Shaping Student Activists: Discursive Sensemaking of Activism and Participation Research

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Diane Taha
Sally O. Hastings
Elizabeth M. Minei


As social media becomes a more potent force in society, particularly for younger generations, the role in activism has been contested. This qualitative study examines 35 interviews with students regarding their perceptions of the use of social media in social change, their perceptions of activists, and their level of self-identification as an activist. Data suggest that students use media to engage in offline participation in activist causes, because offline presents a “safe” place to begin their involvement. Findings also point to the unified pejorative connotations of the term “activist”, yet also demonstrate ways that students transform the negative stereotype of activists in a way that creates a more positive image of activists. Most participants in the study were able to see sufficient positive characteristics in behaviors they associated with activism to prompt the students to identify themselves as “activists” or “aspiring activists”. We offer 3 practical recommendations for teachers who seek to increase service learning vis a vis activism in their classrooms.


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How to Cite
Taha, D., Hastings, S., & Minei, E. (2015). Shaping Student Activists: Discursive Sensemaking of Activism and Participation Research. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 15(6), 1-15.
Author Biographies

Diane Taha, Greater Hartford Arts Council

Diane Taha is a Marketing and Communications Manager at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and the founder of Style Context, a fashion and beauty blog.

Sally O. Hastings, Nicholson School of Communication University of Central Florida

Sally O. Hastings is an Associate Professor specializing in communication and marginalization.

Elizabeth M. Minei, Department of Communication Studies Baruch College

Elizabeth M. Minei is an assistant professor specializing in organizational communication, leadership, and small group communication.