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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Critical media literacy in pedagogy and in practice: A descriptive study of teacher education instructors and their students

  • Author(s): Funk, Steven Seth
  • Advisor(s): Christie, Tina
  • Durkin, Diane
  • et al.

This qualitative study explored the exchange between post-secondary Critical Media Literacy instructors and their students, describing their understandings of Critical Media Literacy, as well as their pedagogical struggles, within the context of a teacher education program.

The data suggested that the UCLA instructors understood Critical Media Literacy as a pedagogy rather than as a content area. They described this pedagogy as one that fosters radically open learning environments, that poses questions rather than delivering material, and one that uses media and technology to develop students' critical thinking skills. Their pedagogical struggles were those of addressing the construct of whiteness, conducting assessment that demonstrates and promotes students' learning, and teaching students with diverse backgrounds and hectic schedules.

The UCLA Teacher Education Program's graduates and students explained that integrating Critical Media Literacy into their high school Humanities classrooms increased their students' level of engagement with one another and with their communities. They described their challenges as the lack of access to technology and classroom materials, as well as the mandates to prepare students for standardized tests. While in-service teachers integrated Critical Media Literacy into their classes, pre-service teachers were less likely to do so, fearing that Critical Media Literacy would stimulate conversations too controversial for the high school setting.

This study depicts Critical Media Literacy as an engaging, relevant pedagogy, while revealing how educators understand and integrate Critical Media Literacy into their curricula. Future studies concerned with promoting Critical Media Literacy in the classroom should examine how instructors assess their students' learning, as well as how they navigate controversial materials with various student populations.

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