When designing the podcast assignment, the goal was to foster student learning in the following areas:
- to learn and practice research skills
- to develop media production skills to create podcasts
- to demonstrate reflective thinking and metacognition through the podcasts
- to examine public communication as a means for collaboration and dialogue
academic technology tools
The class used multiple digital media tools to create podcasts, such as Zoom audio recorders, Adobe Audition for editing, and the audio production booths in Seeley Mudd.
HISTORY, LATINX AND LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES
In the Spring 2019 course Human Rights and National Security: Seeking Balance in the United States, students created short documentary podcasts exploring class topics for their final project. Professor Walker’s goal was to get students to go beyond listening to podcasts and become creators of podcasts. The assignment guidelines described the steps in the process to create a podcast, and included strategies for students to develop reflective and metacognitive thinking, in collaborative settings.
To handle the challenge of managing a large class of 60 students, Professor Walker came up with the following solutions:
1) Group dynamics – Walker broke down the large class to 15 teams of 4 students each. Teams were organized around student interest in particular themes, as well as schedule considerations. Much thought and care was given to fostering healthy group dynamics since collaboration played such an integral role to the success of the project. Students began by drafting a “Team Charter” and work plan. Students also completed team evaluations on a regular basis to ensure that communication and collaboration were functioning smoothly.
2) Technological know-how: Instead of requiring all 60 students to pick up the media technology skills for producing the podcasts, only one student per group (voluntarily) took on the role of the “technology specialist”. This student received extra training from IT’s media services unit in audio production, and led the tech aspects of the project. Other team members often took part in the editing of the audio files, but the tech specialist acted as the coordinator for collaborative work around these issues.
Students followed a rigorous academic process for this project. Research was a key component, and a first step for all groups was to compile an annotated bibliography. Students also completed individual “source assessment” exercises, comparing two of the sources for their team and analyzing their utility for the project, the types of evidence used by authors, and highlighting competing claims and arguments.
Groups were paired for structured peer review of early podcast drafts. Students were asked to comment on both the content of the podcast for clarity of argument and themes, as well as the audio production and sound quality. Students also shared podcast transcripts with sources footnoted. Final versions of the podcasts were submitted through Moodle with a two-paragraph summary, a full transcript, and suggested sources for further information. Although this was a media-based assignment, the skills the students practiced will apply to papers and other academic work.
Pedagogical Impact & Evidence of Learning
The following podcast example from the student work focused on Anti-Communism. In this podcast, students demonstrated important elements related to metacognition: For example, students:
- Read sources not just for comprehension but to analyse their value when building a bibliography and addressing controversial topics from a fact based position.
- Raised questions in the podcast to enhance understanding and situate the topic for discussion
- Created original connections across units of research information to develop critical analysis
- Worked in groups to refine arguments and debate evidence , listened to each other’s viewpoint to engage with multiple perspectives, and sometimes changed their own perceptions.
- Wrote a final reflective essay to analyze their learning process, described how they were impacted by the collaborative work, and articulated how their understanding of the topic evolved over the course of the project.
Listen to a Student Podcast: Anti-Communism (AC Login Required)
- The Writing Center’s public speaking coach visited the class and provided guidance on vocal authority and speaking considerations for media like podcasts.
- The Library’s Research and Instruction Librarians provided research training and advice.
- This project was supported by a course development grant from the Stanton Foundation for Applied History.
- Multimedia services provided training in audio recording and editing.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning provided guidance on working with teams.
- Teaching Students How to Produce their own Podcasts – New York Times, April 2019
- A model/inspiration for this assignment was Backstory by the American History Guys.
Please contact askIT@amherst.edu if you would like to discuss a podcasting project for your class.
McLoughlin, C., Lee, M., & Chan, A. (2006). Using student generated podcasts to foster reflection and metacognition. Australian Educational Computing, 21(2), 34-40.
“Getting Started with the Team Charter,” from Joanna Wolfe, Team Writing: a Guide to Working in Groups (Boston: Bedford, 2010), p. 27-38.