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Why I Teach This Way

learning pyramid

 

Although the percentages are hotly contested–especially by corporate-sponsored researchers heavily invested in profits from passive learning, most educators believe that the basic contention of the learning pyramid is sound: Active learning radically outperforms passive learning.

This class features active, collaborative, problem- andproject-based learning by discovery.It includes a practicum component based in the lab sessions and assignments. Practicums are a common feature of media studies coursework. Classes with this element emphasize practicing or participating in the the object of study, as well as engaging content and developing critical perspective.

In this case, what you’ll “practice” is composing for digital publication and civic engagement. You’ll explore howdigital media literacy is re-shaping the relationship of academics, professionals, and activists to the public sphere.

Aspects of this kind of learning are often called situated, which means you’ll work on media practices addressing real-world problemsthat don’t usually have obvious solutions. You’ll seek to become an actual, contributing member of acommunity of concerned personsresearching a problem.

This can be exciting.

It can also create some anxiety, because many of us are trained to believe that education is about taking great notes and being sure we have the “right” answer. Even ourclassrooms are designed to reinforce bad 19th-century ideas about teaching and learning.

But real researchers in universities and corporate labs, or professionals like physicians, lawyers, dancers,journalists and architects don’t sit in rows and regurgitate information. Ditto for entrepreneurs, managers, and engineers.

For professionals in many fields, most days are filled with thinking and writing about problems to which there are no obvious right answers. Often the problems are just as difficult to define as the solutions.

Dealing with the unknown and the contested–with ambiguity and uncertainty–can lead to cognitive overload. Being a professional is a lot like being a writer or any other kind of artist–a lot of creative problem-solving is required. Sometimes it’s easier just to follow directions!

The effectiveness of this kind of learning is strongly supported by decades of research, especially by comparison to traditional forms of classroom activity: how long did you remember the information you crammed for your last test? These are proven, especially effective ways of learning to write and think.

Another potentially good thing is that you will have a major role in choosing how to direct your time and energy in this class. The majority of students are quite proud of the work they do here.

There are drawbacks to this kind of learning. It is harder to coast. In project-based learning, completing an assignment poorly takes almost as much time as completing one successfully. For the same reason, it’s harder to catch up if you fall behind. There’s no way to last-minute cram for this class.

It can be either thrilling or disconcerting for so much of your work to be out in the open, under the scrutiny of other students and other professionals.

Finally: while the amount of work assigned in this class is really around average, it will feel like more if you don’t have genuine enthusiasm for the topics and projects you choose. This will be especially the case in the second half of the term.

If you have concerns at any time, be sure to ask in class or, if it’s more comfortable for you, arrange to see me privately. I can help!