Real-World Assessment as an Integral Component of an Undergraduate Science Communication Program

Merryn C. McKinnon, Lindy A. Orthia, Will J. Grant, Rod Lamberts


This paper discusses Australia’s oldest and largest undergraduate science communication program: that offered at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University. We outline the history of the program, and explain the pedagogy that drove its development. In particular, we address the assessment of student learning, which focuses on ‘real-world’ tasks. The four main assessment approaches discussed are 1) online blogs and opinion pieces; 2) a student conference, 3) research publication, and 4) work-integrated learning. These assessment approaches specifically target skills required by graduates to achieve both within the university and professionally. The different approaches require students to employ diverse communication techniques and strategies appropriate to their chosen audience. Students also gain practical experience outside of the university context, allowing them to recognise the relevance of their studies within an industry, private or government environment. Although these assessment practices are embedded in a specific science communication curriculum, we suggest that they can be incorporated within any science discipline major.

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