Media Literacy Online Project - Serving Educators Around The World
Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education- College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

The Acquisition of Media Literacy Skills
Among Australian Adolescents

Author: Dr. Renee Hobbs
Associate Professor of Communication
Richard Frost
Associate Professor of Sociology
Babson College, Wellesley, MA

Submitted to the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media


This study measures the skills of 333 15-year-old students enrolled in secondary schools in Melbourne, Australia to determine the differences between students who have had formal exposure to media education classes and those whose exposure has been less systematic. The research finds significant differences between groups in terms of students' ability to analyze media messages. Students' analysis skills are weaker when asked to analyze television news compared with their skills in analyzing television advertising. Students demonstrate different levels of media analysis competencies depending on the genre of the target 'text' to be analyzed. In addition, students' media comprehension skills and media consumption habits are related to their media analysis skills. Increased skill in analyzing media messages does not appear to reduce media consumption.

Media education is an emerging field that is concerned with the processes involved in learning about the mass media and communication technologies, including the skills of managing the use of media in the home, critically analyzing the content, format and structure of media messages, understanding the economic, social and political context in which media messages are constructed, appreciating the impact of media and technology on individuals and society, and gaining the skills of creating media messages using technologies. Often identified with the term, 'critical viewing skills,' media education is an expanded way of thinking about literacy as an educational process linked to an increasingly visual and electronic culture.

In the mid 1970s, media education was included as a component of secondary education in numerous countries. In Latin America and in European nations including Spain and Italy, media education has been understood as a strategy to help eradicate the social inequalities that result from unequal access to information, and in South Africa, media education is used to promote education reform (Piette and Giroux, 1997). In English speaking nations including England, Scotland, Canada and Australia, media education has been included as part of instruction in language arts (Bazalgette, 1992). The international agency UNESCO has been actively involved in supporting media education since the 1960s, and even developed a prototype media education program as a worldwide model. UNESCO's interest in media education comes from the perspective that media education can serve as a vehicle to remedy the vast inequalities between the industrial nations that control the creation and dissemination of communication products and those nations who are primarily in "receive-only" mode. Improving one's skills in interpreting and analyzing media messages is viewed as a way to have increased power as a media consumer.

In the United States, the field of media education is so relatively new that even the term is still a matter of debate, as in the United States, where the terms 'media education' or 'media literacy' are still used nearly interchangeably. At present, the most widely recognized definition comes from the National Leadership Conference on Media Education in the early 1990s, where media literacy was defined as "the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms" (Aufderheide, 1997). A number of school districts have developed programs to help teachers integrate media literacy into the curriculum, and support for media literacy can be found in the curriculum frameworks of more than fifteen states.

In Australia, Israel, and many other European nations, the concept of critically analyzing and creating media is termed 'media education,' and interest in this field emerged from approaches to literary criticism which emphasized the value of helping young people to discriminate between works of 'high culture' and works of 'popular culture.' (Kress, 1992; Lambert, 1997; Lemish and Lemish, 1997). As early as the 1960s, British and Australian educators advocated media education, noting that, "We need to train children to look critically and discriminate between what is good and what is bad in what they see" (cited in Halloran and Jones, 1992, p.12).

In Australia, media education has been actively in place in public education since the early 1970s, stemming from the growth in an integrated approach to arts education and the inclusion of photography, film, television and communication technologies. Like many countries, much of the momentum to establish media literacy in Australia concerned the issues of the "cultural imperialism" as more and more American commercial mass media products entered into Australian homes, including television, film, books, magazines, popular music and other media. A few Australian educators understood media education as a form of cultural protection, a means to help parents and teachers illustrate differences between the values and norms of the U.S. and those of Australia. Mainly, the growth in interest in media education came from an interest in promoting indigenous Australian artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and performers generally through government grants and programs to involve artists in schools. By the early 1990s, media education reached a status of being a small but visible component of the Australian public school system, with a national organization, The Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) serving to develop curriculum materials, organize staff development programs for teachers, and generally interface with state and federal education bureaucrats to increase financial, technical and other support.

Research on Media Literacy Competencies

A number of research studies have demonstrated that media literacy intervention in school- or home-based environments can be effective. For example, research has demonstrated that an adult's comments and observations about television programming can have a significant effect on a child's attitudes and behaviors. Often referred to as "parental mediation" or "co-viewing," this line of research documents how parents' intervention can enhance what children learn about affliative behavior from viewing family television shows (Buerkel-Rothfuss, Greenberg, Atkin and Neuendorf, 1982), increase the understanding of television, improve judgments about reality and fantasy (Desmond, Hirsch and Nicol, 1985), and reduce total viewing (Desmond, Singer and Singer, 1990).

