Research on Media Literacy
A resource for scholars and others interested in media literacy. This document was originally developed by graduate students enrolled in BTMM 589, "Theory and Practice of Media Literacy Education" which was taught by Professor Renee Hobbs in the Fall of 2006 at Temple University's School of Communication and Theater. Students enrolled in the course in the Fall of 2007 continue to develop, modify and expand the site, contributing their own understanding of the course readings and critical analysis.
The dominant research paradigm for media literacy education is qualitative research. Case studies by Kist (2004) show the range of ways that teachers from urban, suburban and rural communities are incorporating visual and digital texts, tools, and technologies, particularly in middle-school and high school. Goodman's (2003) extended case study, which documents the highly esteemed Educational Video Center in New York City, shows how urban teens learn about themselves, their communities and the mass media through the experience of creating a video documentary.
Quantitative Studies in Education.
Hobbs and Frost (2003) measured multi-modal comprehension and analysis of treatment and control groups of Grade 11 Concord High School students through an instrument consisting of questions about the main idea of a TV news story and print newsmagazine story(“who, what, where, when, why, and how”) and specific information details, as well as critical analysis questions identifying the purpose, target audience, storytelling and production techniques, point of view, and omissions in the story, and the differences and similarities to other TV news programs. By adapting an instrument similar to one developed in previous research (Hobbs & Frost, 1999) they also measured students' listening skills – an increasingly important aspect of media literacy in light of adolescents’ growing use of portable media players.
Hobbs and Frost also set out to see if media literacy students could effectively recognize the target audience, purpose, point of view, and creative construction techniques employed in advertisements. To measure the ways in which students responded to advertisements, students were given a print advertisement for Miller Beer, which included two sharply dressed African American males and a small reminder to “Think When You Drink.” The students were given a questionnaire which included questions on the ad’s target audience; persuasive techniques; the ad’s purpose; and the subtext of the message. Students in the media literacy group were consistently able to back up their arguments with textual examples. They also were able to articulate the ad’s persuasive goals, as well as point out greater number of visual and verbal persuasive techniques employed in the ad. Media literacy students were also more likely to be able to effectively identify the “Think When You Drink" logo as part of a public relations strategy. These results indicate that media literacy education is helpful when it comes to deconstructing and understanding advertisements.
In order to measure students’ knowledge of the advertising process, Hobbs and Frost showed both media literacy and control group students the famous 30-second Pepsi commercial featuring Cindy Crawford, two times, and asked them to write down up to fifteen steps that went into producing it. They found that students with media literacy education were more aware of the need for producers to locate a target audience, brainstorm ideas, plan visuals using a storyboard, pay for ad space, and garner company approval prior to ad production.
Online Resources for Learning More
- PODCASTS: Learn about Reel Vision, the Boston filmmaking group that works with young people (Episode 15)
- ORGANIZATIONS: European Centre for Media Literacy  Alliance for a Media Literate America 
- Alliance for a Media Literate America. (2005). Operational policy: Corporate funding. Retrieved October 1, 2006, from http://www.amlainfo.org/home/about-amla/policies/operational-policy/operational-policy#8
- Alvarado, M. (1981). Television Studies and Pedagogy. Screen Education, 38, 191-206.
- Buckingham, D. (2003). Media education: Literacy, learning and contemporary culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Christ, W. G., & Potter, J. W. (1998). Media literacy, media education, and the academy. Journal of Communication, 48, 5-15.
- Goodman, S. (2003). Teaching youth media: A critical guide to literacy, video production, and social change. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Heins, M., & Cho, C. (2003). Media literacy: An alternative to censorship. (2nd ed.). Free Expression Policy Project. Retrieved October 1, 2006, from http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/medialiteracy.pdf
- Hobbs, R. (2007). Reading the media: Media literacy in high school English. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Hobbs, R., & Frost, R. (1999). Instructional practices in media literacy education and their impact on students' learning. New Jersey Journal of Communication, 6(2), 123-148.
- Kist, W. (2005). New literacy’s in action: Teaching and learning in multiple media. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Masterman, L. (1980). Teaching about Television. London: Macmillon.
- Thoman, E., & Jolls, T. (2005). Media literacy education: Lessons from the center for media literacy. In G. Schwartz & P. U. Brown (Eds.), Media literacy: Transforming curriculum and teaching (Vol. 104, 2005, pp. 180 -205). Malden, MA: National Society for the Study of Education