Saturday, August 16, 2014

Curricular Snags

We've hit a snag, maybe more than one, in trying to revise and update the Grady College journalism curriculum.

A brief history: We've combined journalism and broadcast journalism and this past summer a Committee of the Sane met to try and come up with a fresh, innovative curriculum. Lots of other schools have combined the two but left more or less separate tracks. In other words, not much change. What we've got so far looks like this. We unveiled it last week to the full department faculty. The response? Underwhelming, and in a couple of cases, critical.

Before I get into the snags, a word of our approach. We wanted to frontload law and ethics as a framework for all the journalism classes that follow. We wanted lots of multimedia experience for all students. We wanted an experiential class, anchored by Newsource. And we wanted lots of skills classes.

And now, the snags. I'll focus on two of them today because, well, I've got other things to do:
  •  Law & Ethics: Most programs offer the traditional Law of Mass Comm class that, as in our case, is taken near the end of a student's coursework. Some programs offer one that, instead, combines ethics and law, the tension between what as a journalist you legally can do versus what you should do. Again, we saw this as the guiding framework for all classes to follow. As you might guess, the faculty who teach mass comm law are all for innovation -- except in the case of mass comm law. Their arguments are, in part, excellent case studies in tautology. There really isn't room in the curriculum for a required ethics and law class. How will it all fall out? Stay tuned. I feel fairly strongly we need an ethics/law class and, if it gets ugly, I'm more than willing to use the nuclear option. No, not gonna reveal what that is.
  • Skills Heavy: Our curriculum, as drawn, runs heavy on the skills classes and light on the "conceptual" classes (such as ethics, credibility, etc.). One senior faculty member told the room that we needed more classes with critical thinking. I asked him: "Are you saying skills classes don't include critical thinking?" He said that's not what he meant, despite it being what he said, but then again no one really listens to him anyway. The point, though, remains. With so many skills classes we're pushing the faculty to the edge to cover them and, if my math is right, we simply don't have the classroom lab space to teach them. That first semester writing class alone will eat up most of our labs for the week. It also doesn't help that for some faculty the list of classes they can't teach is far longer than the list of classes they can teach.
Oddly no one really mentioned the "teaching hospital" approach built (ever so lightly) into the curriculum. Newsource would become the anchor experience, for most students serving the online platform while for others serving the broadcast platform -- with of course a mix across both when the story deserves it. 

And we're bouncing around some interesting ways to handle some of the problems, such as online classes, such as flipped classrooms. After all, I'm paid too damn much to stand in a room watching students type. Stories should be written out of class and that time spent discussing their stuff, the problems that emerged, and what's next. Ya know ... critical thinking. (what a doofus)

1 comment:

Lindsey Loughman said...

I like the sound of skill based classes personally. I’m a PR alum, so I didn’t take all of the classes mentioned but I did take something similar. I can tell you that I have gotten more use out of understanding the bones of a good story and how to write it down, then anything that happened in my PR Administration class. (Not PR Admin isn't a good topic mind you, just not exactly like most companies you start out in - but that's not what we are talking about here :) )

Your question of a generalist vs specialist is an interesting one. I think it can give you a leg up, but lots of students will wallow in not knowing what to pick and end up not using that extra core time well. I got lucky, loved social media, took seminars on it, made that the larger portion of my capstone work and was able to get a job in it. I 100% believe that having actual experience in a social media campaigns got my first job.

Being able to walk the walk will get a job faster than any subject that you may have read about. At the end of the day I want to hire someone I know who can do the job I assigned them well.