Pithy Papers: Journalism innovation, a new measure of autistic traits, and scaffolding of peer interactions in group activities

June 25, 2021

It's time for another Pithy Papers, where Language Sciences members and colleagues from our three research themes highlight important and interesting research from the last three months, in 150 words or fewer.

In this instalment, read about innovation in journalism beyond a technological solution, a new self-report measure of autistic traits for the general population, and the importance of  scaffolding of peer interactions in university courses’ group activities where English-as-an-additional-language students are learning alongside ‘native’ English speakers.



Journalism Innovation in a Time of Survival




 Professor Alfred Hermida and 


 Professor Mary Lynn Young, School of Journalism, Writing, and Media

What's new in this paper?

Innovation is often advanced as the answer to the “crisis” in journalism, usually as a technology-led solution. After 20 plus years of digital journalism, it’s time to take stock of what innovation has wrought. We argue for a broader approach to media innovation beyond a narrow technological or economic lens.

Why is it important?

What innovation is, and for whom, has become ever more acute given COVID-19. A technological or economic perspective on innovation overlooks long-term social and cultural critiques of the role and legacy of journalism. It skews conversations about what needs to be repaired, reformed, or transformed to support 21st century journalism.

Who should read it? 

Journalism touches all of us as it’s one of the key ways we learn about and understand the world around us. The chapter will appeal to anyone interested in how the future of journalism is being shaped by innovation practices, business models and policy decisions. 






The Comprehensive Autistic Trait Inventory (CATI): development and validation of a new measure of autistic traits in the general population



 Dr. Michael English and Professor James Enns, School of Psychological Science (University of Western Australia) and Department of Psychology (UBC)

What is new in this paper?   

Led by Michael English, a graduate student at UWA in Perth, the authors developed a new self-report measure of autistic traits for the general population. The final scale consists of only 48 items and yet includes 6 well-behaved subscales, from communication, to social camouflaging, to sensory sensitivity.

Why is it important?   

The existing popular scales (e.g., the Autism Quotient) were developed some time ago and have not kept up with current understanding of the autism spectrum. The new scale, called CATI for short (Comprehensive Autistic Trait Inventory), highlights previously neglected traits (sensory sensitivity) and incorporates traits only recently recognized (social camouflaging).

Who should read it?  

Social-communicative traits are the core features of autism and it is important for all to know that these are normally distributed in the population. Since publication, people have been keen to take the CATI and to post their scores on Twitter. You can try it here.

Scaffolding peer interaction within a language-and-content integrated business curriculum






Dr. Bong-gi Sohn and Assistant Professor of Teaching Valia Spiliotopoulos,  Faculty of Education (SFU) and Department of Language & Literacy Education (UBC)

What's new in this paper? 

We featured the importance of explicit instruction and scaffolding of peer interactions in university courses’ group activities where multilingual, English-as-an-additional-language students are learning alongside ‘native’ English speakers.  These learning activities were part of a collaboration between business and language and literacy education faculty, including the design of a new course.

Why is it important? 

English-as-an-additional-language students' (perceived lack of) group participation is considered an important issue in Canadian universities, often seen as the student’s problem to fix. We challenge this by reporting on how these students endeavour to participate, but aren’t being recognized for their efforts, and make suggestions to support innovation in instruction.

Who should read it? 

Anyone interested in communication skills development through peer interaction, particularly in business communications and group discussions within multilingual, multicultural university settings. We hope a multidisciplinary audience will be able to understand and empathize with the growing cultural and linguistic diversity in universities, helping to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

Join the conversation on Twitter (@UBCLangScis) and ask our members about their work!

First Nations land acknowledegement

We acknowledge that UBC’s campuses are situated within the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, and in the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation and their peoples.

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