Q: Tell us about the media literacy work you are pursuing. How does it connect with racial equity?
Andrea: The idea behind our project is to extend the reach of RAND’s research to younger audiences, particularly middle school children, by developing lesson plans that teachers can use to both cultivate students’ interest in policy issues while at the same time fostering media literacy (ML) competencies. Our project centers racial equity in two ways. First, we are intentional about partnering with youth organizations that serve students of color to ensure that our design is relevant and interesting to audiences that are generally underrepresented in research fields. We are working with an afterschool program in Boston, and a school in Los Angeles. Second, our lesson design prioritizes youth voices to encourage teachers to learn from their students’ experiences while building their ability to think critically about a complicated media landscape.
What are you learning from this project, and what do you think it will mean for future efforts to address media and digital literacy for populations often underresourced and underrepresented?
Alice: We are in the early stages of this project. We have completed four ML workshops with students in Boston and will conduct workshops soon in Los Angeles. We have learned a few things early on, though, including information about students’ policy interests. The students who we worked with in Boston were interested in learning about topics that they had already heard about from either their academic or home lives. There were two topics that they picked, specifically, to learn more about; one was policing and racial equity, and the other was international disparities in COVID-19 pandemic responses. We connected them with RAND experts who have experience researching these issues, and they engaged in a Q&A with those researchers.
Big picture, we learned that students don’t necessarily know what “policy” is yet (we are working with middle school students), but they have a lot of curiosity about important policy-relevant topics. They are learning about how policy intersects with their own lives, and that’s exciting to observe.
We are hoping that what we learn from this project—and what we are able to offer by providing free, easy-to-access, clear ML lesson plans—will allow other students to explore their personal connections to policy research.
Read more in the full Q&A »