Lesley and I were at the final validation event day today for the Bournemouth University Media School
, Masters in Media Creativity as supporters of the process. Thankfully, and deservedly, they got the green light to go ahead and start in September â€“ well done the whole team down there.
Validation events such as this are interesting occasions as the University QA procedures demand a range of people to participate in the â€˜grillingâ€™! External members included someone from the Institute of Education and from the BBC. Essentially, the proposing team has to put their case and defend it. This issues covered range from the very practical; such as how will students access the library resources (in his case Libraries Plus), the module intended learning outcomes, the rationale for the programme as a whole, and how the academic standards will be met, along with a whole bundle of very technical requirements.
I identified three key points that were raised today through some excellent searching questions that forced the proposing team to justify their approach:
1. The content free nature of the programme – much the same way as the Ultraversity Ba (Hons) Learning, Technology and Research Programme the MA subject content is not prescribed. Instead, the content is determined by the students through the process of negotiation of the Individual Learning Plan (a contract) with their learning facilitator. There is no arbitrary content determined by an individual academic or department that may or may not be relevant to the student. This is one implication of the implementation of an agenda of personalisation and choice!
2. The appropriateness of action inquiry as a methodology for MA study – at its worst this can end up simply as navel gazing! It was suggested a better term might be practice inquiry thereby implying a broader set of methods and methodologies that might be employed on what is still a practice focussed degree. I liked this idea.
In defence of the navel gazing, it largely depends on the learning contract that is negotiated. If this explicitly identifies the empirical methods, the approach and field of literature, then a rigorous and in-depth inquiry that demonstrates Masterfulness is achievable.
3. How will this workplace based learning approach meet the academic requirements that are required at Masters level? This is an interesting question as it cuts to the heart of what university education is about. Over many hundreds of years the accepted canons of academic learning have developed into what we see today. This tradition has largely not being one of practice-based learning and the challenge is to take the academic criteria and translates them into criteria that can be used to assess a practice-based degree. Like undergraduate assessment criteria, the MA criteria are used to judge to what extent the â€˜metaâ€™ level thinking skills are demonstrated such as criticality, evaluation, analysis, some originality, etc. This being the case, it is more a question of ensuring that the learning activities include sufficient rigor in their design so that the inquiry process requires the learner to access these â€˜profoundâ€™ levels of thinking.