Viewing Violence Critically: A Media Literacy Program

Every Spring semester, undergraduate students enrolled in COMM 426 Media Violence and graduate students from the Department of Communication visit Deerfield Elementary School to offer a 5- or 6-session media literacy unit to all three sixth grade classrooms at the school. The UMass students (graduate and undergraduate) design the unit, creating PowerPoint slides to convey the material, choosing media clips to analyze and critique, and devising interactive assignments and homework questions for the 6th graders. Then they visit the schools to offer the unit they have designed. Prof. Erica Scharrer, Department of Communication, oversees the program, and she and her graduate students (and sometimes, in years past, her departmental colleagues) have published and presented multiple papers that stem from a concurrent research project, in which they assess the ways in which the 6th graders respond to the media literacy unit, particularly whether it helps shape a critical orientation toward media violence and related issues including stereotypes in violent media, media industry practices, and media regulation. A variation on this program has run nearly every Spring for 11 years, although if Prof. Scharrer is not offering the COMM 426 class, graduate students tend to offer the program themselves under Prof. Scharrer's supervision. In years past, other sixth grade classrooms have participated in Conway, Holyoke, and Amherst.

Program Type: 

Course Name and Number: 

COMM 426 Media Vilence

Impact Area: 

Program Impact Region: 

Program Participation: 

Program identifies community participants.

Program Start (and End Dates): 

March 18, 2013

Partner(s): 

Deerfield Elementary School
Deerfield, MA 01342
United States

Program Director: 

Erica Scharrer

Program Director's Email Address: 

Program Contact: 

Erica Scharrer

Contact Email: 

UNIT: Colleges, Schools, Departments, Centers, and Institutes: 

College of Social & Behavioral Sciences/Communication

Assessment Mechanism: 

Yes