Career Pathways for English Language and Linguistics students

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					                   English Subject Centre
             Enhancing Careers Services Projects


Developing a partnership between local writers and the School of
           Language, Literature and Communication


                         Sam Rhodes
                      Brighton University
                        February 2010
                        Project Report




                                          The English Subject Centre
                                 Royal Holloway, University of London
                                           Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
                               Tel 01784 443221 Fax 01784 470684
                                               Email esc@rhul.ac.uk
                                       www.english.heacademy.ac.uk
Preface
Enhancing Careers Services to English Students
It is a widespread view that English graduates are not good at ‘selling’ themselves to
employers. This is not to say that they lack the skills, attributes and enthusiasm that
employers seek: research conducted by the English Subject Centre shows that English
graduates are doing as well as, if not better than, most other graduates three to four years
after graduation.

Employers value the skills in critical thinking, communication and analysis that English
graduates usually possess, but our students tend to underestimate the relevance of these
skills to the workplace. (The ‘student profiles’ project undertaken by the Subject Centre
produced a template which helps students link the skills listed in the English Benchmark
Statement to those typically sought by employers.) English students need assistance and
encouragement in articulating, in a way that is interesting and relevant to employers, the skills
and attributes they have developed whilst studying and engaging in extra-curricular activity.

For this reason, the English Subject Centre has sponsored small projects in Careers Services
which tailor materials or events specifically to the needs of English students. Various projects
were undertaken, covering such activities as interview technique workshops, alumni
presentations, web-based resources and careers open-days. Details of all the projects can be
found on our website at:
http://www.english.heacademy.ac.uk/explore/projects/archive/careers/careers8.php . This
document is a report on one of these projects.

Jane Gawthrope
The English Subject Centre, February 2010


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Developing a partnership between local writers and the School of Language, Literature and
Communication
                                              -2-
Final Report
Although many Schools and courses at Brighton work closely with the
university careers service through a “Career Planning Agreement” which
enables a partnership approach towards mapping employability on all courses,
it was felt that the students on English courses would need a more innovative
approach to encourage them to explore how the skills learnt on their English
degree could be transferred to employment opportunities.

Senior lecturer, Jessica Moriarty and the head of the Careers Centre Sam
Rhodes came up with the idea of using a local resource to Brighton, i.e.
writers such as novelists, publishers, poets, journalists, screenwriters to come
in to the university to talk to the students about how they have used their
ability and passion to write creatively to furnish themselves with interesting
careers. A small group of media students from the same School were
engaged to produce a small film of the project.

Before the writers came into the seminar sessions all the English students
were given a questionnaire designed by Peter Sewell and Lorraine Dacre Pool
from the University of Central Lancashire. This Employability Development
Profile, “CareerEDGE”, asks the students questions about their self
awareness of their skills, interests and future aspirations and all answers can
be scored. The completed questionnaire enables careers staff or tutors to
discuss areas of personal and career development that require attention by
the student. All the students completed this before the writers’ seminars, and
again afterwards to see what progress had been stimulated by the writers’
input.

The film produced by the students, “Creative writing - writing and social
purpose” shows examples of some of the seminar work, and how positively
the students engaged with the writers. In small groups afterwards the
students reflected on the exercise and made the following comments:

The workshop environment was effective in raising students’ awareness of
their ongoing personal development and enabling them to identify the skills
they are acquiring in HE and how these might relate to their post-degree
ambitions.

        ‘I just want to do creative writing. I enjoy it far more than my other
        subjects, so I think I might try and do that. I like it because it’s actually
        given me a reason, this lesson [to write],’ Abi

Students benefited from participating in creative workshops led by local
writers, actors, politicians and comedians

       ‘It’s given us direct examples from the industry. It shows that it’s
        attainable if you work hard enough.’ Tom

Students benefited from the opportunity to discuss their writing process with
professional writers, peers and tutor. These sessions provided opportunities


Developing a partnership between local writers and the School of Language, Literature and
Communication
                                              -3-
for the students to identify their own processes and to consider how they were
developing as practitioners and learners.

           ‘my writing style, initially, was very ornate and over-the-top, but now I
            find I’m trying to make it more succinct, concise, but whilst maintaining
            my personal kind of experience on it by writing about something I’m
            passionate about.’ VJ

            ‘I found the feedback process horrifying – you comment every week
             how scared I looked […]. And that stopped a couple of weeks ago but
             […] I found it really good. I mean, I’ve stopped shaking when I read
             my stuff out loud, so I’m really glad I took this module because now
             I’m not so terrified of reading out my work out loud.’ Jenny

            ‘I think the pressure that we have to read our work and get feedback
             has been really good because I would never have shown my work
             otherwise. So I think it’s easier every time you do it – it makes it that
             bit easier’ Rosanna


The students’ experience of the writer/actor/comedian/politician led workshops
was both enjoyable and beneficial with students welcoming the opportunity to
discuss and debate their writing in an informal setting, outside their normal
learning environment.

Tutor: So it’s something about applying what you’re learning to the real world?

Group: Yes

Tutor: Do you think you would’ve got that without the guest speakers?

Abi: No.

Tutor: From your other modules, do you think you’ve had that awareness from
other modules?

Group: No. Not at all.

Collectively we found that these activities (informal structured learning events)
helped students to articulate their learning in more depth and with more
confidence. This in turn supported their development as undergraduate
researchers and helped them to use the experiences they had gathered
outside HE to enrich their creative writing without feeling vulnerable or
exposed.

           ‘In terms of embarking on creative projects, this module has kind of
            really hammered home how important it can be to be socially
            responsible, and to write about a relevant issue rather than just writing
            for the sake of profit.’ Ollie

Developing a partnership between local writers and the School of Language, Literature and
Communication
                                              -4-
That the workshops helped the students to consider their place in the world
and how their teaching and learning experiences might help them evolve as
learners and, as people.

       ‘I think that if anyone really looks at the world we live in and the
        situation the world is in and our species is in, they are angry […] and if
        we don’t have the sort of ways of exorcising our anger or discontent
        with things through writing, or through the media that surrounds us […]
        then the alternative is you just become a bitter and distant person. So,
        if at the very least you’re not trying to change the world, at least you’re
        selfishly doing it for yourself to feel better about it.’ Joe

The feedback indicates that using professionals from the local
community helped students to understand the potential impact of their
learning on their personal, academic and vocational development and
for this reason, we are keen to suggest that this module provides a
model of best practice that will be relevant across the HE Academy.




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Developing a partnership between local writers and the School of Language, Literature and
Communication
                                              -5-

				
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