Research project „Fit for News“ – how good are Saxony’s trainee manual workers at media literacy?

The ‚Fit for News’ project examines how well informed young adults about conventional media are and what methods could be used to equip them with a critical perspective on the media.

In the past ten, fifteen years youngsters and young adults have completely turned away from the classical journalistic media. At the same time the use of social media has markedly increased and is also used for finding out information about current events.

This finding can be seen in relation to the results of a contemporary study at the Technical University of Dresden. According to this, German schoolchildren are not adequately educated in news literacy; it plays a role in only four of ten syllabuses on average. A critical attitude to news urgently needs to be more widely practised and teachers need to be educated in this subject right from the start of their university training, the researchers conclude.

Still there are a lot of opportunities to extend training programmes in schools and to give more weight to the teaching of media literacy. Anyway the Dresden Study points to a huge deficit in school curricula. An examination of the results shows that what is offered in schools and the teaching units is dealt with in a relatively abstract way as book learning and is taught in a top-down method in the classroom.

Above all the school leavers who are going on to train as manual workers get no specific education or training. The key words ‚News literacy’ and ‚Media literacy’ have become publicly well know since the debate about so-called ‚fake news’ and ‚social bots’. However what has hardly been researched at all until now is how well German trainees are in these key qualifications – and how they can become better informed to support their daily life and work in these trades.

The EIJC project ‚Fit for News’ is a pilot study. It will examine how trainees act in relation to social and conventional media. They must also be enabled within the framework of their training to understand the intrinsic logic of informative processes in floor plans and to recognise the status of statements about realities in the news media. With suitably tailored learning materials the trainees should gain news literacy in the meaningful use of digital media, coupled with an awareness of so-called ‚fake news’ through reflections on patterns of behaviour and stereotypes.

The EIJC has conceived of ‚Fit for News’ as a project in three stages.

  1. First the status quo will be assessed in three selected regions of Saxony. Head teachers, manual trades trainers and trainees will be surveyed. The aim of this study is to learn the individual peculiarities of young adults in their use of digital news media, the technical equipment of the schools and the state of the media literacy tools used in the classroom.
  2. Building on the results of the surveys, in co-operation with the experts at the Saxon Education and Examination Channels (SAEK), pedagogical experts at the University of Leipzig and a blended learning tutorial will be tried out in the selected training schools.
  3. In the next stage of the project, working together with the head teachers responsible will implement the tutorial as a test in the most suitable lessons and it will be adapted and optimised during the course of a trial period of several months.

The project will terminate in the early summer of 2019 and it is led by Professor Dr. Michael Haller and Martin Hoffmann. „Fit for News“ is funded by the Stiftung Neue Länder  Foundation and backed by the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig.