Welcome to Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays

The authors are students in English 223: DPD in Film course at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon taught by Dr. Stephen Rust. Students at LBCC and Oregon State University choose from a wide range of courses to meet the Difference, Power, and Discrimination graduation requirement.   The goal of our project is to help our readers, particularly high school and college students interested in American popular culture, develop a better understanding of the ways that narrative media like movies and television represent issues of difference, power, and discrimination in American culture, both today and in the past. Dr. Rust has formatted the project for publication, done minor copyediting, and written the introduction and appendix materials.

Students who took Dr. Rust’s course studied representations of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and ability in American film while learning to:

a) Explain how difference is socially constructed;

b) Use historical and contemporary examples to describe how perceived differences, combined with unequal distribution of power across economic, social, and political institutions, result in discrimination; and

c) Analyze ways in which the interactions of social categories, such as race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and age, are related to difference, power, and discrimination in the United States


This project was supported by a Linn-Benton Community College Faculty Innovator Grant and compled in collaboration with Open Oregon, the LBCC library, the LBCC Writing Center, the LBCC English Department,  and the OSU/LBCC Difference, Power, and Discrimination teaching community.


Content Warning: DPD content, by its nature, can be culturally, politically, and personally challenging for many readers and media viewers. Many authors have chosen to analyze R-rated movies or TV-MA television shows but have agreed to write for a PG-13 reading audience and avoid the use of potentially triggering images.


Background and Purpose: Editor’s Statement

This project began as an exploration of open pedagogy in the course ENG 223: Difference, Power, and Discrimination. My goal has been to develop inclusive, research-led course activities to welcome students into the field of cinema and media studies and model the values of the DPD program. This project invites students to share their voice on the issues facing our country by publishing their final essays in an open-source publication intended primarily for young adults and teenagers to build a generational conversation about the role cinema and media play in representing the lives and perspectives of Americans. The authors hope you will read and share their work with students to inspire frank and open-eyed conversation about issues of race, gender, class, ability, and sexuality in American – and how those issues are represented and misrepresented by film and television.


The chapters are organized chronologically, which reflects the historical approach taken by our course textbook American on Film: Representing, Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies, 2nd Edition (2011) by Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin. The chronological organization also demonstrates the results when students are invited to select any film or television show of their choice to write about for the project. Without constraints, students are generally interested in analyzing the shows and films they encounter in their personal viewing.  To eliminate textbook costs from the course, students accessed the textbook as a free eBook via their school library accounts or accessed a physical copy from the library reserve dests or bookstore. This project is published on Pressbooks under a Creative Commons license to encourage sharing and inspire more teachers to share their student’s voices with the work and contribute meaningful academic scholarship to the college community.


LBCC Faculty Innovator grant funds supported the time I needed to develop the essay guidelines, learn Pressbooks, format and edit the work for publication, and work with librarians Richenda Hawkins and Micheala Willi Hooper to develop a Library Research Page for the Project and Creative Commons tutorial and handout (see below). They also taught course sessions on research and open education and provided group and individual support for students. Having enrollment in the course capped at 25 students allowed me time to assign and assess writing and presentation-based active learning assignments throughout the term rather than rote-learning exams.  I participated in professional development training, a DPD faculty cohort, and Faculty Innovator Workshops and reviewed several textbooks for the Open Textbook Library to become better acquainted with the field of open educational resources. The campus Writing Center tutors, thanks to the efforts of director Chessie Alberti, agreed to support required visits by each student to receive universal and sentence-level feedback on their writing before submitting final drafts.  Liz Pearce, Family & Human Services instructor, provided additional mentorship inspiration, particularly through her OER textbook co-authored with her students, Contemporary Families: An Equity Lens (2020). Matt Usner created the course and continues to mentor me as he teaches his own sections and I am deeply grateful for his trust in my teaching and support for our students.  I consider this project a tremendous success, particularly given the newness of this kind of open pedagogy and creative commons publishing, the rigorous aims of the course, the sensitivity of the subject matter, and the forced move to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Value of Student Research

After discussing the initial idea with students in Fall 2019, their enthusiastic support helped me realize the project could help them raise awareness about LBCC’s remarkable Difference, Power, and Discrimination partnership with OSU and allow me to improve my teaching. Our motivation has been to demonstrate our collective ability as students and teachers to use the study of motion pictures and media to meet the central outcome of the DPD program “to develop inclusive curricula that address institutionalized systems of power, privilege, and inequity in the United States” (OSU DPD website).


This project also seeks to address a problem in academic publishing, the privileging of rank and credentials that can diminish the value and impact of student writing.  By providing students more power and voice in sharing their coursework online directly with the general public this project seeks to embolden student learning while also addresses the problem of the general public’s lack of access to academic film scholarship (which is often restricted to university library databases). While my students do not have access to the same kinds of research materials available to Oregon State University students given the limitation of our library budget, I used all of my experience teaching full time at the University of Oregon to provide students a comprehensive curriculum suited to a 3 credit, 10-week, lower-division course.


Open Pedagogy (OP) places emphasis on making the published work of students and instructors more visible and available to the general public, whose access to academic-quality film and media criticism remains highly restricted by publishers and university libraries.  Working with the partners mentioned above, I took the initial steps necessary for this project by redesigning the syllabus, changing the major essay assignment for the course, and making changes to the course schedule and materials. These changes in my teaching have been useful for student engagement but this project goes further, I think, to serve the aims of the DPD program. Using Pressbooks as a publication format will also address the issue of the long-term viability of the project, we hope. I will update the project at least once per year with new essays as long as I am able to teach the course and hope new projects will emerge as well. Using a Pressbook format will also enable the book to be shared widely on OER websites like Open Oregon and possibly the University of Minnesota Open Library. Michaela Hooper designed materials to help students better understand what OP Creative Commons publication means so that students are well-informed about their rights and responsibilities as published authors and all authors have agreed to this publication model and license.


A big shout out to the student-publication Culture & The Sitcom produced for a course at Wake Forest University in 2017 by students in Communications Professor Mary M. Dalton’s courses. Dr. Dalton generously shared supplemental materials such as a video panel discussion featuring the librarians that supported the project and other guidance. I am also encouraged to hear that professors Benshoff and Griffin are ready to publish the 3rd edition of America on Film.


Open Pedagogy and Student Success

In addition to improving my own teaching practices and helping address the inequities in publication opportunities for student writers, I have developed good reason over the course of the project to feel strongly that open pedagogy supports student learning. During the first term that I taught the course in Winter 2019, Oriana Mulatero, Associate Dean of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, concluded in her course observation report: “Steve is a very caring teacher who is an expert in their field. Steve excels in having students learn more reflexively and having students be really engaged in their own learning.”  Since that first term, I have continued to develop tools for keeping my students more engaged in their own learning. Students have given me useful feedback about the curriculum, lesson plans, and assignments in the course. Students have pushed me to develop my inclusive pedagogy skills and have been very supportive of my efforts to develop this open pedagogy project. My thanks especially to Diego Mendoza and Zach Foutch, who took the course Fall 2019 and became the first students to contribute.


The feedback from my students during class discussions and course evaluations is reflected in the quality of their final drafts. This anecdotal evidence resonates with current research on Open Pedagogy in research journals. A recent large-scale study by Hilton III, et al (2019), found that “Students found value in open pedagogy and believed that open pedagogy had greater overall educational value than traditional educational activities. When students were asked if they would prefer to take a course with open pedagogy or traditional pedagogy, a majority preferred open pedagogy.” These findings are corroborated by a recent case study on the potential learning benefits of OP in healthcare management education by Bonica, et al (2018). Further, according to a research survey of 136 university film studies students by Georgiadou and Kolaxizis’ (2019): “Findings suggest that film students want to use OERs in their studies but many of them are not aware that these resources exist …. Therefore, university teachers should assist students to develop familiarity with OERs of high quality and educational value as a useful aid to their studies.” These studies support my classroom experience that students are more engaged in their learning when they feel that the results of that learning are valued and visible, both of which have been enabled by this project.  The pride and sense of responsibility that students who publish get to feel is something I have always valued and think may LBCC film students will value as well.  I would not be pursuing this project without the initial enthusiasm that my students have shown.


As new Parts/Units of this book are added each year as the course develops, this introduction will reflect any changes to the textbook (which is expected to be updated shortly to a 3rd edition) or essay guidelines.   Suggestions for textbooks and other reading, research, and teaching materials are always welcome.  Please visit my open-access course Introduction to Film: A Creative Commons Course for more ideas about using open educational resources in your own teaching and learning.


Bonica, M. J., Judge, R., Bernard, C., & Murphy, S. (2018, Winter), “Open pedagogy benefits to competency development: From sage on the stage to guy in the audience” Journal of Health Administration Education, 35.1., 9-27


Clifton, Alexis and Davies Hoffman, Kimberly (2021). Open Pedagogy Approaches: Faculty, Library, and Student Collaborations, Milne, https://milnepublishing.geneseo.edu/openpedagogyapproaches/


Dalton, Mary M., editor. Culture & The Sitcom: Student Essays (Vol 1., 2017). Wake Forest University. https://librarypartnerspress.pressbooks.pub/studentessaysculturesitcomv1/


Georgiadou, Elissavet and Kolaxizis, Ioannis (2019). “Film Studies Studies Attitudes toward Open Educational Resources for Film Studies in Greece.”  Educational Science 9.3. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9030195


Hilton III, J., Wiley, D., Chaffee, R., Darrow, J., Guilmett, J., Harper, S., & Hilton, B. (2019). “Student perceptions of open pedagogy: An exploratory study.” Open Praxis, 11.3. https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis


Jhangiani, Rajiv S. and Biswas-Diener, Robert (2017), The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, Ubiquity Press, https://www.ubiquitypress.com/site/books/e/10.5334/bbc/


Mays, Elizabeth, Ed. A Guild to Making Open Textbooks with Students (2017). Rebus. https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/makingopentextbookswithstudents/


Pearce, Elizabeth. Contemporary Families: An Equity Lens (2020). Open Oregon. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/families/


Fair Use Acknowledgement

All images and text used, quoted, or referenced in the preparation of course lectures, assignments, and other materials are acknowledged under Fair Use, following the Center for Media and Social Impact Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Media Education and “The Society for Cinema and Media Studies Statment of Best Practices for Fair Use in Teaching for Film and Media Educators.” All images used in the chapters are 1/24 second screen captures created with a Microsoft Windows snipping tool or Macintosh Command+Shift+4 snipping tool and are used for educational purposes only to enhance the impact of the student’s arguments and evidence in their writing.


Land Acknowledgement

Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon, is located within the traditional homelands of the Kalapuya people. Following the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855, Kalapuya people were forcibly removed to reservations in Western Oregon by the United States military. Today, living Kalapuya descendants are a part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon (grandronde.org) and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians (ctsi.nsn.us) and continue to make important contributions to their communities, Oregon, and the world.


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Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays Copyright © by Students at Linn-Benton Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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