Identifying specific dimensions of media analysis and media production skills and measuring them quantitatively has been a goal of a number of researchers in different countries, particularly in Australia, France and the United States. In Australia, Quin and McMahon (1995) developed a set of outcomes identifying the basic sub-skills of media analysis, focusing on five categories of emphasis, including language, narrative, production processes, audience, and values. These were significantly different adaptations of a similar scheme for organizing media literacy skills developed by the British Film Institute in the early 1990s (Bazalgette, 1992). In the Australian scheme, the competencies are framed into the five categories described above, with ten levels, representing skills ranging from the most basic to the most advanced. The authors note that these levels do not correspond to grade or age levels, but represent simply a sequence based on cognitive complexity. Using these outcomes, researchers developed an instrument to measure students' media literacy skills, using the format of showing students a media 'text' (either a print or video based) and asking a range of closed-ended and open-ended questions about the text. Each question was designed to measure one or more outcomes from the core competencies. Results indicated the instrument was a viable approach to measure students' media literacy skills ( Quin and McMahon, 1995). The measurement of media literacy competencies has included: the ability to identify genre, target audience, and author's motive or intent; the ability to identify production techniques which attract audience attention or interest; and awareness of technical elements including sound, lighting, and editing as these elements affect viewer response.

Using a similar methodology for measuring students' media analysis skills, Hobbs and Frost (1997a; 1997b) reported results from a large sample of ninth grade students in a Massachusetts high school to demonstrate how different types of media literacy skills were associated with different types of teaching practices at the secondary level. In France, Bevort and DeSmedt (1997) developed a similar measurement of students' media literacy skills which involved screening a short video work or displaying a newspaper article, and then asking students to answer specific questions concerning their ability to analyze the content and form of the messages. This study used a small sample size and qualitative interpretive methods to generate hypotheses about the nature of students' learning in relation to the development of critical media analysis skills.

Additionally, a number of research studies, while not measuring media literacy skills per se, have evaluated the effectiveness of specific media literacy instructional materials. In an evaluation of a curriculum for elementary school students, it was demonstrated that students learned specific factual information in the curriculum, including television-related vocabulary words for production processes. In this study, students' viewing habits and program preferences were not influenced by lessons (Singer, Zuckerman and Singer, 1980). Using a health education model of learning and behavior change, Austin and Johnson (1997) demonstrated how a short course of media literacy skills training affected the attitudes and behaviors of third-graders in relation to alcohol advertising and attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol.

Students' familiarity with different media genres-- particularly news and advertising genres-- may affect their ability to engage in different types of tasks requiring the critical analysis of the mass media. Adolescents generally watch a limited range of programming, primarily focusing on situation comedies, light entertainment, "reality TV," movies, music video and sports programming (Comstock, 1991). However, children and youth still receive substantial exposure to television news. In a recent study of 100,000 young people, 41% of fourth graders, 45% of eighth graders and 49% of eleventh graders said they viewed news daily (Anderson, Mead and Sullivan, 1986). Some research has shown that young people are aware of the conventions, routines and biases of television news (Adoni, Cohen and Mane, 1984), but other evidence points out that only about 10% of elementary school students report having regular conversations with parents, friends, or teachers about the news (Drew and Reeves, 1984).

By contrast, most estimate suggest that young people see upwards of 40,000 television commercials per year. Some evidence exists to show that comprehension of persuasive intent and the ability to distinguish commercials from other programming serve as a defense against advertising. Among older children, those who have higher levels of mistrust of advertising tend to have less favorable views about new products (Christenson, 1985; 1982). Developmentally, many children experience a disorientation between ages nine and thirteen when they discover, often through the purchase of a desired toy or food product, television's ability to create an "unreal reality" that conflicts with their own direct experience (Comstock, 1991). Based on these data, we could assume that students' lack of familiarity with the genre of television news might have a negative impact on their ability to perform tasks requiring critical analysis and that their familiarity with advertising and their already skeptical stance towards it may serve as factors which enhance students' ability to critically analyze advertising.

Understanding the media production process is clearly a key dimension of media literacy competencies, and research has demonstrated the general low levels of knowledge of media production processes among the adult population. Messaris (1997) describes viewers' generally poor awareness of the processes by which meaning is created through visual media. One study of adolescents found them to be unable to make distinctions about different types of television "realism" and techniques used to enhance realism. In a study which compared the responses of viewers who had and had not received media literacy training as a result of their experience as film production students, Messaris (1994) found significant differences in the ability to identify the presence of the author through specific editing conventions. Knowledge of media production processes does appear to be related to increased awareness of the constructed nature of media messages and the ability to identify an author's motives, purposes and point of view.

