Participatory Pedagogy: Media & Society in Montreal – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Participatory Pedagogy: Media & Society in Montreal

At the 2015 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference in Montreal, Assistant Professor Leah Shafer and Visiting Assistant Professor Rebecca Burditt, both of the Media & Society Program, took part in an innovative event focusing on collaborative teaching practices.

Shafer, who is co-chair of the Media Literacy and Pedagogical Outreach Scholarly Interest Group, initiated the design of the event, which is co-sponsored by the Women’s Caucus, the Queer Caucus, and the Women in Screen History Scholarly Interest Group.

Participatory Pedagogy is a collaborative course module construction event, designed as a hybrid panel/workshop/networking session that invited participants to crowdsource strategies, tools, and resources for film and media courses that integrate media, technology, praxis, and/or activism.

The purpose of the event, which was held Wednesday, March 25, was “to open space at the conference for scholar/pedagogues to work together, to think broadly about course content and design, and to create flexible and provocative course modules that will be shared with the broader SCMS community,” Shafer says. “The conference was an ideal space for incubating pedagogies that connect theory to praxis and ethics/politics to teaching.”

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies is the premiere International scholarly organization for the study of media. The Society’s annual conference provides a forum for scholars and teachers of film and media studies to present and hear new research; to provide a supportive environment for networking, mentoring, and collaboration among scholars otherwise separated by distance, language, or disciplinary boundaries; and to promote the field of cinema and media studies among its practitioners, to other disciplines, and to the public at large, in part through public recognition of award worthy achievements and other significant milestones within the field.

Participatory Pedagogy provided a space at the conference for hands-on creative teamwork. It modeled inter-generational collaboration; produced materially useful, spreadable teaching units; and provided theoretical, creative, and practical pedagogical strategies for those interested in further integrating technology, social change, media activism, and/or praxis into their teaching.

The event also allowed SCMS members to leverage collective knowledge and to harness the opportunities for cross-cultural, asynchronous sharing provided by digital spaces. It provided a tangible record of the pedagogical practices of a diverse range of SCMS members and it will promote the kind of collaborative, non-hierarchical ethos embraced by the Women’s Caucus and the Media Literacy and Pedagogical Outreach Scholarly Interest Group.

Furthermore, Shafer adds, “the event encouraged participants to share knowledge about the ways they are teaching (with) media in our quickly changing media landscape. It was a new and unique event: a check-in for media educators looking to connect with each other in the age of participatory digital media culture. We  learned from each other about what kinds of media practices our students are involved in and comfortable with in the classroom, thereby enriching SCMS’s offerings with regards to media pedagogy support.”

At the event, participants worked in groups to create course modules (e.g. course units) based on prompts offered by consulting panelists. The groups collaboratively constructed a course module. After the modules had been created, the panelists (composed of dyads of senior scholars and junior scholars) provided feedback. The modules were then given creative commons licenses and offered online for anyone to use (perhaps via or the SCMS site). The working session was followed by a reception, which offered an opportunity for networking and further discussion.

Shafer served as the event’s host, and Burditt served as a panelist.

More information about the event can be found at the event website: