work place?
d) Has involvement in the science communication practicum unit provided an opportunity to apply practical skills and knowledge leading to an improvement of work‐place skills and hence, work‐readiness?
We hypothesise that participation in the science communication practicum unit enables students to enhance their work‐readiness as program‐acquired skills are extended and awareness and development of other important skills grows.

Methods
Becoming work‐ready is a generic term that in essence means developing skills and knowledge needed for employment. This pilot study explores what work‐readiness means in the context of science communication. There are 2 stages to the study. In the exploratory stage of this research, three past students and their practicum hosts will be interviewed. The four key questions listed above provide the basis of the interviews. The interviews will be used to pinpoint which questions should be asked in the second stage: a survey. Responses to the interviews (stage 1) will be used to construct a survey (stage 2) that will be administered to a larger group.

Results
Interview data will be analysed by coding responses. Categories for the survey instrument will be identified through analysis of these responses. The survey will be analysed using appropriate methodologies for nominal, ordinal and numerical data.

Conclusions
Following analysis of data the value of the science communication practicum unit in terms of enhancing work readiness will be discussed.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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