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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


JORDAAN, Marenet. The importance of critical self-reflection by journalism educators. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.4-1, pp.826-840. ISSN 2224-7912.

The journalism industry is changing and evolving at an ever-increasing rate. To keep up with the pace of change in the industry, journalism education programmes also need to adapt, often at short notice (Webb 2015). The main argument in this article is that journalism educators should consider applying the basic tenets of critical self-reflective teaching practice to enhance their own teaching and learning approach. In order to employ a critical self-reflective approach to teaching practice educators have to constantly be vigilant about how their own personal and professional belief systems might influence the way they interact with students (Larrivee 2000:294). If one wants to become a critical reflective educator, however, it is not sufficient to think about things. Reflection is "problem-based and action-orientated" (LaBoskey 2010:630). This would mean that critical reflective teaching practice should involve concerted efforts to improve what happens in the lecture hall. In order to support the central argument of this overview article, the writer first discussed some of the key debates in journalism education. Despite journalism programmes becoming a staple of many a university's educational offering, there are still debates about the inherent value of a journalism degree (Lynch 2015). Journalism educators are also often at odds with industry role-players about what exactly students should be taught (Berger & Foote 2017; Hermann 2017). Furthermore, questions are still sometimes raised about journalism programme's place in the broader university environment (Webb 2015). In addition, the slow pace of curriculum renewal in the university space often stands in the way of journalism programmes keeping pace with changes in the industry (Webb 2015; Johnston 2018). To further develop the article's arguments, the writer highlighted the need for educators to keep in touch with the changing learning styles, habits and awareness of the students in their classes. The writer listed students' use of digital media technologies as one area where critical reflection is needed to make sure that teaching matches the students' real-world experiences. Attention was also paid to the role student movements, such as the #FeesMustFall protests, can have on the expectations of students which further increases the need for critical reflection on the part of educators. Some broad definitions and applications of critical self-reflective teaching practice were subsequently provided. It was emphasised that this approach to teaching must be systematic and informed by actual evidence. In the end the aim is to "come up with strategies to improve the teaching and learning process in a higher education context" (Tony & Makura 2015:43). By critically reflecting about teaching practice an educator is not trying to become the perfect teacher, but rather aiming to constantly fine-tune existing practices as knowledge and experience develop (Ashwin et al. 2015:54). It was further argued that critical self-reflection is especially pertinent for journalism educators since they are preparing students for an industry that is in constant flux. Journalists rarely get to reflect about their own practices in the 24/7 news cycle newsroom (Niblock 2007:20). That makes the call for journalism educators, and specifically journalists-turned-educators, to experiment with and reflect about their teaching practice even more pressing. In this instance the role of a university is not to maintain the status quo, but rather to challenge conventional practices (Bacon 2006:148). A case-study was then presented to show how honours students' feedback in the form of focus groups is being used to encourage critical self-reflection on the part of the journalism educators in Stellenbosch University's postgraduate journalism department. This example illustrates the need for educators to engage in dialogue with students to gain insight into students' experiences - on both a personal and educational level. The article finally concludes that critical self-reflection on the part of journalism educators not only improves teaching practice, but can also have a telling effect on professional journalism practice.

Keywords : journalism education; journalism training; tertiary journalism education; reflective teaching practice; critical self-reflection; reflection on journalism; learning styles; university teaching; teaching and learning; student feedback.

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