‘Students Start Seeing the Connection between the Knowledge They Gain and Real Life’
From next year, students of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics' will be able to develop their project skills in a specialised seminar and a course of projects based on a 'project service learning' method. Magdalena Gaete, Head of the Laboratory for Reputation Management in Education (RepLab), will deliver the project seminar and coordinate projects. We talked to Prof. Gaete about what students should expect from the programme and why participation in projects is useful.
— 'Project service learning' is an increasingly popular topic, and it will be offered to participants of the new Political Science Honours project. What is 'service learning' and why should students participate in such projects?
— This is a method which combines academic training and service to the community. Students participate in projects that help society to solve pressing problems while utilising and deepening their academic knowledge and skills.
When RepLab started engaging in the 'project service learning' methodology in 2021, I realised that this approach could radically change students' perception of the surrounding world. Service learning not only enriches traditional educational process by adding a practical element and extra motivation for students, but also develops a deeper understanding of their role in society. This happens due to the implementation of a project focused on improving the lives of local communities.
Participation in such projects may be very helpful to students for numerous reasons. Firstly, it helps students to develop their skills (both communicative and organisational), as well as the ability to work in a team and think critically. Secondly, in the course of the projects, students implement knowledge that they have gained during classes. This helps them to understand the educational material better and its meaning for solving tasks beyond the university's walls. Thirdly, the projects will contribute to the development of students' civil awareness and social responsibility. Students can see how their work influences society and how they can use their skills and knowledge to improve people's lives. Finally, participation in such projects can help students to prepare for their future careers. Many of the skills they develop during service learning, such as project management and communication, are in demand in various spheres and professions.
Thus, service learning in the form of a project is a powerful educational tool which can enrich students' academic experience and prepare them for successful careers and active civil life.
— From next year, you will deliver the 'Project Seminar' course as part of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics'. What is this course about?
— 'Project Seminar' is a course focused on the development of students' practical skills and the implementation of their theoretical knowledge in real projects in the social sphere. It starts with teaching project management, where students explore the concepts of planning, resource management, risk management and monitoring project performance. Then, they move on to implementing their own projects using data collection and analysis methods to justify their suggestions and solutions.
The main part of the course will be devoted to working on real social projects. The students will work in teams to solve a specific problem and develop a new idea or strategy. Project presentations will be a key aspect. This will allow students to get feedback and learn how to answer questions and criticism. Finally, another important aspect is self-reflection, when students analyse the process of their education and development to understand their strengths and their areas for further improvement. Thus, the project seminar helps students to develop skills in project management, research and team interaction, and also allows them to put theoretical knowledge into practice.
— What main skills does participation in projects develop?
— Participation in service learning projects can develop lots of skills and competencies. First of all, it improves communicative skills, as the participants have to interact with other project members and representatives of the local communities successfully. Projects also provide practical implementation and extension of theoretical knowledge. The participants can put their theoretical knowledge into practice and see how they work in real conditions. This includes problem-solving, analysis, and critical thinking skills.
Service learning projects also develop project management and organisational skills. The participants learn to plan and manage projects, manage time and resources, and coordinate teamwork. Finally, participation in such projects underscores the importance of civil consciousness and social responsibility. The participants develop empathy and an understanding of social problems and realise what kind of contribution they can make to society. Such an understanding can become a valuable resource for personal and professional development.
The students start seeing the connection between the knowledge they gain and real life and realise that their actions can significantly influence the world around them. This process encourages the development of responsibility, empathy and civil activism. As a result, service learning helps students to become more mindful, active and responsible members of society who can use their knowledge and skills for positive change.
— What determines the success of a project?
— A project’s success depends on many factors. One of the most important ones is the clear identification of goals and expectations. Understanding a project's goal and what is expected from it is crucially important for its successful completion. It helps to form a roadmap of the project and allows all the participants to clearly understand what they are trying to achieve.
Next, effective resources and time management are another key factor. A project’s success often depends on how effectively the available resources and time are used. This includes the skills of prioritising tasks, delegating responsibility, and keeping to deadlines.
Teamwork and communication are also of significant importance. The ability to work in a team, communicate effectively, and solve conflicts can influence the outcome of a project greatly. Finally, flexibility and the ability to adapt to changes is also important. While a project is being implemented, there might be unexpected problems or changes, so the ability to adapt quickly and solve such problems can become a key factor for success.
— In which professions can project skills be helpful to graduates?
— Project skills can be helpful to graduates in various spheres. They are so-called 'soft' skills, which are valuable in many areas and professions.
They will be especially useful in project management in any sphere, from consulting and strategic planning to IT and marketing. This will help future researchers to manage their research projects and cooperate with other members of the academic community. Project skills are also useful to entrepreneurs and the heads of start-ups, who often have to lead projects and teams under uncertain conditions and with limited resources.
In general, project skills are highly valued in the modern labour world and can come in handy in various professions. Moreover, they can help a person to perform tasks successfully and implement ideas in any sphere of life.