Hi, My name is Rachel Heyes. I am a Lecturer at The Manchester College. I currently work within the Adult Sector as a Coordinator and Personal Tutor for the BBC Media Apprentice Scheme and teach film and media on various adult programmes. I have experience in teaching A-Level Media Studies and the BTEC First & National Diploma in Media Production. As a graduate from mainly film theory based courses at Liverpool John Moores University and The University of Central Lancashire, I specialize in teaching film theory. Myindustry experience includes writing for student newspapers, working as a runner for a camera crew filming TV commercials and being an assistant to a film producer. This paper for the Huddersfield University Specialist Conference is based upon my experience teaching theory based material to students in Further Education.
For those of you who have little or no experience of teaching semiotics, I’d like to briefly introduce you to the concept of before I move forward. One method or theory of analysis that is likely to be utilised within all media courses, is semiotics. As with many of the ‘grand’ theories in film and media, ‘Semiotics remains something of a dirty word’ due to it’s somewhat confusing and multi-layered nature alongside the numerous semioticians adaptations and developments in this field. It is however one theory which should be used as ‘pupils are already likely to be using semiotic methods, in practice if not by name, in English’ at GCSE level. It is ‘helpful, if challenging to introduce semiotics, the study of signs, as a means to develop visual and aesthetic literacy’. As the development of visual and aesthetic literacy is a requirement as part of the theoretical and analytical aspects of the media production course, all students need to learn what semiotic analysis is and how to apply it to media products in some context.
Semiotics is a system of signs and meanings that was originally a linguistic system but was later developed by some theorists to be used as a way to explain the system of signs in all media products. The concept of semiotics may be explained by this diagram. There is an excellent You Tube video which I like to show students if possible (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEgxTKUP_WI)
In relation to teaching media as a subject – Any element of a media product may be analysed beyond its simple presence to understand its meaning and how meaning is created. For example...
This image from Legally Blonde signifies a flower in the girl’s hair with which femininity is signified; these two aspects constitute a sign which refers to the idea of femininity in Western culture to produce a meaning for this character as being a feminine person
Relating this to the course that I teach (the course that this study is based upon) The BTEC National Diploma in Media Production (Television and Film) is designed to enable learners to ‘develop deep, specialist, practical skills and understanding’ (Edexcel 2010). The course assesses learners on their practical, creative and theoretical abilities through a portfolio of work
Both the examining body and the learner requirements indicate a need for the inclusion of theory
Learners generally choose to enroll on a National Diploma course in order to learn the practical skills they require in order to gain employment within the film and television industries and/or the theoretical knowledge to support these skills that may allow them to be competent in these industries and/or continue their studies in higher education. This year 68% HE 23% Unrelated Employment 9% Related Employment
One might explain the course as having a 60/40 emphasis on practical skills in relation to theory. Due to this emphasis and the learner’s own priority with regards to practical skills, it can be challenging to focus these students on theoretical and analytical aspects of media production.
when teaching media production students theoretical concepts ‘it is difficult to get students to slow down and think deeply about one text’ The students are not used to spending a period of time considering any particular theoretical or analytical aspect of a media product, they are much more accustomed to having to meet the demands of the media production environment which is fast paced and requires them to create high quality products in a short period of time Slowing down and thinking deeply is required in order for students to follow the ideal processes outlined to understand and utilise semiotic analysis. This is the challenge of the academic or theory tutor on a practical media production course and is one that I accept and work towards on a regular basis I believe that these learners deserve to be challenged and given the opportunity to develop theoretical analysis skills and achieve high grades in all of their units and understanding semiotic analysis can be the key to stimulating their interest in media analysis. (Refer to Literacy Levels of Students on Courses at Enrolment)
I created a survey using survey monkey to help me with some ideas for this paper Survey Respondents (15) 79% ND, 21% FD 100% Would prefer the course to focus on theory 48% Director / Film Industry Directing 84%, Camera Work 74%, Producing 63% Evaluation 16%, Analysis 11%, Literacy 5% Theories Influences 47%, Criticism 41%, Auteur 41%, Society 35%, Audiences 29%
One of my proposals is that Semiotics should be introduced to learners following the stages suggested by Blooms taxonomy. Knowledge – The teacher should present information in relation to the history and structure of semiotics Understanding – The teacher should provide the students with an example of semiotic analysis such as a still image (photograph) Analysis – The teacher should demonstrate semiotic analysis using a media text such as a still image (screen shot) or moving image (short sequence) Synthesis – The learners should attempt to use semiotics to analyse a media text such as a still image (screen shot) or moving image (short sequence) under the close supervision of the teacher. Learners should be placed in groups at this stage in order to ensure facilitate discussion. Evaluation – The learners should summarise their semiotic analysis in the form of a report or essay in which they use semiotic analysis to analyse a media text such as a still image (screen shot) or moving image (short sequence) in detail
These are some activities that I suggest / might be utilised
Here are some examples of student work which can be visual
Jeffery Nokes developed a structure chart to improve learner’s abilities in analysing media products. The chart is designed to enable learners to read ‘between the lines to sense the underlying meanings that are conveyed implicitly by a text’ The chart has two columns, the first relates to the object and is a place for the learners to make notes on any aspect of the media product that they can identify as being able to infer further meaning as shown in the diagram
The headings were subsequently amended to Element (Object) and Reading (Inference), which are terms that the media students are more familiar with and could understand and utilise more effectively as in the diagram:
A method of recording notes in a structured manner such as the OI Chart should be utilised in order to prompt learners to make adequate notes during synthesis and evaluation. Charts such as this would be very effective.
In conclusion, it is important to ensure that learners on a predominantly practical course such as the BTEC National Diploma in Media Production (Television and Film) learn theories such as semiotics and can apply them analytically to media products in order to develop key skills, knowledge and understanding of media texts.