A simple understanding of active learning is that it engages students to participate in gaining knowledge as opposed to just receiving information to process and, hopefully, understand it.
I look for every opportunity to apply active learning in my courses for student success. I engage students in the practice of proper journalism skills and seek out situations where students can be actively involved in the work of journalists.
That is not to say that I don't teach my students the concepts of good journalism. Through my lectures, videos that highlight the concepts we are studying as well as textbooks and other readings, students are shown real-world examples of the issues and knowledge they need to gain.
One example is my assignment of asking students to find a legitimate news website that displays good journalism. I do not limit them to what genre of journalism they can choose, news, sports, entertainment or other topics. They can also choose a print or broadcast news organization. What I emphasize is to analyze the stories they see before each class that reflect the concepts of good journalism we are studying. How does the writer write? How does the broadcast journalist present the story? What form is the story presented in? Does it have a summary lead or a feature lead? How does the reporter’s style work for that story?
I believe that seeing the work that professional journalists do and relating it to our class discussions helps students to find inspiration, but not duplication, in how they can write and present the news that they cover. I complement this by bringing in industry professionals to explain current trends and applications that students need to know.
There are other examples of using active learning in different courses. I have presented scenarios of actual events in my Reporting and Writing for TV and Radio class and students must write about them. One scenario is having St. John’s Public Safety Captain Ralph Pascullo engage in a news conference with students in class about a real-life incident he worked on a New York City police captain; in my Sport Writing class, I created a website that students post stories to that allows them to engage with the modern medium writers employ. I also bring in industry professionals to explain current trends and applications they need to know.
Modern journalists need to know technology and my active learning efforts include having students use professional grade equipment or even their smartphones to record themselves and others for stories they need to produce.
Active learning falls under the experiential learning umbrella and nowhere is that better applied for my students that the annual "mock crisis” exercise. Journalism students face the pressures and deadlines that modern journalists face in this exercise. They also interact with a variety of individuals and must properly react to a person’s lack of interest in speaking to a reporter.
It is the best activity in my active learning efforts and yields great results among all the students involved.