Lori Shontz

Lori Shontz

School of Journalism and Communication

lshontz@uoregon.edu | 541-346-2347

Courses: Gateway to Media, Reporting I, Reporting II, Editing, Sports Bureau, and Sports Media and Society, Media History

In my courses you will:

  • Practice foundational, transferrable skills.
  • Explore new perspectives.

I was invited into the Teaching Academy because:

  • I was a Fellow in the Teaching Difference, Inequality, Agency CAIT Group.

In what ways are you working to make your teaching inclusive?

I’ve eliminated the “participation” grade, which tends to privilege extroverted students. I'm an introvert myself, and I share that with every class—I tell them I know I don’t seem like an introvert at the front of the room, and that I can act like an extrovert because what I do is so important to me. (And that I always need alone time after I teach.) I also tell students that I will do some in-class activities that will be more natural for introverts and some that will be more natural for extroverts, and that they all need to learn to work with each other. I also explain my reading list—how I determined it, why diversity in newsrooms matters, why the industry struggles with this. For example, when I teach sports journalism classes, I make sure we are not consuming stories only by white males, although they make up more than 75 percent of all sports journalists. We talk about why that matters. When I teach reporting, we read critiques of objectivity by scholars and journalists, many from underrepresented communities, who believe that concept is problematic and inhibits diversity and inclusion initiatives in newsrooms. I include student-suggested work when possible. I also send notecards around to the class regularly, and I ask students for feedback throughout the term. What’s working? What are you struggling with? I don’t need their names; I need their insights and concerns. I’ve tweaked every class based on feedback from previous students and the students currently enrolled. I teach that journalists must listen. So I listen to students, too.

What do you do in terms of professional engagement with the teaching and learning culture on campus or nationally?

I spent 23 years as a full-time journalist before moving into teaching—and when you’re a journalist, you learn something new every day. That’s what the best reporting is. So I’ve brought that mindset to my classroom. When I began teaching, as an adjunct at Penn State, my supervisor gave all of the new lecturers a copy of The Joy of Teaching by Peter Filene, and a colleague of mine at the alumni magazine introduced me to his second job, at PSU’s Teaching and Learning Center. So I’ve plugged myself into the teaching and learning culture from the beginning—and then got a master’s degree in adult education, through a program that emphasized critical reflection in the classroom. I attend as many TEP events as I can. Recently, I’ve been inspired by Small Teaching by James Lang, by Why They Can’t Write by John Warner, and by Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick-Rab. I learn from colleagues in industry by volunteering in the Online Journalism Association’s student newsroom and innovation lab at its annual national conference. But more often, I prefer to attend conferences that aren’t in my field. I’ve been one of only a handful of journalists at conferences like the International Writing Centers Association and the National Coalition for Deliberation and Dialogue. I’m also looking to learn new skills. I’ve studied facilitation techniques such as open space technology, appreciative inquiry and world cafe through groups like Journalism That Matters. And I’m learning a journalistic form called restorative narrative as a writing coach for Images of Voices and Hope, which trains me to work with professional storytellers. I bring all of those experiences to the classroom.

In what ways was your teaching in this course research-led—informed by research on how students learn and inflected by UO's research mission?

Two keystones of my teaching practice are transparency and an emphasis on metacognition—and I work to help students understand that these are values that will serve them well as professional journalists. I explain everything. Each of my assignment sheets, along with categories such as “due date” and “worth” and “length,” has a category called “why,” followed by my explanation of how this fits into the learning goals for the class and eventually into a professional career. Each time students revise a story, they also turn in a paragraph about what they changed and why—this helps me give them better feedback, and it allows students to begin thinking about their own practice. I sometimes show my own work-in-progress in class, and I walk students through my process. I often highlight my struggles. If we’re discussing a certain story or theory or principle in class, I assign something to read or listen to or watch before class—and I give them a reflection that’s due the night before. As I prepare class activities, I use the students’ responses to guide me. So I’m teaching, yes. But I'm also learning, and I make sure the students know that.

Who or what made you want to be a teacher?

My mom taught me to read before I went to elementary school, and she went back to school with four little kids to get her degree in elementary education. She was also an adult literacy tutor, working with one man for nearly two years so that he could pass a test to get a commercial driver's license. She was so proud when he succeeded—and got a job that could better support his family, which included two little kids. If there's a gene or a spirit for teaching, I'm sure I got it from her. It’s not a coincidence that my first teaching experience was as a volunteer literacy tutor for adult English language learners, many of them immigrants from Somalia or Bosnia.

What are you reading right now?

I think I subscribe to 12 newspapers, news websites or magazines, and I keep a book (or two) in every room of the house, plus on my phone. (I don't watch TV except for live sports.) The current lineup: On the nightstand: Mascot Nation: The Controversy over Native American Representations in Sports by Andrew Billings and Jason Edward Black. Next to the comfy reading chair: How Humans Learn by Joshua Eyler and Becoming by Michelle Obama. Office: Democracy in Small Groups by John Gastil and Don't Be Such a Scientist by Randy Olson. Kindle app on my phone: Two books by Alyssa Cole: A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default.