Media Studies in High School English Curriculum

Ontario’s English program for grades 9 and 10 students integrates aspects of literacy and language development in its curriculum. The Introduction to the curriculum document emphasizes that learning to think critically and to appreciate texts enhances students’ overall interaction with the world around them. Developing language and literacy skills enables students to communicate effectively and “thrive in the world beyond school” (Ontario Ministry of Education 2007, 4). The following paragraphs outline how the Media Studies strand encompasses this expectation.

It is clear that the Ministry of Education has taken into account global changes and aspects of educational reform in the English program. This is especially apparent with regard to the Media Studies strand. In this strand, English teachers of grade 9 and 10 levels are responsible for providing students with knowledge of media texts in order to raise levels cultural awareness both within and outside the classroom. The students are expected to explore a variety of media texts and to examine how these texts influence modern society. Interpreting messages and thinking critically about popular culture and mass media enables students to develop an understanding of how texts create meaning.

In his article, Brian O’Sullivan discusses the report Toward the Year 2000, which presented the belief that “cultural and demographic changes, environmental changes, new employability skills, and the changed roles of women in society, should influence Ontario’s education policy” (O’Sullivan 1999, 314). The English curriculum document is designed to address these issues. Incorporating the Media Studies strand gives students the tools to expand their understanding of global conditions and interdependence. This encourages students to relate what they are learning in school to their lives at home, and consequently, to their lives as global citizens (Ontario Ministry of Education 2007, 18-19). Students and parents usually value this integration of “worldmindedness” (Selby 2000, 1) into the classroom, but there are many individuals and groups for whom this could pose a problem. For example, some religious or cultural groups may view the integration of global issues and technological advances into the English classroom as violating their belief systems and/or cultural values. Furthermore, some parents do not allow their children to watch television or use the Internet, and while the Media Studies strand suggests the incorporation of these media into the classroom, it may not be appropriate for some students.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that each student meets the curriculum expectations using instructional, assessment, and evaluation strategies. The curriculum document highlights the importance of developing fair, accommodating, clear, and well-communicated assessment and evaluation strategies (Ontario Ministry of Education 2007, 20-21). These strategies must also be in accordance with the knowledge and skills categories on the achievement chart. There are four categories, each with their own subcategories. For example, the “Communication” category has the subcategory “Use of conventions.” There are also four levels of achievement, and descriptors for each level (2007, 24-25). In my opinion, this method of evaluation is effective in most cases, but considering levels of diversity in today’s classrooms, I have to wonder if it is appropriate for all students. Lorna M. Earl addresses the difficulty of integrating diverse students into the classroom and how the validity of specific assessment methods may be called to question in this regard (Earl 1995, 52).

Overall, the grades 9 and 10 English curriculum provides the educator with the freedom to design a program that fits the individual needs of the students. The moral implications that come into play when incorporating a global perspective into the Media Studies strand, however, are important to consider. They extend far beyond the basic aspects of teaching English. Teachers must always ask themselves if what they are teaching is appropriate in all regards. There is definitely enough freedom in the assessment and evaluation policies for a teacher to be creative in how they address the overall and specific expectations for their students. This freedom is both a blessing and a curse though, in my opinion, and it must be handled with care.

References

Earl, L. M. (1995). Assessment and Accountability in Education in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Education, 20 (1), pp. 45-55

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2007). The Ontario Curriculum – Grades 9 and 10 (Revised). Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. pp. 1-25.

O’Sullivan, Brian. (1999). Global Change and Educational Reform in Ontario and Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 24 (3), pp. 311-325.

Selby, D. & Pike, G. (2000). The Civil Global Education. Convergence, 33 (1), pp. 138-149

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