Bridging the gap between student learning and professional identity: Using Twitter to promote engagement in education policy

Damien Fitzgerald @teacheruni and Ester Ehiyazaryan-White-
Sheffield Hallam University

Twitter as a social networking is increasingly being used in educational contexts. As well as promoting interaction amongst groups of learners it also allows engagement with real world contexts (Carpenter and Krutka, 2014; Evans, 2014). This paper reports on the use of Twitter as part of a first year undergraduate module focused on child and family policy. The intention was to expose students to real world debates and how these are informed by political decisions and from this gain a sense of their developing professional identity.

Twitter was used both in lectures and seminar contexts and students were encouraged to respond and engage in debate around contemporary policy developments. In addition students engaged in a consultation on a recently released all Party Parliamentary House of Lords report on promoting a Fit and healthy Childhood. This enabled students to engage in debate with authors of the report and make links between the recommendations and how it could promote positive practice with children. Student responses were aggregated using Storfiy with the intention to use this as a learning and reflection tool.

An evaluation of the use of social networking as part of students’ learning experience was conducted using a Google Docs questionnaire of open and closed questions. Responses were received from 58 students out of a cohort of 140. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics for closed questions and thematic analysis for open-ended questions. The paper presents an overview of the results and an evaluation of the potential uses of Twitter to promote learning and engage students in real world contexts to develop their professional identities.