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The transformational power of a high school journalism program set up as a learning community - why it works.

  • Intrinsically motivates students by feeding into their primary teenage psychological needs for independence and recognition.
  • Reinforces important skills: reading, writing, critical thinking.
  • Integrates skills taught in English, social studies, technology, fine art, math, science.
  • Showcases student work in a socially esteemed format motivating students to perform at superior levels.
  • Reinforces the importance of the press in a democratic society.
  • Teaches the role of the press in a democratic society and reinforces the importance of that role.
  • Teaches students important interpersonal skills: communicating effectively, working as part of a team, handling feedback and criticism well, setting goals and achieving them.
  • Teaches important life skills: understanding how to run a small business, getting to known the local community, and understanding the local political process.
  • Enables students.
  • Can provide an important public service for the school.

Overview Presentation

Transformational Journalism

Microsoft PowerPoint format

Why setting up the program as a learning community is the key to the success of the program.

Most journalism programs in this country are considered the black sheep of the English department. No one wants to teach them because they don't want to be in a position of always fighting with the staff for control; they don't like the long hours associated with the program; they hate having their students work produced publicly for everyone to criticize. These problems are minimized when students are functioning in a student directed learning community. Few experts would disagree with the statement that the peer group takes on powerful a powerful role during the teenage years.

If teachers, administrators, and community members would look at the tradeoffs, they would jump at the opportunity to get students highly motivated to excel.

Journalism can motivate even the most recalcitrant student. I have had many students who hated school and who were not motivated. I have seen these same students transformed by the program. They changed from D students who cut often, hated learning to B or even A students; they started to care about the world because at last they felt they had a way to impact the real world. They felt respected and important.

What distinguishes a typical high school program from one set up as a learning community?

  • In a learning community, the adviser acts as an adviser, not a teacher. That is, the teacher relinquishes some of the power and control he/she normal has to the student leaders. Adviser censors only for libel, obscenity and inciting to riot.
  • Each person in the community has a real-world role and they work together as a team to accomplish their project. The teacher advises or teachers, but does not do it for them, no matter what.
  • Students feel truly empowered because they are.

Impediments to a journalistic learning community:

Ways to overcome the impediments:

  • Hold community meetings to explain the benefits of giving students freedom of expression: by having some real power to make changes in the community it makes its members into contributing citizens
  • http://cohortv.org/Laurie/ See this website entitled Controlling School Newspapers

© 2002 - Esther Wojcicki - Email: thewoj@hotmail.com