Is Media Education a part of English?
The teaching of media texts has a long history in English and one fraught by controversy since Leavis developed his battle cry ‘Discriminate and resist’ in 1933 Leavis and Thompson, 1933). In my view there has been little substantial research about the benefits of media education in the actual classroom. In 1975 there was, to my knowledge, the only genuine attempt to assess the impact of the media on schooling in ‘The Mass media and the secondary school’. As part of my research [and my advocacy] for Media Education, I have examined the attitudes of English teachers towards including the media in English which have proved mostly positive, and have been increasingly so, over time. The late Andrew Hart (see for example, Hart and Hicks, 2002) also examined this area and some of his small scale research includes some lesson observations of English teachers teaching the media. He also edited a collection of research reports where colleagues in other countries emulated his methodology (Hart, 1998). More recently the BFI has instigated some small scale projects leading to some interesting findings, for example, about the value of media texts to enable pupils to write better. The BFI did instigate a survey in 1998
What research that has taken place has come from outside English and, perhaps, even in some opposition to English which is often positioned as in conflict with Media Studies. There is some irony here as so many Media Studies teachers began as English teachers but we know very little about this area.
Media Education versus English?
The key researcher has been David Buckingham who has led a series of projects establishing the central place of the media in young people’s lives and has constantly argued for the centrality Media Education in schooling [Buckingham has many relevant publications, a recent book is a good starting place, Buckingham, 2003]. More recently his research has moved more into the areas of young people’s lives outside the school. His collaborations with Julian Sefton-Green [for example, 1995] have provided valuable data about young people’s consumption and use of new media and also of their developing creativity. Andrew Burn and others, for example David Parker and James Durrant, are engaged on very interesting work round computer games and a range of animated technologies [see for example, 2001a, 2001b] . Sonia Livingstone’s study ‘Young people and new media’ has provided fascinating data about the penetration of the new media technologies into every facet of the lives of our students [Livingstone, 2002] . BECTa is developing work in this area and now Ofcom is funding new research, for example into Adult Media Literacy and to the importance for schools to address this need.
I would argue [Goodwyn, 2004] that one impact of the NLS and The Framework for English has been to reduce the momentum of media education throughout English. The NC revisions in 2000 introduced a new focus on teaching the moving image yet there is no evidence of any impact on schools. Ofsted inspections may not have much value as research but they can contain useful generalisations about trends and developments, they seem to ignore the whole area of media teaching. Whilst Media Studies remains a very popular option, its teachers remain largely self taught and also lacking any clearly focused national representative body.
Overall this explains a very fragmented field, fuelled by advocacy and controversy but with no emerging field of educationally oriented research. In Australia, New Zealand and some states of Canada, there is a much stronger level of official support for media work within English. I would suggest that the kind of work undertaken to examine the development of writing and reading abilities, building up a body of knowledge over time, is much needed to substantiate the claims made for Media Education. I have been advocating a more ‘Cultural Analysis’ approach to English for a considerable time [Goodwyn, 2002] and demonstrating that English teachers also are keen to adopt this approach but without much solid evidence from research on the benefits to the pupils themselves.
Many of our trainees are very keen to become Media Studies teachers and it is a national scandal that there is almost no training for them during their training period.
Buckingham, D. Graham, J. and Sefton-Green, J. (1995) Making media : practical production in media education, The English and Media Centre,London.
Buckingham, D. (2003) Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary culture, Polity, London.
Burn, A, and Parker, D. (2001) ‘Making your mark: digital inscription, animation and a new visual semiotic’, Education, Communication and Information, Vol 1, 155-79.
Burn, A., Brindley, S., Durran, J., Kelsall, K., Sweetlove, J., and Tuohey, C. (2001) ‘Digi-teens, media literacies and digital technologies in the secondary classroom’, English in Education, Vol 33, No 3.
Goodwyn, A. (1992) English Teaching and media education, Open University press, Milton Keynes.
Goodwyn, A. (2004) English teaching and the moving image, RoutledgeFalmer, London.
Hart, A. (1998) (ed) Teaching the Media: International Perspectives, Blackwells, Oxford.
Hart,A. and Hicks, A. (2002) Teaching Media in the English classroom, Trentham Books, London.
Leavis, F. and Thompson, D. (1933), Culture and Environment, Chatto and Windus, London.
Livingston, S. (2002) Young People and mew media: childhood and the changing media environment, Sage, London.