Enhancing the academic experience

Alban Dickson with a letter from our August edition.

David Poole’s letter ‘Teaching communication skills’ (July 2017) is quite right in sentiment: the necessary foundations should be in place for students to focus on investigating phenomena. However, the solution may already be out there.

In Scotland we also have four-year undergraduate programmes which offer that extra slice of time to further allow students to find their feet – even sample other subjects initially – before homing in on their desired degree subject.

The opportunity to develop communication skills should not be limited to the classroom setting. As an example, at the University of Stirling students can refine their written, oral and visual communication skills through a number of channels. They may engage with the Careers & Employability Department, who can provide such workshops. Alternatively, there is the Students’ Union and – amongst various others – their student newspaper, radio station, Psychology Society and (most explicit of all) Public Speaking Society.

Further, the astute undergraduate seeks out opportunities for internships and volunteering, allowing for skill development in a dynamic and relevant environment. The modern student is increasingly aware that the academic transcript is but one product of their university tenure, indicated by the emergence of enhanced transcripts.

Needless to say, each aforementioned option will encompass some other desirable skill within the curriculum for the Graduate Basis for Chartered membership of the Society; solving problems (iv), self-directed project management (vi), reflection of personal strengths and weaknesses (vii), as well as working with others, taking initiative and a whole new level of critical thinking. To complement this, programmes should – and many do – encourage today’s undergraduates to scan their new context from the onset and actively seek out additional opportunities. Finally, embracing partnership between the academic entity with student-led groups and other departments of the institution is vital to facilitate future graduates and enhance their emerging academic careers.

Alban Dickson MBPsS
University of Stirling

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