My approach has been most guided by the theories of Paulo Freire (1970) whose seminal book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, argued that education should be collaborative – incorporating the diverse experiences of all students – and centered in fostering “praxis”, a process whereby teachers promote critical reflection to help students transform their worlds.
Most broadly, in the spirit of Freire, my courses lift-up the transformative potential of media tools and I facilitate real world engagement whenever possible. In the first portion of a three-part assignment in my face-to-face Introduction to Mass Communication class, I invited students to listen to immigrant-produced, low-power FM radio broadcasts. Second, a speaker from a media mobilizing nonprofit that I met through my research joined our class discussion on the role of media in organizing marginalized communities. Finally, groups created sample plans to organize on an issue that impacted their fellow Rutgers students. Following the success of this assignment and others like it that I had developed, I was asked by the Rutgers Graduate School to facilitate two teaching workshops on how to bring social science research into the classroom.
To speak to Freire’s other points on engaged education, I have developed slightly different techniques to promote collaborative learning in my face-to-face and online courses. For my face-to-face Structure of Information class, I had my students break into small groups after every lecture and produce a graded piece of intellectual work to share out with all their classmates at the end of class. In our unit on surveillance and information policy, this took the form of a debate on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s actions. In our unit on the political economy of the media, students created a visual diagram to better understand how the shows and films they watched fit into the media ownership structure of conglomerates like Disney and Viacom. In my online courses, which included both Media and Popular Culture and Gender, Race, Class and the Media, I utilized moderated discussion blogs coupled with short weekly student video presentations. This two-pronged online course approach encouraged students to learn from each other in a bottom-up process, with my video lecture offering a foundation to help students contribute to the conversation.
In closing, in these ways and more, I have used Freire’s theories on “praxis” and collaborative learning as a touchstone to inform and strengthen my pedagogy.
Explore a course
Gender, Race, Class and the Media (Online Course)
Sample prezi lectures:
Structure of Information (Hybrid Course)
Sample prezi lectures:
Students in "Structure of Information" Create Media Ownership Maps
I also believe it is important to help connect students with job and practical learning opportunities. In this spirit, I worked to assemble a jobs panel for Rutgers undergraduates that was cross-promoted by my department:
Boyraz, M., Crowell, J.K. & File, C. (2015, April). Theory and practice: Communication degrees and media skills in corporate and non-profit settings. Conference panel organized for the New Jersey State Communication Association. Jersey City, NJ.
Flyer for Student Job Fair Event (April, 2015)