Dr Alan Renwick, School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Year of activity: 2014/15
Our Teaching and Learning Development Fund (TLDF) award was used to fund the purchase of a laptop and recording equipment to help students in preparing materials for broadcast in the Politics Show on Junction11 Radio, the Reading University Students’ Union radio station. This facilitated learning activities that greatly boosted students’ self-confidence, engagement with politics, and transferable skills.
- Deepen students’ engagement with politics by creating a forum for them to discuss it on live radio.
- Deepen students’ understanding of the role of media in politics through practice as well as academic learning.
- Foster students’ self-confidence and their skills of research, communication, presentation, and audio editing.
The hardest part in studying politics is often connecting what we learn through academic study with what is happening around the world today. The Politics Show and allied Media and Politics module are designed to facilitate that, as well as to foster a range of crucial transferable skills. The ability to record and edit material ahead of broadcast is essential, and our TLDF funding allows that.
The Politics Show was broadcast every Tuesday evening during term throughout the year, between 7 and 8pm. Much of the show involves live studio conversation, but pre-recording some content allows us greatly to open up the range of material that we can include, and most shows have therefore involved at least some such content. We have, for example, included vox pops hearing the views of students around campus, recorded interviews with notable visitors to campus, recorded interviews away from campus with a range of political figures, and recorded material on location, including reviews of exhibitions at the British Museum and British Library. While most such material can now be recorded with a good quality smart phone, the equipment we were able to purchase through the TLDF gives the highest quality of recorded sound and ensures that all students have access to the means of recording and editing, even if they do not own the requisite equipment themselves.
The Politics Show has been a tremendous success: students who take part visibly grow in confidence and ability to communicate and in engagement with politics. In addition, anyone with access to a computer can listen to the show live or through our podcast edition, and many people do so, ensuring that the show helps advertise the University of Reading and the Department of Politics and International Relations – and the achievements and professionalism of our students – to the wider world. The show is a core element in the package that we promote to applicants during open days and visit days. Again, these opportunities require that the show’s quality be high, and our TLDF funding has helped ensure that.
We regard the Politics Show and the associated Media and Politics module as a very clear success, which is due in large part to the energy that this activity has unleashed among our students. We plan some tweaks to aspects of the module that are not related to our TLDF funding in response to lessons learnt over the past year. But we see no reason for substantial changes to the Politics Show itself or the role of pre-recorded material in it. Our one frustration this year was that, for administrative reasons, we could not purchase our new equipment until late in the year, but we will be able to integrate it more fully into the show more continuously in 2015/16.
The show’s original host, Dr Alan Renwick, has now moved on from the University of Reading, and two new hosts – Dr Dawn Clarke and Dr Mark Shanahan – will therefore be taking over. Given that they will be new to this kind of activity, we do not plan to experiment much with innovations over the coming year, but further refinement and evolution of the format may take place thereafter.
The archive of podcasts from the show is available here: http://www.reading.ac.uk/spirs/about/spirs-PoliticsShowPodcasts.aspx