It is evident that an emerging body of scholarship points out the need for carefully designed studies which measure the various components of media literacy skills. This research examines a number of key questions which can help elucidate the various dimensions of media literacy education, including the relationship between the acquisition of critical analysis skills, knowledge gain from television, and media use habits and patterns.

Research Hypotheses

H1: Students in the two-treatment group have higher levels of media-analysis scores than students in the one-treatment group.

H2: Higher levels of media consumption patterns are associated with greater levels of media-literacy training.

H3: Students in the two-treatment group can name more steps in the production process than those in the one-treatment group.

H4: Students in both treatment groups are better skilled at analyzing advertising than news.

H5: For students in the news-analysis condition, comprehension (knowledge) scores are correlated with some media-consumption-behavior scores, including quantity of television watched, cable television subscription and "print rich" households.

H6: For students in the news-analysis condition, comprehension (knowledge) scores are associated with increases in media-literacy training.

H7: For students in the advertising-analysis condition, students in the two-treatment group are more likely to identify sexism in advertising as a problem than students in the one-treatment group.

Research Design

The research uses a 2x2 factorial design to measure the differences between students' media literacy skills which may vary as a result of the intensity of the educational experience received in secondary school (one-treatment condition or two -treatment condition) or the opportunity to analyze different media genres (news-analysis condition or advertising-analysis condition). It is important to note that this research involves only a post-hoc investigation. Researchers did not experimentally manipulate the instructional media literacy intervention, nor did we randomly assign students to treatment conditions. Instead, researchers identified schools with similar socio-economic conditions but with existing differences in instruction and administered measures of media literacy skills to students enrolled in all six of these schools.

Sample Selection

Three hundred and thirty-three students from six different schools in the Melbourne metropolitan area participated in the study. All the schools are located in Melbourne or its suburbs. The average age of the students was 15, and almost all were in the tenth grade. Students are almost equally divided by gender: 55% are male, 45% female. Researchers contacted the headmasters of these schools to initiate the research project and interviewed teachers and students to determine the nature of the students' exposure to media literacy concepts, activities and ideas.

In the state of Victoria, many secondary schools (called "colleges" in Australia) include media analysis skills within the context of language arts and arts courses, and media production courses are often available as elective courses. Students in our sample have had opportunities to take courses in photography, video production, or media studies. The Victorian government designed a syllabus for a Media Studies course for secondary school students, which emphasizes understanding the media production process, issues of representation in terms of gender, class, occupation and race, and analysis of media using concepts from media aesthetics. Appendix A includes a summary of this curriculum.

While media literacy concepts have been approved by state education officials, there is some unevenness among schools in the level and quality of course work provided to students, as in most nations where teacher education in media literacy education is just beginning to emerge. Through our interviews with headmasters and teachers, it was apparent that some schools had a range of high quality programs in media studies, and also integrated media education concepts into art, literature and history classes. Other schools had few or little offerings, and some emphasized vocational skills.

Students in all five schools had received a compulsory unit of media instruction in the seventh grade. The unit consisted of two hours of training per week, for 14 weeks, in how to read newspaper articles and distinguish hyperbole from truth. They also wrote reports on documentaries and feature presentations on television. These students will be referred to as the one-treatment group. Additionally, students in three schools were currently enrolled in a media-studies class and had five hours of training per week for six to eight weeks of instruction prior to the administration of the test. They all had been exposed to media in other courses as well, such as history where documentaries are used and analyzed, and English where films are used to supplement readings of books and plays. In their English classes, students had taken a recent, controversial issue and analyzed the way the media presented it. These students will be referred to as the two-treatment group. Because of the elective-driven system that is in place in Victorian secondary education, plus the fact that some students had transferred from other schools, it is impossible to determine precisely the amount or quality of instruction received by students in this second group. The two treatment groups were identified on the basis of teachers' and students' self-reports about the quantity and diversity of media studies exposure they had received. Teachers were interviewed individually about their classroom practices in media education and students were asked to describe the topics, issues, projects and classroom activities that they had completed that qualified as media studies course work.

