Note: This piece references ‘student-centred’ learning principles as set out by Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA) in this ‘Competency Works’ article.
ONE of the issues with teaching journalism is accomodating an endless variety of differing student interests while still reinforcing ‘baseline’ industry news reporting and writing skills.
But it seems it could be done – one on one.
What I mean by this is that with a small enough class (I’m lucky to have 10 bright and energetic students in my majors class), adapting industry-ready outcomes to their individual needs is entirely possible.
The EAA model is built on five pillars, according to a breakdown and analysis penned by Chris Sturgis (link above).
Simply put, under the EAA model, students are grouped by readiness; they assume ownership for their learning and success; they’re allowed to work at their own pace; they provide evidence of their learning and mastery of targeted skills and they are provided with continuous feedback and monitoring.
For example, I have one student, A*, who is a solid writer and has a strong grasp of sound reporting principles. Her weaknesses as a young journalist really revolve around not having enough cultural and social literacy (like how government works) to allow her reporting to be more complete and satisfying (for her and her readers) in a contextual way.
Another student, Z*, has come a long way in developing the all-important ‘nose for news’ and is a competent interviewer — but the clarity and focus of his news copy needs work.
Under the EAA model, ‘A’ could be set along a journalistic path which would address her specific weaknesses while at the same time allowing her to flex the reporting muscles she’s worked hard to develop. For example, having her take on a project of writing ‘explainers’ (explanatory articles or ‘card stacks’) for the benefit of her classmate peers may further her success more than everyone trying to separately accomplish the same assignment that only tangentially touches on her specific issues.
And while she’s at work on mastering that skill, ‘Z’ could be tackling lessons which emphasize greater written clarity and focus, such as rewriting exercises and lede drills.
Just as the EAA was given flexibility and autonomy (Sturgis’ words) to hire the right staff to run their schools according to this ‘student-centred’ methodology, Letting students “drive” their own learning by individually tackling competencies they need to improve may be the ticket to enhancing their employability after graduation.
One question I’m still wrestling with is how to make these ideas more collaborative and useful for the class as a whole.
*Not real initials