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Introducing Media Studies

Rob Miller | Monday September 15, 2014

Categories: Why Media Studies?, The Case for Media Studies

The following resource can be used for marketing purposes in schools and colleges for either introducing Media Studies or for approving additional courses.

Initially, before deciding on the specification and then promoting the subject content whether GCSE, BTEC First, A Level or BTEC Level 3 we would recommend you evaluate the following key questions, indicating Yes or No only when complete:

Introducing Media Studies Questionnaire.docx

Reasons to Take Media Studies - Key Pointers/Facts

  • It is a rigourous, academic subject that combines theoretical analysis, industry relevance, practical production but also critical debate. All courses are broad ranging and have a clear, conceptual framework – qualifications are ‘fit for Ofqual purpose’.
  • Media Studies prepares learners for the world of work by developing a range of soft, hard and transferable skills. In Media Studies learners develop analytical skills, creative skills, production based skills, industry standard software and hardware skills, communication skills, teamwork skills, skills of autonomy and independence, essay writing skills, problem solving skills and skills of self reflection.
  • The subject is wholly relevant to the contemporary world in a way that is not covered by other subject areas – the media has a powerful overt and covert influence on our lives in the domain of industry and commerce, technology, culture, communication and society, encoding key messages, themes, values and ideologies, political representations and personal identity. In Professor David Buckingham’s 2014 review of Media and Film Studies qualifications he notes that this is very much in alignment with Ofqual’s subject criteria on the need to address ‘issues that are important, real, and relevant to learners and to the world in which they live’.
  • Media Studies embraces 21st century digital technology with specification content written to ensure analysis and practical understanding of digital technology is embedded into all courses.
  • Media Studies allows learners to combine learning as much about culture and society e.g. representations of disability as examining pivotal national debate such as the Leveson Inquiry but also understanding business and industry – this includes powerful, critically and commercially influential oligopolies and corporations. Moral and ethical debates are also key components of Media Studies specifications.
  • The subject has a strong contemporary focus but also contextualises the past and understands the future. As a result, lessons are relevant, dynamic and interesting and allow learners to explore their own cultural reference points within a solid, academic underpinning framework.
  • Teachers and HODs should keep up to date on GCSE, AS and A Level Reform and the subject picture nationally – until the past few years, numbers of learners taking AS and A2 Media Studies grew four fold between 1995 and 2010, hence the current slow down still identifies Media Studies as the second most popular ‘new’ subject (after Psychology). It is larger than almost all of the other subjects that are currently under review by Ofqual.
  • Link A Level Media Courses with HE progression – be aware of the range of Media Undergraduate courses, quality of provision and reputation e.g. Bournemouth Media School, University of Sussex, LCC, Sheffield University and Goldsmith’s University. A 2013 Higher Education Policy Institute report found that the number of universities offering Media Studies courses had tripled between 1996 and 2009. Media Studies (or closely related titles) undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses are offered by nearly all Russell Group universities.
  • Ensure you explain how theoretical and practical aspects of the course are related to each other – study the specification in depth and be able to identify synoptic links.
  • Detail how demanding and fulfilling the course is likely to be for learners – reference opportunities for differentiation, soft skills and hard skills developed but also transferable skills.
  • How effectively do the qualifications support progression to further study or on to employment?
  • Think about pathways for learners e.g. AS Media Studies works well alongside A Level English, A Level Art, A Level Photography, A Level Graphic Design, A Level Business Studies, A Level Film Studies and A Level Psychology but also can be taken as a stand alone A Level with a BTEC Level 3 qualification. It is our opinion that Media Studies can be taken with any combination of subjects. Commonly also, learners taking subjects like A Level History, A Level Law and A Level Chemistry often pick up Media Studies as a ‘3rd or 4th AS’ but end up taking the course forward at HE as their main subject.
  • GCSE Media Studies offers learners the opportunity to study a creative, practical but also academic course that can be utilised in a number of ways by centres – as a two year qualification or as a one year course for gifted and talented learners, taken early in Year 10 or in Year 11.