Test materials

The study employed two types of test materials: one news story and one set of two different advertisements for the same product. The news story was first shown on Channel One, a commercial service for schools owned by KIII Corporation. Channel One is received in 40% of the high school classrooms in the United States, reaching more than eight million students per day. This specific news item was selected because it would be unfamiliar to Australian students participating in the research, and because its particular form and structure make it distinctly different from newscasts aimed at adult viewers. The seven minute news story, broadcast on August 25, 1992, described the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew as the storm hit the coastline of southern Florida and continued westward into the Gulf of Mexico. The news story followed the traditional news format, presenting what was new and different first, followed by the cause and then the consequences of the change. The news segment features two news anchors and, after visually illustrating examples of a school devastated by the hurricane, the segment includes a scientific presentation on hurricanes, their system of categorization, why they occur and are so especially fearsome in the South Pacific. The script for the episode can be found in Appendix B.

The two advertisements, both several years old, persuade viewers to drink Pepsi. The first one, the "Pepsi/Stress" ad, has been described in Fox's (1997) research on Channel One and adolescents. The ad, which aired on Channel One in 1994, was apparently designed as a test of the value of "disguised advertising," since the ad takes the form of a mini-documentary or public service ad. It begins with actress Sarah Gilbert (from the situation comedy Roseanne) saying it's time to take a break from commercials, and introducing the subject of stress. The remainder of the one minute ad consists of interviews with high school students explaining the sources of stress in their lives and the particular methods of stress reduction that worked for them. The ad's conclusion features a photograph of the product and a voice over naming the product.

The second advertisement, the "New Look Pepsi" ad, dated from the early 1980s, was among the first to feature the young Cindy Crawford, a model. In the ad, she stops at a rural roadside gas station for a Pepsi, drinking sensuously to the music of the blues standard, "Just One Look." As she is ogled by two young boys, viewers are surprised to discover that the boys are just staring at the beauty of the new can and not the model.

Researchers constructed two videotapes. The first contained the news story on the hurricane. The second consisted of the two advertisements separated by thirty seconds of blank tape. The "Pepsi/Stress" ad appeared first followed by the "New Look Pepsi" ad.

Testing Instruments

The test instrument measured students' media analysis skills, comprehension of informative content (news only condition), knowledge of production processes, and media consumption habits. While every effort was made to keep the instruments comparable, there were some differences between the questions designed to measure media analysis skills between the news-analysis condition and the advertising-analysis condition.

In the advertising-analysis condition, six measures of media literacy competencies were included in the questionnaire. Students were asked to identify the target audience and the author of the ads in two multiple choice questions. Four open-ended measures asked students to identify specific techniques used in the broadcast which attracted audience attention; to name the sources of information used in the construction of the message, and to identify the similarities and differences between the two Pepsi ads.

In the news-analysis condition, six measures of media literacy competencies were included in the questionnaire. Students were asked to identify the target audience and the author of the ads in two multiple choice questions. Four open-ended measures asked students to identify specific techniques used in the broadcast which attracted audience attention; to name the sources of information used in the construction of the message, and to identify the similarities and differences between the Channel One newscast and a typical or ordinary segment from national television news. There were a total of seven indices of comprehension of informative content. Five multiple-choice items were constructed to measure students' ability to recall significant facts concerning the broadcast. Additionally, two short-answer questions required the students to write a short answer also measured comprehension of the news item. These items were identical to those used in research by Hobbs and Frost (1997) with ninth graders in the United States.

In both conditions, knowledge of pre-production, production and post-production processes was measured via an item which asked students to imagine how the program they had just seen was constructed and to identify all the steps in the production process needed to create the message.

In the advertising-analysis condition, students were asked to write a three-paragraph essay elaborating upon, defending, or opposing a point of view regarding the ad with Cindy Crawford. These were coded for the presence of pro-advertising, anti-advertising, pro-sex or anti-sex attitudes to determine if such attitudes were related to increased levels of media literacy education.

Students' media consumption habits were measured through a series of questions about television use, using the "viewed yesterday" method of measuring media exposure. Responses were coded in hours and students who engaged in news viewing were specially identified. Questions concerning the number of TV sets in the home, the presence of cable television, home subscription to newspapers or newsmagazines served as indirect measures of family media use habits.

Testing procedure

Students saw the videotapes on a 26 inch monitor during a regularly scheduled class. The second author collected the data in all six schools. Groups of students were given a questionnaire with a cover sheet to indicate the name of their school, their age, gender and date or birth. Immediately following the playing of the tape, students in the news analysis condition opened the questionnaire booklet and answered all the questions. Administration took approximately 40 minutes to complete. Exposure to the advertising-analysis condition followed the same procedure with a slight variation. Students saw the "Pepsi/Stress" ad and then answered questions regarding it. Then, the researcher played the "New Look Pepsi" ad and after viewing this, students completed the remainder of the questionnaire booklet.


