Ethiopian Journalism Educators Discuss Student-Centered Learning

How to develop a syllabus. How to give students feedback on their written assignments. How to stimulate discussion in large lecture classes. How to grade student performance.

These were among the topics covered in a five-day workshop organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at Unity College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the last week of February.

The dozen members of the core group involved in formation of a journalism program at Unity, plus other faculty members at the private Ethiopian college, participated in the workshop, which emphasized a student-centered approach to journalism education.

Dr. Elizabeth Lester Roushanzamir of the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, in which the Cox Center is housed, and Dr. David Boeyink of the School of Journalism at Indiana University served as discussion leaders for the workshop. Cox Center Director Dr. Lee B. Becker also participated in the workshop.

The participants were encouraged by the team to use techniques such as discussion groups, cases and project assignments to get students involved in the learning process. Active learning takes place when students are engaged in the learning process, the Unity group was told.

The U.S. educators reviewed the curriculum developed by the Unity journalism team and offered practical advice on how to keep writing classes small, how to integrate different types of writing into courses, and how to develop assignments to help students learn the basics of journalism.

Dr. Roushanzamir teaches in the Advertising and Public Relations Department in the Grady College at the University of Georgia and has expertise in teaching such classes on advertising copy writing and issues of advertising in society. She also has conducted research on the media in Africa.

Dr. Boeyink is a participant in a program to teach new faculty members how to teach journalism at Indiana University and co-director of an ongoing project at the university to design new curricular models for journalism education. His teaching specialty is ethics.

Unity, the first private college in Ethiopia, will begin offering journalism courses this spring. The college began as a language school in 1992 and officially became a college in 1998. Approximately 8,000 students now are attending classes at the College on four different campuses, three in the Ethiopian Capitol and one in the city of Nazareth. The journalism program will begin as a two-year curriculum and represents the first private, independent journalism education initiative in the country.

The Cox Center was invited to organize the workshop by Dr. Fisseha Eshetu, president and founder of Unity College, after he and Cox Center Director Dr. Becker met in Atlanta in September of 1999. Tesfaye Balcha, chief projects officer of Unity, also participated in the preliminary discussions in Atlanta. The workshop was organized in Ethiopia by Jennifer Parmelee, a consultant to Unity College who worked in Ethiopia as a Knight International Press Fellow in 1998. Development of the journalism program at Unity was a major part of Parmelee's assignment as a Knight Fellow.

(The Knight International Press Fellowship Program is operated by the International Center for Journalists in Washington and was evaluated by the Cox Center in 1999.)

The Unity workshop began with an overview of models of journalism education around the world and a historical overview of higher education and journalism education in the United States. The American team reviewed the journalism curricula at their own and other universities as a means of providing a context for the program being initiated by Unity.

The workshop sessions were held in four-hour blocks each day February 21 to 25. In addition, the Cox Center team held a general session for all faculty of the Addis Ababa college on the morning of February 24 on the value of and techniques for student-centered teaching.

"We are honored to have been invited by Unity to participate in this workshop, " Cox Center Director Becker said in the closing session of the journalism workshop on Friday afternoon. Becker thanked Roushanzamir, Boeyink and the Unity participants for their hard work during the week-long program.

Becker, Boeyink and Roushanzamir also told the participants how impressed they were with the curriculum they had developed and wished them much success as they began the task of implementing it.