Stories & streams: teaching collaborative journalism


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Presentation at Exploring Collaborative Learning in Media Studies Programmes in Winchester, May 2012

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  • Stories & Streams is a learning and teaching experiment being undertaken at the Birmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University. The project is ongoing at the time of writing, and as such this paper represents a waypoint in the project. We will outline the problem space, the design of our response, and the evaluation to date. Given the theme of today we will emphasise the collaborative aspects of the learning and teaching in the project. We value feedback on our approach and our findings to date and through this paper we invite media educators to become involved in a continuation of the project through a forthcoming resource kit.   
  • Students think that they understand professional practice and are looking to consume instances of learning that suit that narrative. A course like ours is structured in a way that can feed into this tendency. We have named pathways which relate to sub sectors: photography, journalism, PR, new media, TV, radio, music industries and events management We have modules within those that then speak to sets of competencies and they delivered as weekly chunks of knowledge that are predetermined. From our experiences as students, staff, and external examiners in at least a dozen HEIs we know this is a normal mode of working in our sector.
  • image CC The agenda of employability is part of this problem. They will expect their specialist course to deliver the skills that they think are necessary for their job role. Modules can therefore become sites of performance of expertise, where expertise is the students’ perception of dominant professional discourses.  
  • For students who take an instrumental, surface learning, approach to their studies, education is constructed as a set of competencies which are attained through the consumption of learning programmes (modules and pathways): this widens the common question “is this in the exam?” to “is this in the job?”.
  • image CC Stories & Streams started out in observations made from two modules. In OJ we knew that students tended to revert to what they thought journalists did and repeat that in an online space. In Alt Media, web students reverted to the position that they were service providers who would build platforms.  
  • Some common central topics and fortunate timetabling allowed us the opportunity to think of a new space to collaborate between two groups of students. We were awarded some internal funding to undertake a pilot project. What we've come up with is problem-based, student-led, and peer-to-peer. Working within the structure of the course we create a new space for learning, that allows both classes to attain their learning outcomes.
  • P2P learning: 35% more 52% unchanged 13% less Areas that students asked for support with included managing team members, communication, project management and focus, motivation, and persistence.     27% felt that the lecture-and-workshop format suited them better; 55% preferred the peer to peer/small workshop approach suited them. 18% detailed other options 
  • 55% preferred the peer to peer/small workshop approach suited them.  27% felt that the lecture-and-workshop format suited them better;  18% detailed other options 
  • We saw an opportunity to address this instrumental consumption of media education, to work within the structure we are provided to make a new space for learning through collaboration.   In a sense, we are pushing against the employability agenda which we see as problematic to our job as educators. And yet through our actions we have actually better equiped our students for the world of work. Studies show that specific subject skills were a fairly low priority for employers; much more important are brader undergraduate skills such as analysis, planning, and general intellectual ability and a focus on soft skills such as team work and communication skills (ibid.), which Stories & Streams seems particularly suited to developing.  By rejecting the strictures of employability based teaching we have ironically produced a pedagogy that is richer for developing employable graduates.  
  • Stories & streams: teaching collaborative journalism

    1. 1. Stories and Streams Jon Hickman, Jennifer Jones and Paul Bradshaw,Birmingham City University & University of the West of Scotland
    2. 2. The problem.
    3. 3. Employability.
    4. 4. “is this in the exam? is this in the job?
    5. 5. Consumption.
    6. 6. Collaboration:stories & streams
    7. 7. No more lecturesFirst 30 mins: role groupsMiddle 90 mins: streamed workshops...& last 60 mins: investigation workVLE: Moodle, forums per story/roleBlog feedback
    8. 8. Owning the learningexperienceWorkshop topics by vote, and opt-inEmphasis on learning throughmistakes and feedbackRole responsibilities and teammanagement - not generic experienceP2P learning across & within groups
    9. 9. “Week by week work makes it easier to keep on top of the assignment which means less stress and helps your motivation
    10. 10. What worked?Significantly high quality group workAvoiding storiesMore independent learning (e.g. FOI)More learning from peersRoles allowed for better "focus"Abandoning technical focus; soft skills
    11. 11. “From fellow students I have learned skills that other modules cannot teach. For example, learning how to manage and work with difficultpeople or those who do not want to do as well as you.
    12. 12. “ Because people are differentI got more from other students who had different opinions to mine. Hence I got to think in a different way than I usually do.
    13. 13. What didnt work?Competitiveness undermining P2PUnequal contribution, e.g. Editor roleRole groups not being quorateLack of role clarityIntegration of alt media class
    14. 14. OutcomesIdentify non-productive studentsUp-front resources on roles, alt mediaRe-order: investigation groups firstLower weighted 1st assignment
    15. 15. Questions?Module reflections: Student investigation blogs: