Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Teaching Media

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Teaching Media

Article excerpt

Teaching production is something that all of us do. Yet, like much of our academic lives, it is often a solitary activity. This issue of the Journal of Film and Video seeks to connect production teachers through the publication of thoughtful scholarship on pedagogy; provoking reflection, initiating inquiry, and seeking dialogue. While each article treats one issue facing the field, or highlights one approach to course design and implementation, taken together the essays indicate major questions affecting media arts production education. These are questions that we must answer individually but which we might better discuss collectively.

The American Association for Higher Education working paper, "Making a Place for the New American Scholar," interviewed faculty from across the country about the environment in the academy today. The report found that "an expectation has been created about `setting your own hours' and `creating your own classes,"' that is attractive to many faculty. Autonomy is highly valued. "One new faculty member responded to the question [what attracted you to an academic career?] by saying that an academic career gives a person `the chance to be self-- employed without putting up one's own capital."' This quote could easily come from a faculty member in production who receives access to equipment and facilities as a benefit of her or his teaching post. But this autonomy comes at a price. Isolation is pervasive as the following quote illustrates: An advanced graduate student in a major New York university, when asked about the lives of the junior faculty, said: "I don't want the loneliness I see among most. They are largely cut off from their colleagues by the competition for advancement, and are reluctant to discuss difficulties they are having, particularly in relation to teaching, for fear of exposing weakness."

As a group we have great freedom, including the freedom to choose what we wish to disclose about our teaching. Often we only talk with our colleagues about our classes when we need to solve problems concerning shared equipment. Sometimes we get together in meetings to coordinate content for a multiple section course. But really, much of the design and implementation of a course is done by oneself. Each of us brings his or her own values, beliefs, and objectives to the class. Sharing information is primarily informal and revolves around incidents and anecdotes. Reports of what is working and what isn't are exchanged (if at all) in fleeting encounters in hallways, around the copy machine, or walking to or from a meeting.

My own experience suggests that the result of this autonomy is that each of us individually develops a "teaching philosophy" in response to the big questions that come up as we reflect on our lives as production teachers. What is the purpose of a media arts education? How do we encourage responsible and ethical representations? How do we support a diverse student population in production education? How can we reach out to other disciplines to enrich student experience? Instead of seeking to address these issues collectively, we find our own answers, make our own peace, and get ready for our next class of eager students.

But the students are just passing through. We work with undergraduate students just a few hours each week. We see some students outside of class in brief meetings or when responding to their work. When they complete our course we move on to a new group. Some students may take several classes with us, some we may never see again. Either way, when they leave the institution, most are lost to us forever.

This distance from our students also limits our ability to answer pedagogical questions effectively. Since most of us don't know where our undergraduate students are coming from, and only a bit more about what they graduate to, it is difficult to understand what serves them in our curriculum. Increasingly, a college education is seen as a something that serves the individual rather than the society. …

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