The Specifications – GCSE and A Level

The OCR GCSE Media Studies specification is set to change from September 2016 teaching but currently (as of September 2014) takes a topic specific approach with external assessment consisting of questions on a Section A unseen Action Adventure clip (Moving Image) or Print Stimulus (Print) and Section B industry questions on television/radio comedy. Whether taken over one year or two years there are two controlled assessments – one individual Media Studies Portfolio comprising a comparative analytical assignment, production exercise and evaluative commentary and one Production based Portfolio. External Assessment v Controlled Assessment weighting is 40:60.

AQA GCSE Media Studies is offered as a single or double award (4 units) with the examined topic changing for Unit 1 Investigating the Media every year – the summer 2015 examined topic is Television News also including analysis of news on other platforms. The exam has a practical component where pupils respond to Pre Release material distributed a month before the exam. The single award controlled assessment comprises three assignments; an introductory assignment, cross media assignment, practical production and evaluation while the double award controlled assessment allows pupils to respond to aset brief which is changed annually. The double award external assessment comprises 10 short answer industry questions with 5 longer responses to a piece of media stimulus. Single Award and Double Award External Assessment v Controlled Assessment weighting is 40:60.

WJEC GCSE Media Studies again changes its examined topic every year with summer 2015 assessment analysing Print Advertising for Section A and TV Advertising for Section B. Section B takes a more practical, creative approach. The qualification is only available as a single award with one controlled assessment that contains two textual investigations reflecting two different media areas and one production which comprises research, planning, the production itself and an evaluation.  The duration of the exam is 2 ¼ hours compared to AQA Unit 1 at 1 ½ hours and OCR at 1 ¾ hours. Within the exam there are four questions for Section A and five tasks set for Section B. External Assessment v Controlled Assessment weighting is 40:60.

WJEC A Level Media Studies examines either unseen print or audio-visual stimulus in the AS external assessment focussing on narrative, genre, textual analysis, audiences and representation while the internally assessed coursework has a pre production, production and evaluative report element and a broad range of possible briefs. For A2, learners study three texts reflecting three different media industries for the external assessment and answer a question on each industry in the exam. Internally assessed coursework comprises a research investigation of between 1400-1800 words, a production and an evaluation. External Assessment v Internal Assessment weighting is 50:50, both AS and A2 exams are 2 ½ hours long.

OCR A Level Media Studies again is set to change its specification from September 2016 teaching but currently the 2 unit AS exam has as external assessment textual analysis of issues of representation in an unseen television drama extract for Section A while in Section B centres have the option of studying a specific media industry and audience from Video Games, Film, Television, Radio, Music, Newspapers and Magazines. One piece of AS internally assessed coursework (the Foundation Portfolio in Media) is from a choice of set briefs. The 2 unit A2 course in the external assessment asks students to theoretically evaluate their own production in Section A (a fundamental difference from AQA and WJEC) and choose one or two Contemporary Media Issue topics to study from Section B – these are Global Media, Media and Collective Identity, Media in the Online Age, Postmodern Media, Contemporary Media Regulation and ‘We Media’ and Democracy (one questions is answered from a choice of two). Internally assessed coursework (the Advanced Portfolio in Media) is again from a choice of set OCR briefs. External Assessment v Internal Assessment weighting is 50:50, both AS and A2 exams are 2 hours long.

AQA A Level Media Studies asks students to respond to stimulus material in Section A of the AS external assessment Unit 1, via four short questions (the stimulus, like WJEC will be either print or audio visual). In Section B there are a choice of two questions reflecting a cross media study chosen by the student and centre. AS internally assessment coursework Unit 2 choices are from a menus of set briefs and have two linked production pieces taken from two of the three media platforms studied in Unit 1, plus a 1500 word evaluation. For A2 study, the external assessment again involves responding to unseen stimulus for Section A but only for three questions while Section B requires an essay based response to a choice of two topics, Identities and the Media or The Impact of New/Digital Media. A2 internally assessed coursework is a critical investigation and production piece. External Assessment v Internal Assessment weighting is 50:50, both AS and A2 exams are 2 hours long.