‘Feeling more professional’

I’d like to explore the questions raised in my last post by reporting on a recent article by Dr Daniel Ashton in the tenth edition of Networks, the magazine of Art Design and Media Subject Centre (ADM-HEA). The questions was: Can we utilise the more critical perspective, dominant in cultural studies and sociology, as a means of generating a critical perspective from our students while simultaneously offering students tools from an entrepreneurial model of practice?

Ashton’s article explores the notion of professionalism in media students and refers to Paul du Gay’s work on identity and the ‘creative milieu’ in which creative practice is situated. He is also writing within the context of current UK higher education government policies, which express a focus on employability and articulates a direct link between education and workforce development. In this respect, media and creative students are expected to be at the heart of developing a creative and talented workforce – no pressure then!

Ashton then reports on his research conducted at Artswork Media, a project based at Bath Spa University which aimed to create an industry and more professional environment for students. As I have argued recently at the International Enterprise Educators Conference (IEEC) the emphasis here is on a highly contextualised educational experience, in which students are able to explore their personal identity as media professionals. Taking on the personae of a creative or media worker through immersion in a context, in this instance, appears to have given students the opportunity to see how it ‘feels’ to be a media professional. It appears that students are able to construct their identity in relation to their perceived understanding of  a professional media worker in order to make themselves more ‘industry-ready’.

Finally, and this is for me the most interesting part of the article, Ashton draws on Mark Banks’ work to consider the reflexive worker, the individual who will not only embrace professionalism but will also rethink it. In other words, the environment and professional context might be a conduit for debate, for discussing social concerns and exploring the very identity of professional media workers.

To go back to my original question, the experience of the professional context need not be merely to improve employability in students but could also be the ideal space for a more critical debate.

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