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Multi-modal

TEACHING MEDIA IN THE ENGLISH CURRICULUM. By Andrew Hart and Alun Hicks. Trentham Books pound;16.95.

If you are interested in the role of the media in English, or the status of media studies in general, this book is worth reading. It documents research at Southampton University into the attitudes of English teachers to the teaching of media. It fills the gaps left by other major surveys done in this area, most notably by the British Film Institute, which looks at media provision in schools in general.

Andrew Hart and Alun Hicks draw significant comparisons with a previous study carried out at Southampton in the early 1990s. Their main finding was that the inclusion of a media component in the English GCSEsyllabuses, as opposed to simply a mention in the national curriculum, has ensured its place in the repertoire of all English teachers.

The nature of that work, however, was likely to depend on the board chosen. Those opting for the NEAB were likely to be less print-based in their teaching of this element, maybe because it was assessed through coursework rather than exam. Some teachers, using other boards, made no clear distinction between the requirements to teach non-fiction and the media. Journalism, information leaflets and to an extent advertisements satisfy both criteria.

What did not emerge as strongly as it might was the way English teachers routinely blur the distinctions between literature teaching and moving image media. The film of the book and multiple adaptations of Shakespeare plays are now an essential part of the English teachers' repertoire. Although this was acknowledged, the teachers surveyed did not appear to view this practice as part of media teaching.

This is significant, because it suggests that English teachers operate in a "multi-modal" context, shifting between texts in a variety of media without delineating such activities along predetermined English and media. In this way English, particularly literature, which has been avowedly print-based, is changing in line with developments outside the classroom.

Only one finding really surprises me: the lack of teaching of television drama. I regularly visit schools which use The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as part of their teaching on the gothic. Perhaps these are exceptions or once again echo the blurring of lines between English and media.

Bethan Marshall is a lecturer in English at King's College, London

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