H1: Students in the two-treatment group have higher levels of media-analysis scores than students in the one-treatment group.

When asked to identify techniques used to attract and hold audience attention, the effect of media-literacy training was pronounced. In both the news analysis and advertising conditions, the number of techniques students were able to list rose from somewhat less than three to almost four. The ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for treatment in the news analysis condition, F(1,164)=9.22, p=.003, and in the advertising-analysis condition, F(1,117)=26.05, p=.000.

When asked to engage in a comparison and contrast task where students' ability to generate similarities and differences between media texts was assessed, there was a pronounced improvement between the group with one unit of training and the group with two units of training. Once again, the ANOVAs revealed a main effect for treatment in the news analysis condition F(1,164)=32.57, p=.000 and in the advertising-analysis condition, F(1,117)=19.75, p=.001. There was a strong improvement in the ability of the two-treatment group compared to the one-treatment group for both similarities and differences variables.

Students' ability to identify the target audience of a media message was dependent on the type of media message they were analyzing. Among those watching the news broadcast, 49% of those in the one-treatment group correctly identified the target audience for the news broadcast, while only 31% of those in the two-treatment group were able to do so. However, the opposite pattern prevailed among those who in the advertising analysis condition. The percent of students correctly identifying the target audience for the stress ad rose from 48 to 63 as media-literacy training rose from one to two terms. The correct identification of the target audience for the Crawford ad rose from 60 to 73%.

H2: Higher levels of media consumption patterns are associated with greater levels of media-literacy training.

Students who received advanced training in media literacy report higher quantities of television viewing. As media-literacy training increased, amount of television viewing in the previous 24 hours rose from two to almost three hours among those in the news-analysis condition, and from almost two to two-and-one-half hours in the advertising-analysis condition. However, those with two terms of media-literacy training reported lower levels of cable saturation than those with one term.

H3: Students in the two-treatment group can name more steps in the production process than those in the one-treatment group.

Students in both instructional treatment conditions had surprisingly low levels of knowledge about the media production process. For the news-analysis condition, scores ranged from a low of zero to a high of ten, with a mean of slightly less than one step identified for the one-treatment group, compared to 2.8 steps identified for the two-treatment group. For the advertising-analysis condition, scores ranged from zero to ten, with a mean of slightly less than one step identified for the one treatment group, compared with 3.8 steps identified for the two-treatment group. These between treatment differences were highly significant statistically, with F values for both news and advertising significant at the .000 level. (For news F(1,164)=26.38, p=.000; for advertising F(1,117)=44.63, p=.000).

This hypothesis predicts that media-literacy training results in a greater awareness of the production process. We investigated this prediction by comparing the percent of students who were able to identify a step in the production process by treatment condition. Those who had been exposed to only one unit of training in the seventh grade (the one-treatment group) were able to identify far fewer steps than those with units of instruction in the tenth grade (the two treatment group). Students found this kind of abstraction more difficult than any other question on our questionnaire, yet the two-treatment group was able to excel at it compared to their treatment counterparts. Table 1 presents this data.

H4: Students in both treatment groups are more knowledgeable about production processes in creating advertising than about production processes in creating television news.

By comparing responses to questions about steps in the production process for both advertising and news programs in either the one-treatment or two-treatment conditions, we discovered that in almost every case, students were better able to identify steps in the production process for advertising than for news, no matter what level of training they had received. Figures 1 and 2 reveal these differences.

H5: For students in the news-analysis condition, comprehension (knowledge) scores are correlated with some media-consumption-behavior scores, including quantity of television watched, cable-television subscription, and "print rich" households.

We predicted that knowledge gained from the news would be related positively to the availability of cable television in the home, subscription to newspapers, the number of hours that students watched television, and knowledge of production. To investigate these predictions, we correlated scores on five items designed to measure comprehension with four items measuring media consumption. Contrary to our hypothesis, knowledge gain was related only weakly or not at all to media consumption.

H6: For students in the news-analysis condition, comprehension (knowledge) scores are associated with increases in media-literacy training.

The comprehension hypothesis predicted that increases in media-literacy training would be associated with greater comprehension of item content. However, the data reveal that comprehension scores did not improve with increases in media-literacy training, as is shown in Table 2 below. For almost all comprehension questions, the percent of students getting the question right declined with greater amounts of training. In two of the questions, the magnitude of the decline was great enough to be statistically significant.

