An Evaluation of Team-Teaching Models in a Media Convergence Curriculum

Article excerpt

This article evaluates team teaching models of new media convergence curriculum at a small, undergraduate journalism program. In the models, degrees of faculty collaboration vary depending on course level and goal. Students in first-year, basic journalism classes benefited from a lower level of collaboration than those in second-year classes where advanced cross-platform, integrated knowledge, and skills were needed. We suggest that team teaching and teaching media convergence go hand-in-hand; however, a successful program depends on administrative support and the willingness of instructors to collaborate and learn new skills and knowledge across media platforms.

Across the United States, journalism instructors experiment with structures and approaches to teaching students how to present stories in varying media platforms and prepare them for our media-converged world. While little consensus exists about how to teach convergence, many schools have embraced models of team teaching, which has been a hallmark of convergence courses because of its focus on collaborative learning.

This article evaluates team-teaching in four core courses in a new convergence curriculum at a small, undergraduate journalism program. Each course uses a different team-teaching approach and is classified based on models from interdisciplinary learning literature. The analysis suggests that certain team-teaching approaches are better suited than others for students at different levels of experience and for facilitating collaboration across media specialties. It offers lessons learned and suggestions for faculty and administrators in structuring and supporting team-taught convergence curricula.

From 1998 to 2002, about 60% of journalism schools in the United States developed new courses or redesigned their curricula to prepare students to work across media platforms.1 One study reported that 85% of the university programs surveyed, both large and small, "had adapted their curriculum, or begun to adapt it, in response to the industry trend toward convergence."2 However, most changes were fairly minor and were not designed for students to be exposed to high levels of media integration.3 Several scholars of convergence education agree that in a truly converged program, faculty and students need to be conversant in the concepts, language, and skills needed to work across integrated platforms,4 the hallmark of integrated storytelling. Filak studied student attitudes toward instructional methods, including team teaching, in convergence courses, but did not study specific team-teaching models.5 He noted how little research existed on how to teach multi-platform journalism. Castaneda et al.6 studied the convergence curriculum at the University of Southern California and suggested that research on how to teach convergence is needed. One question among instructors is: Should students be taught as backpack journalists who can do it all or should they have specialties? The news industry has several models: smaller news organizations need versatile backpack journalists; larger ones can afford to have specialists in teams. The point is that students need to be conversant across media, however programs are structured.

The Integrated Mindset and Team Teaching

Although news professionals are being increasingly asked to train and report across media platforms,7 few educators can claim to be expertly conversant in all media. Dailey and Mensing posit that newsroom innovations can be cultivated when students familiar with different media work together, which may hold true for faculty as well; cross-media "ties can facilitate the flow of new information into otherwise closed communication networks."8 Students, faculty, and professionals in separate media enclaves step outside the limited thinking from each specialty when they collaborate. Huang emphasized that convergence is "an attitude" that requires aptitude and collaboration, and that educators need to teach a mix of writing, new media, principles and rules of production and editing, and different newsroom cultures. …