Youth-Adult Collaboration

February 15, 2007

I’ve been writing in the last couple posts about collegial pedagogy, where young people and adults do not metaphorically “co-construct” a learning environment. They literally co-create a media product, through an intricate co-compositional process shot through with opportunities and risks. Under collegial pedagogy, young people and adults actually make work together, revealing their investments and vulnerabilities to one another in concrete ways. Several factors are at stake at a place like Youth Radio for both youth and adult participants, including journalistic integrity, professional reputation, personal and political message, intellectual and creative development, as well as the intended and actual impact any given story has on its audience.

The adult producer cannot create the story without young people to identify topics worth exploring, to find and interview characters, and to experiment with novel modes of expression and ways of using words, scene, and sound. At the same time, young people cannot create the story without adults to provide access to resources, equipment, broadcast outlets, and institutional recognition, and to share the skills and habits developed through years of experience as media professionals.

Young people offer a key substantive contribution that the adults cannot provide — a certain kind of access, understanding, experience, or analysis directly relevant to the project at hand. That is a major point of the youth media field after all — to contribute insights and challenging perspectives to a mainstream media that too often ignores the experience and intelligence of youth. And yet in collegial pedagogy, adults do not only oversee or facilitate the learning experience surrounding a given media production experiment; they actually join in the production process itself.

What are the other spaces in young people’s lives—in school, at home, among friends, online—where they experience collegial pedagogy?

Collegial Pedagogy

February 14, 2007

Collegial pedagogy—that’s one way to describe a specific approach to youth-adult collaboration that guides Youth Radio’s newsroom process.

Check out an excerpt from reporter Brandon McFarland’s script log. A longtime “sagger,” Brandon was working on a story about his decision to tighten his belt, and his attempt to convince his friends to follow suit. Here, he’s recording his friend Dru, and his producer, Nishat, joins the exchange.

Brandon: So what is sagging too low?

Dru: Sagging too low is when your—you get that breeze. 3/1:15 That breeze? That killer breeze? Yeah, we’re all familiar with the killer breeze above the area. Uh, yeah, that area.

Nishat: All the listeners may not be familiar with that area, so why don’t you describe that area for them.

Dru: Oh, the killer breeze, uh…

Brandon: It’s when your shirt is not long enough to

Dru: To cover the PC. The plumber’s crack.

Brandon: Right. 3/1:30

Dru: Okay. Plumbers crack. We don’t want to show the plumbers crack. We try to keep that engaged in the jeans [laughing]. Try to keep those covered. We also want to make sure we don’t step on the jeans because they’re very expensive. Is that correct?

Brandon: Very expensive, Dru.

Nishat: So are we going to have Dru try it your way?

Brandon: Yeah. So now the pants are raised. Take another walk and see how it is. [watches] He has a different strut now. And he has a smile on his face now. He’s kind of enlightened.

Nishat: How does it feel Dru?

Dru: It feels like I’m a model. The jeans fit me now!

Brandon: So you know, come here brother.

Nishat: Does he see this as a permanent situation? Does he see this as a long-term thing that he could live with? 3/2:30

Brandon: I’m not sure you do, but I’m gonna ask you anyway. Well, would you consider, you know, permanently keeping those britches up there, son?

Dru: That’s a deep question, brother. That’s a life outlook. I’d have to say that I change on a day to day basis. So my perspective may alter tomorrow. But as for these 24 hours, I will attend your ways, and pull up my pants.

Notice the moments where Nishat intervenes. This is teaching in production. When Dru mentions “that area” saggers try to cover, no matter how low their pants ride, Nishat pushes for more explanation. Later, she prompts Brandon to have Dru try pulling his pants up, and she helps Brandon draw out from him what it feels like to tighten his belt closer to his waist. You can listen to Brandon’s finished story, which aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, to see how this collaborative interviewing process shaped his final script.