We believe that this phenomenon may be a temporary disruption of comprehension processes which may result from acquiring the skills of critically analyzing media messages. Content-focus disruption may occur when media-literacy training produces disruption by sensitizing students to the formal features of a broadcast instead of the content. We hypothesize that, in this research, the variance in comprehension scores may be attributable to a shift in students' focus of attention. Students in the one-treatment group focused more on message content, while students in the two-treatment group focused on message format and structure, reflecting their training in media-literacy classes. Perhaps scores on various questions designed to assess media-analysis skill would be associated with greater comprehension of item content. We found this relationship to be only partly true, as indicated by modest correlations between comprehension scores and two measures of media literacy skills, the ability to identify target audience and the ability to identify the author, as shown in Table 3 below. Again, our supposition is that the consequence of media-literacy training is to focus more on format and structure, lowering knowledge gain.

H7: For students in the advertising analysis condition, students in the two-treatment group are more likely to identify sexism in advertising as a problem then students in the one-treatment group.

Only a small number of students in the one-treatment group included any reference to sexism in their three-paragraph essays that they wrote in response to seeing the two different Pepsi commercials. In the one-treatment group, 2% of the sample included comments which indicated their ambivalence or hostility to the use of a model as an object to attract attention to the product. In the two-treatment group, 13% of the sample included comments which indicated such attitudes.

Discussion and Future Research

The research finds significant differences between instructional groups in terms of students' ability to analyze media messages. Students who are enrolled in course work which demands their active involvement in media analysis tasks do substantially better at basic media literacy competencies than students whose course work has been less substantive.

The finding that increased levels of media literacy education is associated with increases in television viewing is dramatically different from previous research, which has found no association between media literacy skills and quantity of television consumed. There are two possible explanations for these findings. As knowledge of media grows, it could be expected that awareness of one's own media use habits and practices grows. In many media literacy handbooks and curriculum guides, there are explicit classroom techniques on how to build students' awareness and self-reflection of their own media use habits, gratifications and pleasures. Perhaps students in the two-treatment condition are more accurately reporting their media use behaviors, while students with less media literacy training are under-reporting their media use consumption. Such under-reporting has been widely identified as one of the most significant methodological challenges in media effects research (Comstock, 1997). Another plausible interpretation is that students with more advanced levels of media literacy training have expanded or shifted their viewing motivations and, as a result, are engaged in additional time watching television. More research is needed to understand more about the relationship between the acquisition of media literacy skills and media consumption behaviors.

As expected, students' analysis skills are activated differently depending on the specific media genre they are asked to analyze. Students' skills are weaker when asked to analyze television news compared with their skills in analyzing television advertising. Students demonstrate different levels of media analysis competencies depending on the genre of the target 'text' to be analyzed. Further research is needed to determine what other media genres are most and least challenging for students to analyze, as research in this matter may contribute to the design of more effective instructional materials or the allocation of classroom time. It may not be necessary to engage in prolonged classroom analysis of advertising, for example, if research demonstrates that other genres of media messages are more challenging and difficult for students to analyze.

More research is needed to explore the finding that media literacy skills do not improve students' comprehension of television news. Perhaps this finding is to be welcomed as media literacy educators urge students to "ask questions about what you watch, see and read." Clearly, the process of asking questions about information programming has the capacity to disrupt the automatic and uncritical acceptance of factual information presented. Other educators may use this research to explore pedagogical approaches which seek to build students' awareness of the levels of processing required for the effective comprehension and critical analysis of news and informational programming.


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Hobbs, Renee (1997c). Expanding the concept of literacy. In Robert Kubey (Ed.) Media literacy in the information age. New York: Transaction Press.

Kress, Gunther. (1992). Media literacy as cultural technology in the age of transcultural media. In C. Bazalgette, E. Bevort, and J. Savino (Eds.) New directions: Media education worldwide. London: British Film Institute.

Lambert, Frederic (1997). Pour un enseignement specifique a l'image et aux medias. Presentation at the UNESCO conference, Les Jeunes and Les Medias, April 24.

Lemish, Dafna and Lemish, Peter (l997). A much debated consensus: Media literacy in Israel. In R. Kubey (Ed.) Media literacy in the information age. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Masterman, Len. (1985). Teaching the media. London: Routledge.

Masterman, L (1997). A rationale for media education. In R. Kubey (Ed.) Media literacy in the information age. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Messaris, Paul. (1997). Visual intelligence and analogical thinking. In James Flood, Shirley Brice Heath and Diane Lapp (Eds), Handbook of research on teaching literacy through the communicative and visual arts. International Reading Association and Macmillan Lirary Reference: New York.

Messaris, Paul (1994). Visual 'literacy': Image, mind, and reality. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

National Institute on Mental Health (1982) Television and behavior: Ten years of scientific progress and implications for the Eighties. Volume 2: Technical Reviews. Rockville, M.D: Government Printing Office.

