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Position: Senior Lecturer
Faculty: Arts and Education
School: Communication and Creative Arts
Phone: +61 3 925 17794
"I believe in fusing creative student learning to industry best practice. The units that I teach centre on providing students with the skills to excel in media industries of the future."
A Senior Lecturer and Unit Chair in the School of Communication and Creative Arts, Ms Colleen Murrell teaches undergraduate and postgraduate units in Journalism. Before joining Deakin she worked variously as a producer, reporter and news editor for major international news organisations including the BBC, ITN and APTN. Colleen is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, investigating “the role of the fixer in international newsgathering”.
As a journalism educator Colleen is motivated by the creative university environment which, in her view, allows staff and students to pursue excellence in their disciplines while exchanging and expanding knowledge.
Colleen believes in fusing creative student learning to industry best practice through the design of authentic and engaging curricula and relevant assessment tasks in journalism. Her extensive industry experience underpins her developing teaching beliefs, values and practices.
Curricula are broadly divided between practice, assessed through carefully designed real tasks (informed by the sociology of journalism) and theory assessed by reports.
In Colleen’s view, what students learn at university must have direct application to their chosen careers, and all the units that she teaches focus on providing professional and critical thinking skills needed to excel in media industries of the future. Colleen also places high importance on fostering students’ critical capacities as media reviewers along with their abilities as content creators. By deconstructing the operations of the media industry, students develop skills for lifelong learning and an understanding of their potential roles within the industry, which helps equip them for employment in different careers during their working lives.
Colleen encourages her students to focus on international opportunities and exposes them, via the Internet, to international news gathering and reporting practice. Critical analysis of news reporting which encompasses ethical and legal aspects helps students develop skills essential for creative and ethical journalism practice. Students are encouraged to contribute articles and broadcast stories to relevant international outlets.
Colleen focuses strongly on technology in her undergraduate broadcast units, taking the view that this is essential as media organisations continue to migrate online. Students at Deakin have access to the latest digital equipment so that they can record and edit radio and television current affairs stories. Colleen ensures equity for off-campus students by choosing editing software that is available on the Internet free of charge. For the past few years she has also used a podcasting site the Media Pod to make available extra resources for students and give selected student work a wider audience. To enhance the off-campus student experience, Colleen has also added short films to her Deakin Studies Online (DSO) site showing students how to use equipment, how to shoot compelling video and how to edit using digital software.
In her postgraduate feature writing unit, students are supported to become mini-experts in the field of their choice through development of research skills, practical writing skills honed through workshops, and targeting of relevant media outlets for publication opportunities
The strong teaching team in Journalism is always looking for ways to enhance the student experience. In 2009 curricula will be updated in line with changes in the media. Strong contacts with working journalists and regular newsroom visits help ensure that Journalism units continue to evolve in the right direction. Colleen has been involved in a number of successful capital bids since 2004 to keep broadcast resources up to date.
Student Evaluation of Teaching and Unit (SETU) feedback on Colleen’s units is very positive.
Some evidence of the practical benefits of Colleen’s approach can be found in students’ achievements. In recent years her students’ feature assignments have garnered The Melbourne Press Club's Student Journalism Award and the Sensis Student Award, sponsored by the Walkley Foundation.
Research is playing an increasing role in Colleen’s working life. As a PhD candidate researching the “role of the fixer in international newsgathering” she has been conducting interviews with a wide range of British and Australian foreign correspondents and also with a group of fixers from Iraq, Indonesia, Gaza and Kosovo. The data feeds directly into her broadcast units in areas connected to foreign newsgathering and international news agencies. She has also been researching and writing papers on how newspapers handle citizen journalism. This research informs her teaching in this area.
Colleen has presented at institutional and national conferences on the educational uses of podcasting.
In 2006 she won a Strategic Teaching and Learning Grant (STALGS) with a colleague, Ross Monaghan. The grant allowed them to set up the Media Pod and to start to gather resources for the site.
An EU Erasmus Mundus Fellowship in Journalism in 2007 enabled Colleen to spend time in the UK doing PhD fieldwork. She also taught in the Journalism programme at City University and learned a lot from their approach to teaching.
In 2008 Colleen won an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Award which she will use to update her curricula and build on her research.
Colleen is also taking a leadership role in the following teaching and learning related activities:
During the course of her subject, my writing skills improved immeasurably, and I acquired a much greater understanding of the journalism industry. This is evident in the fact that my main assignment from Colleen’s subject later won the Walkley Foundation’s Student Journalist of the Year Award, and was published in the Big Issue. Neither would have been possible without Colleen’s assistance. I find myself in a much stronger position to succeed as a journalist for having been taught by her.
Colleen Murrell was my lecturer (unit chair) in feature writing in 2005. She was in large part responsible for me first getting published in Good Weekend and then winning the $1,000 Melbourne Press Club Sensis Award for student journalism, for a feature story I wrote for her class. Had it not been for her encouragement, suggestions and engagement, I wouldn’t have achieved either of these.