Lifeblood of democracy? Learning about broadcast news
BBC News School Report is a project which aims to enable Year 8 (12 and 13 year old) students in UK schools to learn about news production. Over 120 UK schools participated in its pilot year, 2006-7. This report presents the findings of a study funded by Ofcom, which sought to identify and account for learning outcomes generated by the project. The study was proposed and managed by the British Film Institute and was carried out by a team of three researchers between December 2006 and June 2007.
This study was not an evaluation of the School Report project as a whole, but an investigation of learning outcomes for selected students in three case studies, over a period of five months. Although every effort was made to select case study schools that represented a breadth of types of school, the small size of the sample means that the pattern of learning outcomes described here cannot be projected on to the whole of the School Report project.
Nevertheless, the research offers some important insights on teaching and learning about broadcast news. Rather than examining whether the stated learning aims were achieved, the researchers explored all learning outcomes, intended and unintended, using a ‘goals-free’ methodology which enabled students and teachers to respond to unprompted, open questions. Additional, prompted questions were designed to elicit information about the extent to which students had developed their understanding of news and news production, and the impact of the project on other areas of learning and motivation. These questions were derived from three sources: the original project proposal from the BFI; an interview with the project leaders at the BBC, and the stated aims for the project on the BBC News School Report website.
Interview transcripts were analysed using a coding frame that was based on the most salient categories of response. The 20 learning outcomes that were identified through this research thus combined some of the objectives stated at the outset together with some less predictable outcomes that emerged through the interview process.
Concept mapping was also used to provide another perspective on students’ understanding of broadcast news, both before and after the School Report project, and each researcher observed the activity in their case study school on the culminating day of the project, 22nd March 2007. This report thus provides a rich, qualitative account which could make a significant contribution to further stages of the School Report project, and to general curriculum development for media literacy.