My teaching philosophy is based on four principles: a student-centered classroom, applied practice activities, innovation, and passion for the subject area. The implementation of these principles in my classes means students are encouraged and challenged to practice real-world journalism.
In a student-centered environment, I recognize students as individuals and help them accentuate their strengths while also working with them to overcome where they struggle. Through applied practice activities and assignments, students learn by doing and by reflecting on what worked and what failed. In journalism, and especially in electronic media, innovation in the classroom is essential. This includes updating lectures and assignments to reflect ongoing changes in the industry.
Continuing to practice journalism also allows me to see and experience these changes firsthand. My teaching is even more effective when I can relate classroom lessons to my personal experiences practicing journalism. I will provide below further examples from specific classes that demonstrate how I apply these principles in my teaching.
In Journalism 386 “Beginning Video Reporting” students produce several video projects. These video assignments are given after a series of lectures on story development, reporting and videography. Students are taught the qualities of newsworthiness and then apply analytical and critical thinking to select and research newsworthy stories to cover.
As students produce these video stories, they meet individually with me to discuss their progress. Feedback is given before the final story is due. When stories are turned in, we watch every story together. I think it is important for students to have a tangible audience for their work. I provide feedback during this class, and I talk to my students about how to give constructive criticism before I invite them to provide their peers with feedback.
Through the course’s final assignment, creating a digital portfolio of the stories they produced for the class, students recognize what they have accomplished. Their confidence in their abilities to do journalism, and in themselves overall, grows.
In the spring of 2014 I created and began teaching a new course, “Adventure Travel Writing and Photography.” I have co-taught this course with Greg Corio; he teaches the photography sections of this course. The class includes immersive field experiences, including a trip each semester where the class travels to a selected area and students produce stories on that area’s adventure travel and sports activities.
The course begins with classroom lectures that teach students about travel writing, including ethical principles and understanding cultural sensitivities and diversity. Students are also taught and practice travel writing and adventure and landscape photography prior to their in-the-field assignments. Following the classroom lectures, students further learn about the subject area through immersive applied practice assignments.
In spring 2015 the “Adventure Travel Writing and Photography” class included a week-long trip to Moab, UT, which required much preparation and behind-the-scenes planning. Students participated in adventure activities, such as rock climbing and mountain biking, and wrote about these experiences for travel blogs they created for the course. This was an incredible experience for the students, and for me, as their instructor, to see their interest in their work deepen when they were immersed in the experience.
The following are comments from students’ SEI forms for the spring 2015 course:
“The course did an amazing job integrating teaching outdoor activities (adventuring and journalism skills). It was a great experience! We all learned a great deal more than the 3 credits would suggest.”
“The course was the most influential thing I’ve ever done. It helped me break my lack of self-confidence and learn more practical skills than any other class.”
“The course improved me as a journalist and a person. I would recommend it to anyone at anytime.”
“This course was amazing. The instructors were insightful, helpful and inspirational.”
In 2015, I was part of a project at the College called WVU Stream Lab. The College received a $35,000 grant from the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, which Professor Dana Coester and I applied for, to develop and implement WVU Stream Lab.
The WVU Stream Lab project included working with Professors Coester and John Temple and two professional journalists to create the fall 2015 “Experimental Journalism” class. I also arranged for the project to partner with two WVU water researchers in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Todd Petty, PhD and Nicolas Zegre, PhD, who provided expertise and guidance to the class throughout the semester.
In spring 2016, I developed and taught an independent study course that applied sensor journalism to reporting on water pollution. While the fall 2015 class conducted a beta test on a water quality sensor and helped create a framework for sensor journalism, the spring class added to that framework and sensor experimentation through applied practice.
The experience and knowledge my students and I gained in the classroom and in the field transcended our reporting. We leveraged these resources for a workshop that I planned and led at the end of the spring 2016 semester for community members, journalists, students and others interested in sensor journalism involving water quality issues. I also developed and taught an independent study course in spring 2017 that focused on sensor journalism and air quality.
The following are responses from an interview I did with students who took the Independent Study Sensor Journalism class in spring 2016 and who also took the fall 2015 Experimental Journalism Sensor Journalism class:
“We shy away from the numbers, we get intimidated by that, but I think sensor journalism, we were able to open our minds and see there are stories to be told with sensor journalism. When we came to spring semester, Colleen and I were able to use that and put a story around the sensors and I think that was something that I see journalists doing more of in the future.” – Shishira Sreenivas
“I think that it has emphasized that it really is possible and doable to use technology to try to understand the environment better. It definitely takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of tinkering, which isn’t necessarily something that as journalists we’re used to doing with technology. But I think it’s really valuable to learn that it is possible and that it can really add a lot of information and experience that you wouldn’t have without the technology. Without the technology, I don’t know that we would have gotten into the water, that we would have gone right on the banks, that we would have had the same experience and connection to the water that we ended up having through this project.” – Colleen Good
“I’ve always been kind of freaked out by wires and stuff but then I realized that, hey, there’s a skill that I have, I’m crafty, I can take the skills that I do have and combine it with my love of storytelling and helping the environment.”- Jillian Clemente
Passion for Journalism
I share my excitement for and interest in journalism with my students as a way to spark interest and excitement for journalism in them. I tell my students that if they don’t sound interested in their stories when they’re delivering or voicing their copy, their audience won’t become interested in their stories. This is similar to how I deliver content as a teacher – I have to be enthusiastic about what I’m teaching if I expect my students to be engaged in the subject. When students see my excitement for interviewing, for example, it makes them more excited about the subject matter.
As I continue to practice journalism, I share my field experiences with my students. My field experiences also expose me to current trends in the industry. This allows me to better understand and better prepare students for the experiences they will encounter. A good example of this is the digital writing and digital story presentation assignments I have completed for media outlets such as West Virginia Public Broadcasting and RootsRated, an adventure travel digital media platform. I pull from these experiences, among others, when I talk to my students about the importance of being able to produce work using various mediums and understanding how to present it on different media platforms.
Below are syllabi for some of the courses I teach, including a new course I developed for spring 2014, “Adventure Travel Writing and Photography.”