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Developing the key competencies in media studies

Media studies prepares students to be informed, discriminating citizens in a constantly changing, interconnected world. Developing students’ key competencies is central to this.

Seek ways to actively engage and develop learners’ skills in critical analysis of media texts, in thinking creatively by making connections across and beyond media texts, in working collaboratively with others, and in developing the time-critical, self-management skills needed for lifelong learning.


Media studies enables students to think critically.

Students explore their own thinking in relation to media texts, reflecting on the knowledge they bring to the classroom. They develop the skills to critically analyse media texts and make connections to themselves, to audiences, or to the wider society.

Students learn to deliberate about ‘[the nature of] reason and truth behind events in daily life’ 1. This environment of social inquiry also extends to the role and function of the media in society.

Teacher actions to foster thinking

  • Co-construct with the students the big questions related to the key concepts they wish to pursue in a unit of work; for example, ‘How can we account for audience reactions to reality television?’
  • Ask open questions and encourage students to develop their own questioning processes; for example, ‘From your own experience, what makes social networking so attractive?’
  • Actively encourage debate, and provide resources for comparison, to enable students to make connections across texts, or beyond texts to society; for example:
    • ‘What relationship might there be between 9/11 and the popularity of the super-hero film genre post 9/11?
    • What connections can be made to the popularity of the musical during the Second World War?’

See also Inquiry-based learning.

Using language, symbols, and texts

Media studies enables students to deconstruct the language of media products and media texts and examine how individuals, audiences and societies participate in the co-construction of meaning.

Making meaning from the texts is integral to media studies. Students learn to interpret the specialised languages of different media and use these languages to produce their own texts, using a wide range of media technologies.

Teaching and learning strategies that involve new media technologies (such as blogging and podcasting) allow students new ways to access and decode information and communicate effectively with others.

Teacher actions to foster using language, symbols, and texts

  • Co-construct and design a glossary of media language that could be created online and used by other media students.
  • Select language features from different mediums and identify similarities and differences in how the symbols and language are used.

Students could:

  • work in groups to develop interpretations of media texts and compare their language features
  • create and teach a junior media class basic film language using various technologies
  • analyse language techniques used in a cartoon and translate and apply these to create a film storyboard.

Managing self

Media studies enables students to manage their own productivity, for example, when planning for and meeting production deadlines. Students learn to develop their own management skills and relate to others.

 Media products often require both individual and collective work, frequently in different locations. Individuals need to be able to respond flexibly and responsibly to a multitude of diverse and often simultaneous tasks.

Regularly involve students in self-assessment (see also Assessing student learning in media studies).

Teacher actions to foster managing self

  • Model planning and tracking tools that students can adapt or modify to suit their own needs.
  • Explore forward thinking with students and develop strategies for responding to anticipated demands or problems, such as in media production.
  • Facilitate student self-evaluation, based on the learning intentions and success criteria, and review strategies used during production processes so the student can develop skills in project management.

Students could:

  • monitor their own and their group’s planning and decision making during media production activities by asking inquiring questions (for example, recording a production meeting, reviewing, and questioning how decisions were reached)
  • pre-plan the investigation of a local community issue through allocating roles, identifying interviewees, arranging recording mechanisms, finalising a time frame for completion to broadcast standard, and reviewing points to assess progress
  • work as an editorial committee to organise ‘round’ reporters for various areas of school curriculum and extra-curricular activities, then collect, organise and edit contributions to a new college newsletter.

Relating to others

Media studies enables students to collaborate with others and meet the tight demands of media production. They develop abilities and skills to work in teams, in groups, and in wider social settings. They learn to interact with diverse media environments, social groups and enterprises that create media products.

Reflect this diversity in the use of media texts and the encouragement of open debate. For example, the creation of a magazine not only requires positive relationships with others involved in its production, but also requires skills in relating to the individuals being interviewed for reports and feature stories.

Students learn to be tolerant of oppositional views being freely and fairly expressed, and develop cultural awareness and knowledge that will allow them to communicate effectively with diverse audiences.

Teacher actions that foster relating to others

  • Encourage students to utilise their own cultural heritages and languages in their studies of film or in the creation of media products.
  • Support media production groups to work together to meet goals, for example, by having production meetings, conflict resolution strategies, goal setting versus goal change, timeline development, and checkpoints.
  • Encourage students to keep journals of production challenges and share these responses in a way that constructively manages these issues.

Participating and contributing

Media studies requires students to participate, contribute, and relate to others as they engage with production work, class discussion, and critical analysis of media texts.

Commercial media products are rarely produced by a single person. Student media products replicate real-world collaborative practices.

Students learn they are both audience and participant in relation to online media. For example, citizen journalism has demonstrated a high level of participation and community engagement in social issues, news events, and media product creation.

Students can also participate and contribute in the context of their wider community, for example, they could screen their short films at local film festivals, design advertisements for community groups, or produce a documentary that raises awareness about a local issue

Teacher actions that foster participating and contributing

  • Engage and participate in media debates, either in the classroom or online.
  • Co-construct a unit of work for study, such as the music video and popular culture.

Students could:

  • make connections to their college council and participate and contribute to a college publication
  • work with local iwi to develop a film promoting te reo Māori to the college’s wider community
  • create a series of articles based on identified issues for teenagers in the local community – self-defence, staying safe on the Internet, how to handle peer pressure, or youth health issues.


  1. Halonen, J. S. (1995). Demystifying critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, vol. 22 part 1, pages 75–80.

Last updated August 20, 2019