Piette, Jacques and Giroux, Luc (1997). The theoretical foundations of media education programs. In Robert Kubey (Ed.) Media literacy in the information age. New York: Transaction Press.

Quin, Robyn and McMahon, Barrie (1995). Evaluating standards in media education. Canadian journal of educational communication 22(1), 15-25.

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board (May, 1992). Media course development support material. VCAB, 15 Pelham Street, Carlton, Australia.

Media Course Aims and Objectives, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board, 1992


  1. Students will invetigate and analyze their experiences of media and those of others

  2. Students will analyze media products in order to understand how meaning is constructed and develop an understanding of the range of meanings carried by media texts

  3. Students will develop an understanding of the production processes involved in the construction of media products

  4. Students will examine the relationship between the media, media products and society

  5. Students will develop an understanding of the roles, historical development, ownership and structure of media forms

  6. Students will develop an awareness of media policies, issues and possibilities within Australian society and the capacity to evaluate them

  7. Students will develop and refine production skills and knowledge

  8. Students will express their ideas through media forms and gain self confidence and comnmunication skills through that expression



Unit 1: Technology and Representation

This unit is deigned to enable students to:

Unit 2: Media Production and Australian Media Industry

This unit is designed to enable students to:

Unit 3: Audience and Narrative

This unit is designed to enable students to:

Unit 4: Social Values and Media Processes

This unit is designed to enable students to:

FROM: Media Course Development Support Material, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board, May 1992, p. 6.


Appendix B
Scripts for News and Advertising Messages Used in Research Study

Channel One News Story
Lisa Ling: Hi, I'm Lisa Ling.

Role Valverde: And I'm Role Valverde. Our top story today: Hurricane Andrew.

Lisa Ling: It's left death and destruction across South Florida. And right now it's moving toward the Gulf Coast states, just as strong as ever.

Role Valverde: We have special storm coverage for you today, beginning with Kathy Kronenberger.

Kathy Kronenberger: Thanks, Role. First, a look back at the damage, which is bad. And then we'll look ahead to see where Hurricane Andrew is heading next.

__: First time in a hurricane ... (inaudible) with you. It's total fear. It's total fear.

Kathy Kronenberger: One million people were told to evacuate their homes on Sunday. About 700,000 did. The rest stayed at home and braved the storm.

__: I think we're all OK.

__: This is terrible. I wish I'll never go through this again. Next time, I'm going to a shelter. I don't care.

Kathy Kronenberger: Hurricane Andrew hit Southern Florida early Monday morning, leaving a reported 12 people dead and up to $8 billion of damage in its wake. Winds reached 160 miles per hour, tearing the roofs off homes, uprooting trees, knocking down power lines, whipping cars, blowing out windows, and flooding streets. Areas hardest hit were Coral Gables, South Miami, Kendall, and Homestead, as Andrew tore a path through Southern Florida.

Several Channel One schools in the Miami area have postponed starting their new school year for as much as a week. President Bush declared Dade, Brown, and Munroe counties disaster areas, which means federal money will be available for low-interest loans for rebuilding.

Not all the damage to Florida businesses was caused by Hurricane Andrew. SWAT teams and nearly 1,000 National Guardsmen had to be called in to control looting and have enforced a 7 p.m. curfew.

Hurricane experts say Andrew is moving west across the Gulf of Mexico at about 18 miles per hour, and is expected to continue either on a straight path to Texas or turn north and head into Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, possibly striking some time Wednesday. If Andrew hits land again, he could go down as the United States' most intense storm this century.

To survive the storm, tens of thousands of people huddled into emergency shelters. It was a terrifying ordeal, with the howling wind and pounding rain. People were scared all night long. We know, because one of Channel One's newest reporters was there. His name is Justin Gunn.

Justin Gunn: Andrew cut a narrow, but highly destructive path across South Florida early Monday morning. One of the areas hardest hit was just south of Miami, in the suburb of Kendall. Sunset Park Elementary School was one of several shelters open as early as Sunday afternoon.

__: During the night it was OK. It was around six o'clock, five, six o'clock this morning that we needed to evacuate the second floor. They had to go upstairs, downstairs, ... (inaudible) water coming from the roof. The wind was terrible.

Justin Gunn: Directly beneath this hallway is the room where so many of those who came here seeking shelter spent the night. But the leaking got so bad that Red Cross officials actually considered moving them to yet another location.

__: Once the roof went, the leak started, and what a mess in there. We can't keep people here because of the mess in there.

