Highlights from Educators Roundtable at the Conversations 2013 conference
2013 marked the third annual Educators Roundtable, a forum for Public Relations and Communication Management educators from across the country to share ideas, discuss issues and explore topics related to PR education.

The discussion this year focussed on the topic of ethics and social responsibility in public relations education. The result was a lively conversation around the following questions:

  • What do graduates of our programs need to know about social responsibility and ethical practice?
  • What are our expectations as educators?
  • What do our students tell us about ethics and their preparedness for practice?
  • What does the profession require from us and from our students in this regard?

The subsequent portion of the session included the sharing of resource ideas, suggested textbooks, and examples of in-class activities designed to engage students in learning about ethics, ethical practice, and social responsibility.

A key theme in the conversation centered on the need to incorporate knowledge, skills and attitudes about ethics from a moral perspective, with the more applied focus of a more traditional business ethics approach. Several program chairs indicated that they have or are considering moving away from a traditional public relations ethics curriculum to a broader perspective of ethics, such as a study of contemporary moral issues.
The questions of how and where to integrate ethics into an overall public relations curriculum produced some debate over whether this should be a stand-alone course or curriculum integrated into the overall program. In one instance, one program was identified as having moved ethics from year one to three of the four-year program as first-year students were not experienced enough or prepared for that level of curriculum.
Finally, there was an interesting discussion around the relationship between co-op placements or internships and the teaching and learning of ethics and social responsibility in public relations programs. It was agreed that the workplace experience is an excellent opportunity for students to apply, question, develop, and challenge their understanding of ethics. At the same time, programs have a responsibility to ensure that workplaces themselves offer environments where students will see and learn ethical and socially responsible practices.
Going forward:

Roundtable participants were unanimous in agreeing that we need to continue this conversation throughout the year. There was also a strong recommendation for a resource sharing forum, i.e. chat group, web board, etc. where resource ideas could be posted for educators. Watch for opportunities to participate in the coming days.

Educators Roundtable at the Currents 2012 conference

The second annual Educators Roundtable was hosted on June 10th during Currents 2012 in Victoria, BC. As part of the Educator Stream offered at the conference, educators from institutions across the country gathered to discuss challenges and opportunities facing public relations students and educators in Canada.

The lively discussion covered various issues including:

  • How to tackle writing in public relations curriculum - can it be captured in a first year course or is pre-admission evaluation the way to go?
  • The changing economy facing students and practitioners - what is the impact of increasing non-academic demands (part-time and full-time jobs, families, etc.) on students and how do programs and institutions accommodate for the new student experience?

"I think the Educators Roundtable is an essential meeting with public relations educators from across Canada which provides us the opportunity to share common and specific teaching issues as well as possible tools and solutions. A very fruitful experience!"

Nadège Broustau, PhD
Département de communication sociale et publique
Université du Québec à Montréal

"The Educators Roundtable provided a terrific opportunity for educators from across Canada to share common concerns and swap ideas about how to improve their practice of PR education. It also set the stage for continuing the conversation throughout the hectic academic year when professors can really use fresh ideas and new approaches in their classrooms."

Christine Smith
Professor (retired)
Corporate Communications and Public Relations