Structuring ambiguity: teaching public relations through a ‘real world’ virtual consultancy

Authors: David Wolstencroft, Monash University and Beth Edmondson, Monash University
Published: 2009, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, Volume 10
Abstract: Public Relations education has several major challenges, including integrating ‘theory with practice’, simulating the modern workplace in the classroom, and assisting students in navigating personal and professional ambiguities and transition points. This article presents a narrative and reflection on an attempt to design curriculum that meets these pedagogical challenges. A solution is proposed by the authors in the form of a virtual Public Relations consultancy and learning environment, or interactive educational ‘game’. As will be demonstrated, this virtual learning environment or ‘game’ was inspired by Kolb’s learning cycle, and requires student groups to navigate successive waves of ambiguity, often presented in ways that differ from other university subjects and anticipated life experiences.

By tailoring learning goals, assessment criteria and tasks to focus on particular elements and phases of Kolb’s learning cycle, this semester long curriculum integrates Public Relations theory with practical teambased learning. It is anticipated that this game will assist students to develop traditional academic and vocational skills, while also providing experiences to consolidate substantive cognitive and educational advances. Additionally, we envisage advances in confidence, team work skills, and the capacity to navigate and structure ambiguity.

Keywords: Experiential learning, Public Relations education, Learning cycle, Public Relations curriculum, Professional practitioners, Role play