Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kaizen journalism instruction

Back in the '80s, when I read a lot from magazines like Inc. and books such as Tom Peters's In Search of Excellence, the approach that was all the rage was Japanese management methods. William Ouchi, for example, developed Theory Z to supplant Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y about employee motivation.

Another big area of focus was how Japanese corporations had adopted principles of kaizen, or continuous improvement. (Toyota, its recent problems notwithstanding, used this principle to turn itself into a company whose product reliability was downright legendary.)

Ever since learning about this principle, I've realized its value in terms of making my work better, first in the newsroom and now in the classroom. I've never taught a course the same way twice. Sometimes the semester-to-semester adjustments are minor tweaks, and other times they're more significant revisions. But as the pace of change in the industry accelerates, looking to continuously improve journalism courses becomes even more crucial.

Here are some lessons learned this semester that I'll be using, kaizen-style, to improve fall course offerings.

One of my big changes in the recently finished academic year was to experiment with true multimedia journalism in what had been a print-centric advanced newswriting course. Students were required to report and present on multiple platforms -- text, photo, video, flash graphics -- and collaborated with an advanced Web design course to create a site where it all could be presented. As with many new projects, there were some rough spots, notably with the video, but overall a success.

But the biggest take-away from the course for me was that so much of what I tried to bring across in that advanced elective course really belongs in the mandatory introductory newswriting course our program offers. This would provide a baseline knowledge that could be expanded upon in the upper-level courses, both in journalism and other courses within the program.

I'm looking forward to making the adjustments.

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