By MARK PEARSON Follow @Journlaw
What’s in a question? A whole lot of learning, if you ask students in my Ethical and Legal Strategies for the Media class this semester.
It has always been a challenge to get students to digest and understand the relevant chapter readings for the week’s lecture topic. Over the years I have experimented with a range of assessment tools to do so, including the traditional law school ‘fictitious fact scenario’ problem-based approach, end of chapter exercises and responses, and mini-quizzes on the chapter contents.
This semester I have developed a two-step weekly assignment which has generated some lively in-class discussions based upon a genuine depth of understanding of the material among most students.
Students are required to read the week’s chapter of the text and a. Compose a tweet including the subject code #hashtag referring their peers to a recent case, news report or commentary on the topic; and b. Compose an analytical extension question, demonstrating they have understood the chapter readings and have posed a question worthy of class discussion during the lecture session. They are graded on the quality of the question, as outlined in the rubric below.
I spend a few moments arranging the students’ questions into themes and then pose them, leading class discussion in place of the traditional Powerpoint-driven slideshow lecture. The slides are there as a backup, of course, to return to key foundational learning points, but most time is spent debating the potential answers to the questions students have raised. Here are some examples from the semester’s crop thus far:
- As social media continues to satisfy society’s appetite for news and court reporting, will judge-only trials become more commonplace to ensure justice is done?
- Can technology ever replace the role of court reporters?
- Why would anyone decide not to sue for defamation after they have been defamed?
- Are there any changes proposed for defamation laws to focus more closely on social media, particularly trolls?
- What matters most – closed courts in sex cases to fully protect the ID of the victim or open courts to protect open justice?
Every one of these questions shows the student has understood the topic and grappled with a dilemma arising from it. Each could be the subject of a research project in its own right.
Universities are meant to be about constructing, researching and attempting to resolve such deeper questions. This exercise rewards students who apply analytical skills to journalism and social media law topics, and elevates the subject above the ‘black letter law’ approach that was the hallmark of media law courses in the 20th century.
I offer you the rubric for the assignment below. Feel free to use it, critique it and adapt it. File any feedback below. Cheers.
|JOUR12-230 Ethical and Legal Strategies for the Media (2 copies needed at start of lecture – one for your reference and one to submit. Not accepted by email, sorry.)
Date and topic this week:
|Your tweet on this week’s topic. (Compulsory). Must include insightful comment and/or link to recent case or article on topic||TWEET:
|ANALYTICAL EXTENSION QUESTION criteria.
|ANALYTICAL EXTENSION QUESTION:|
|Understanding of chapter readings|
|Important extension of inquiry BEYOND those readings|
|Clear and simple question structure|
Example of EXCELLENT question on Defamation: “How has the High Court dealt with the political qualified privilege defence since the textbook was published in 2011?”
Example of POOR question on Defamation: “What is defamation and give an example?”
Example of defamation tweet:
#Defamation suit pits casino owner against creator of ‘Girls Gone Wild’ – bit.ly/OXX3bq #freespeech #JOUR12-230 @journlaw
© Mark Pearson 2012
Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.