Tensions of Teaching Media Literacy in Teacher Education

Open Access
Ngomba-Westbrook, Nalova
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 03, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Jeanine M Staples, Dissertation Advisor
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Chair
  • Stephanie L Knight, Committee Member
  • Ladislaus M Semali, Committee Member
  • literacy studies
  • media literacy
  • media studies
  • teacher education
  • survey research
  • case study
This study investigates the tensions a teacher educator faces in facilitating a media literacy teacher education course at the university level. Teaching tensions are conceptualized as a three-tier framework. At the first level, tensions may arise in the selection and application of pedagogies associated with critical and new/21st century literacies. At the second level, tensions exist within debates about the extent to which media literacy is conceptualized as a core subject itself in contrast to a process for learning core subjects. The third level of tensions involves diverse stakeholders including individuals who are connected to university teacher education programs, teacher professional organizations (e.g., NCATE, IRA, NBPTS), K-12 teachers, the media industry, media watchdog/activist organizations, and government/policies. Depending upon the specific issues involved, these stakeholders may either compete against each other, pushing media literacy education in opposing directions, or complement each other, exerting a unified influence on media literacy teacher education. The study employs a case study methodology to research the teaching tensions facing a media literacy teacher educator in a Masters’ level literacy education course. The media literacy course that was examined in this study includes a teacher educator and in-service teachers and graduate education students (N=24) matriculating at a university on the East Coast. An exploratory triangulation design utilizes three pre-course data sources: the teacher educator’s published research, a course syllabus, and a survey administered by the researcher to gauge teacher student levels of media literacy knowledge. The design also incorporates the following data collected during the media literacy education course: interviews, class observations, and teacher student artifacts. Findings of this study show that: (1) the media literacy teacher educator focuses more heavily on critical and socio-cultural practice-based media literacy pedagogy as opposed to new/21st century literacies and skills-based pedagogy, (2) the media literacy teacher educator focuses more on media literacy pedagogy as a process as opposed to content, particularly in the latter part of the course, and (3) the teacher educator draws pedagogical cues from media watchdog/activist organizations as opposed to the media industry, and responds to pressures from teacher professional organizations. Additional implications for teacher education pedagogical decisions are discussed.