Cinema and Media Studies Pedagogy
by
Paul McEwan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0135

Introduction

Film pedagogy is an underdeveloped field of study. While there are a wide range of books and resources available for teaching English, mathematics, and other subjects, there are relatively few for teaching film. In addition, areas like literary pedagogy or second language acquisition are full-fledged subfields, in which it is possible, for example, to earn a PhD. To acquire that status an area of study needs to have a range of positions staked out, primary research on teaching methods and their effectiveness, and a critical mass of instructors. At the moment, film studies has only the last of these three requirements. To be fair, it is important to acknowledge the considerable Atlantic divide when it comes to film pedagogy. The United Kingdom has had a very different experience, with considerable research on pedagogy beginning in the 1970s. In some ways, however, this initial flurry of activity has quieted. For example, the journal Screen Education was published between 1959 and 1968, and again between 1971 and 1982, but it is no longer a going concern. Film and media education has long been a part of the British education system, particularly at the secondary level, in a way that it rarely is in the United States, although at least some American schools are now adding courses. Although film pedagogy does not exist as a proper subfield, there are some good resources for new and established instructors alike. Many of the available materials are designed for instructors who have no previous training or background in film. While some of those contributions are included here, the emphasis is on works written by and for film scholars. There are two reasons for this choice. First, many of the books and essays for nonspecialists imply that one can be a decent film instructor by reading this single book or resource, or at least that there are no downsides to adding a new medium to your teaching repertoire with minimal preparation. Second, many of these works do not teach film as film, but as simply another kind of narrative storytelling. Teaching “film as film” need not mean an exclusive emphasis on the formal elements of cinema, like cinematography ormise-en-scène, but it does mean taking advantage of a century of serious thinking about what cinema is and how it functions. The academic study of cinema has grown very quickly since the 1970s, so quickly that there has been little time for reflection about pedagogical methods or goals. This seems likely to change as cinema studies moves past its institutional adolescence and into the privileges and duties of disciplinary adulthood.

General Overviews

Since the scholarship on film pedagogy is so limited, existing works can take on an outsize influence. Fortunately, the remarkable growth of film studies as an academic discipline since the late 1990s has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of essays and resources dedicated to pedagogy, a development that seems likely to continue. Much of this work has been supported by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), which now has a committee on teaching and provides frequent opportunities for teachers to exchange ideas at its conferences. Some of these presentations have found their way into print or online, making them available to a much wider audience. In the earlier years of film studies, much of the discussion about pedagogy was centered on the importance and value of teaching film, which made sense for a field that was still trying to justify its existence in the academy. Now that the stature of film studies is more assured, the discussion has been able to shift from why teach film to what is the best way to teach film.

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