Planning for change - Learning
“I was re-looking at some internal reviewing we did of capacity of willingness and interest of staff to work with small social organisations, community organisations and small businesses and this is in quite a mature cohort of people …and I was surprised to remind myself that about forty percent of that cohort of people had said explicitly they could value some training and assistance and help, they weren’t comfortable in talking to a non university audience.” Management, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Why does learning matter?
Public engagement can bring great rewards – both for the university and for the public its staff and students engage with. But this mutual benefit can’t be taken for granted: it relies on real skill and expertise. Many staff and students recognise that they need help to develop these skills and aptitudes, and an institution that wants to support them effectively needs to take account of this.
The experiences of the beacons and others suggest that the following four areas are vital to supporting high quality, effective public engagement, providing support both for informal learning and for more formal professional development.
Supporting informal development
Learning informally from colleagues and sharing public engagement experience is very valuable. Actively bringing together people from across your institution with an interest in public engagement, and helping them to access and share relevant information can build a sense of community and lead to new partnerships and collaborations that significantly improve the quality of public engagement activities.the goal is to support all staff and students to embrace PE in their work – investing in a small amount of specialist expertise and allocating formal responsibility to the delivery of some key functions can deliver efficiencies and increase the impact of your public engagement.
Building formal support into CPD programmes
Participating in public engagement develops skills relevant to a career in research. The transferable skills and aptitudes required for effective public engagement makes it likely that there are already many relevant courses in your institution, although there may be some gaps. Integrating high quality public engagement training as part of your institution’s professional development programmes will benefit individual researchers and the institution as a whole.
Providing opportunities for learning
Training courses can be useful but people also need to engage with the public and reflect on their experience to truly gain expertise. Participating in local festivals and museum events, established public engagement projects or Fellowship schemes provide some routes to learning about public engagement in practice.
Investing in infrastructure
Underpinning the opportunities with infrastructure is also important: for instance, individuals with expertise and defined responsibilities for the strategy; central web-pages listing opportunities; systems for staff to set and track their own goals and link these to the institution’s appraisal process etc – all these can make a big difference.
We have a host of other resources to help you work through this area. Select from the following options.
Self-assess your support for learning
Download a self assessment tool and use it to explore what you’ve already achieved and what more you could do to support learning about public engagement in your institution.
Download Learning EDGE tool
Story of Change: Learning
Follow the story of how the University of Edinburgh has gone about developing their work in this area, and find out about approaches tried in other universities and across the beacon project.
Learning Resource Pack
Download the Learning Resource Pack (PDF 788kb) which includes: Introduction to Learning; Story of Change; Learning EDGE tool and links to other resources.