Knowledge Bank - Creative Teaching & Learning

Using Film In Education

Film has been a major feature of popular culture for a hundred years, and the moving image now dominates all aspects of the transmission of information. How can film be integrated into the curriculum?

Using film in education – Sponsored by the National Education Union

Film has been a major feature of popular culture for a hundred years, and the moving image now dominates all aspects of the transmission of information. Schools, however, have been very slow to move away from their dependency on text.  Study after study suggests that children now, particularly boys, need visual stimulates to support their learning and that all children receive a lot of their social and moral learning through film and TV, and forms of social media like YouTube.

Yet where film and moving images are used in education it is considered a pleasant introduction to new concepts, ideas or books, something innovative and a little outside the mainstream of teaching and learning. The research suggests it can and should play a much bigger role; it can be used to support social and moral understanding, to teach values and character, to support the development of information literacy in a visual world. Its techniques can be used to underpin mainstream skills like writing, be it creative narrative or fact-based presentations and perhaps most importantly of all, it can help develop critical reflection and a sceptical knowledge of how to review the way visual meanings are constructed to influence us. The research speaks volumes about the potential of film and the moving image to make learning more relevant and ‘fun’ and how much of that potential is being missed.

In  2011, Film: 21st Century Literacy, which is backed by the BFI, FILMCLUB, Film Education, First Light and Skillset, conducted an opinion survey of teachers in order to research and report current classroom practices involving film, their benefits to pupils, their impacts on pedagogy and what  the future of the use of film in education might be. 387 people completed the survey; South-east England had the highest amount of teachers already using film, with Wales having the least. English teachers were the most compliant towards film in education with 95 teachers using film techniques in their classrooms; the next closest was MFL teachers at 35. Furthermore, the survey found that further education teachers were 16 percent more likely to use film in their lessons than primary school teachers, which the majority of these also being English teachers. Film making and film watching were the two highest activities done by these teachers.

The survey went on to ask teachers for their opinions on key topics involving film education. The highlight of these were “do you believe that a wide range of films broaden and encourage children’s learning and understanding of the world and culture?” 100 percent of those surveyed agreed that this was the case. The vast majority (99%) also agreed that film is a means of getting young people enthusiastic about their subject.

In perhaps the most interesting section of the survey, teachers were asked about their opinions on the benefits of using film for their students. 83 percent of those surveyed believe that using film would inspire creative thinking in their students. When teachers were asked to rate their most significant three improvements, ‘attitude towards learning/motivation to learn’ was the highest ranked factor.

Teachers were asked if there was one particular demographic group that they noticed undergo a more marked change than others. Many teachers felt that no one group benefitted more than others, but a remarkable amount of teachers commented that using film significantly improved boy’s literacy. For girls, many teachers mentioned improvements in confidence, although this comment was spread quite evenly across ages and genders, as was the comment that motivation improved.

Overall Impacts on Teachers

84 percent of the teachers interviewed agreed that film allowed them to teach a wider range of ability levels, including the more difficult and challenging pupils. The impact of using film is clear. When asked about their personal experiences, 74 percent of teachers believed that there should definitely be more film education opportunities offered to young people at their schools, and that pupils who participated in the film project would want to take part in more film related activities should these be available.

In a separate piece of research conducted independently by the BFI and lead by Mark Reid in order to understand how film is currently used in Europe and how it could be used globally, going forward.  The defined purpose behind film literacy in Europe is: ‘for young people, to provide awareness and knowledge about our film heritage and increasing interest in these films and in recent European films, the ultimate goal being to build a long term audience for European films.

The responses from national representatives indicated a clear set of priorities. The highest priority in the formal curriculum (selected by most countries) was given to the development of film language and filmmaking skills, closely followed by the understanding of film as an art form and critical viewing.

The BFI used the results from their research in order to create recommendations on how to improve film education going forward. The most prominent recommendation was to develop a series of models of film education for Europe, that include appreciation of film as an art form, critical understanding, access to national heritage, world cinema and popular film, and creative filmmaking skills.

The research goes onto look at what strategies are already in place in European countries. The strongest models of provision are those with national strategies jointly devised/ endorsed by both Culture and Education ministries, with strong industry support, and we found few examples of this ‘Only Northern Ireland appears to have a fully integrated national film education strategy. The Scandinavian countries are generally strong. In Finland, although there is no overall film strategy, there are several agencies and non-governmental organisations highly active in the promotion of film education. And in Denmark and Sweden, each respective Film Institute has its own ‘national strategy.’ Finally, the BFI proposed a ‘Translation Fund’ which supports national agencies in adapting strategic approaches from other, similar nations and territories, and supports professional development and exchange of key workers in those agencies in meeting and learning from colleagues in other countries.

There is an ongoing project in Bradford which is increasing writing standards through the use of film. Students are given chances to watch, review and create films. A highlight of this project happened when pupils from Flowery Fields Primary, attended the National Media and Science Museum in Bradford for the film in education screening. The students were then each given a chance to showcase their films and the creative processes behind them on the big stage.

A final piece of research by ‘Scottish Screen’ highlights the impacts of moving image education (MIE). This research found that there are commonly seven generic impacts of MIE, these are:

  • Learners’ enjoyment and sense of achievement.
  • Disaffected or underachieving learners showing engagement and concentration.
  • Increased motivation, confidence, and self-image.
  • Increased attainment in literacy.
  • Increased skills in collaboration and teamwork.
  • Increased knowledge about, and interest in, making moving images.
  • Increased interest in watching and talking about moving images.

However, these impacts closely mirror those found in a wide range of research and evaluation on cultural interventions in education. In 2002, a review of the available evidence about the impact of ICT on the learning of literacy associated with moving image texts in English for ages 5-16 was undertaken by Andrew Burn and Jenny Leach. This research portrayed MIE in a positive light and listed the 7 above impacts as the ‘generic impacts.’

Impacts of Moving Image Education by Cary Bazalgette for Scottish Screen
Film Literacy – Raising Writing Standards with Film by Tim Bleazard
Screening Literacy: Executive Summary by the British Film Institute (BFI)
Teaching Using Film – Statistical Evidence by Film: 21st Century Literacy

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