__: At the time that the, you know, when the wind would blow real hard, you could feel the floor shake. You could feel it on the floor.

Justin Gunn: Once the heart of this storm had sliced through the area, many kids were eager to see what was left of their lives outside the shelter.

__: Yeah, I want to go home. I just want to see, you know, what happened, you know, to my house, you know? My car's in one piece (?)--fortunately, you know? And so if my house isn't (?) the same way--

Justin Gunn: The most painful result of the storm for many young people was the loss of their school.

__: We were just getting ready, with the excitement of beginning a new year, and putting it all together and making sure that we had everything that was needed. And now it's all gone. We've got to keep a sense of humor and be thankful that no one was hurt. But you just want to cry inside.

Justin Gunn: In Miami, reporting for Channel One, I'm Justin Gunn. Kathy Kronenberger: Justin is staying on top of this hurricane. In fact, right now, he's on his way to New Orleans.

Lisa Ling (?): Doesn't all this stuff about Hurricane Andrew kind of make you wonder how a hurricane can do so much damage? Well, we learned a little about the science of hurricanes yesterday. Today, we want to see that science in action, just as it happened in South Florida.

Lisa Ling (?): Andrew was the most powerful storm ever to hit a major American city, and left a major mess behind to prove it. It's the hurricane storm surge that does most the damage. As the storm approaches land, the water level at the shore will start to rise, like, 10 or 15 feet. With a really big hurricane, it could even rise 25 to 30 feet. On top of that, add ten foot waves. There's not much left after a wall of water like that.

And then there's the wind. A hurricane will sometimes create tornadoes, because the wind in the hurricane is blowing so fast. And what the water doesn't get, the tornadoes do.

Meteorologists rank hurricanes much like geologists rank earthquakes. There's a category one storm that has winds blowing between 75 and 94 miles an hour. That one doesn't cause too much damage. At the top of the scale, there's the category five hurricane, with winds blowing faster than 155 miles per hour. The category five storm would have a storm surge higher than 18 feet.

Andrew was classified as a category four storm, even though the winds reached 168 miles an hour. That's because the winds didn't blow that fast for longer than five minutes at a time. Actually, a hurricane is nature's way of boiling over, kind of like a kettle.

__: Now we get too much heat in the tropics, not enough heat in the polar latitudes, because the way the sun shines on the globs, so, in the summertime, we've got to get rid of that heat, and that's what hurricanes are all about.

Lisa Ling: That's one of the reasons why there are more typhoons in the Pacific. Remember yesterday's pop quiz question? Typhoons are the same as hurricanes, but in a different hemisphere.

Because the water is warmer there, the atmosphere stays warmer and creates more storms. Hurricane Andrew lost a little steam when it hit Florida. That's because the friction the winds encounter battering buildings and trees. But when the storm moved out to the Gulf of Mexico, scientists started to worry. That's because it's probably gaining strength for the next big move. Usually, when a storm moves back over the water, it's getting stronger.

Good information to know, because we'll be seeing these same hurricane forces at work for the next few days.

Pepsi Stress Ad

__: And now for something completely different.

__: Pepsi! Yee-hah.

__: Today, instead of taking a commercial break, what do you say we take a break from commercials, with a program called, "It's Like This": real kids talking about real issues. Like stress.

__: Stress.

__: Stress.

__: You know, that feeling you get when you look at a multiple choice test and you're convinced the answer to every question is "none of the above". So, check it out.

__: When you have a problem, it's generating a lot of stress, it's really encouraging sometimes when someone else says, "Hey, I felt just like that."

__: A lot of kids my age feel really stressed.

__: School has me really stressed out. School work. And boys.

__: You've got to get that perfect ACT score to get into that right college.

__: Material things like really a big stress problem, like you've got to have this, you've got to have this, name brand, this, this, that.

__: The biggest thing that stresses me out is what I do to myself.

__: Do something. Just get your mind off your problems.

__: Basketball.

__: Football.

__: Volleyball.

__: Rock climbing.

__: I think surfing helps me really relieve a lot of stress.

__: Just go into the weight room, you know, pump some iron.

__: Girlfriend time.

__: Like, when one girl's stressed out, you know, her friends talk to her and they're, like, "You know, what's bugging you?" And then, all of a sudden, like, six girls are freaked out, they're all crying (?).

__: Tell all the teens across the world that are getting really stressed, just relax.

__: Yee-hah!

New Look Pepsi

(music, singing, "Just One Look")

__: Is that a great new Pepsi can or what?

__: Introducing a whole new way to look at Pepsi and Diet Pepsi.

__: It's beautiful.