From Language Skills to Literacy: Broadening the Scope of English Language Education Through Media Literacy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

From Language Skills to Literacy

Broadening the Scope of English Language Education Through Media Literacy, 1st Edition

By Csilla Weninger


180 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780415788885
pub: 2018-11-06
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315223100
pub: 2018-11-01
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The narrowing of English language education curriculum in many contexts has negatively impacted classroom teaching and learning. High-stakes standardized testing, scripted curricula, and the commodification of English have converged to challenge socially meaningful classroom literacy instruction that promotes holistic development. Although in different ways, these factors have shaped the teaching of English as both first and second language.

How can English educators respond? This book argues that the first step is to take account of the broader policy, political and cultural landscape and to identify the key constraints affecting teachers, students and parents. These will set the broad parameters for developing local pedagogic approaches, while still recognizing the constraints that actively push against them. Using Singapore English language teaching as a case study, this book illustrates how this process can unfold, and how media literacy principles were vernacularized to design English classroom pedagogies that stretched the bounds of what is acceptable and possible in the local context.


‘This book makes an important contribution to broadening our understanding of how culture shapes the practice of media literacy education in schools.’ - Renee Hobbs, Professor, Communication Studies, Harrington School of Communication and Media, The University of Rhode Island, USA

'In an era of fake news and digital ideologies, internet surveillance and espionage, with governments and corporations vying for our attention and privacy - Csilla Weninger's critical reworking of media literacy is essential reading. This is a timely reminder of the foundations of work in the field and the practical, ethical imperatives for working with teachers and young people.' - Allan Luke, Emeritus Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

'Prime targets in the expanding, globalised commodity market for English language and literacy education are policymakers, school leaders, classroom teachers, and parents. English language and literacy skills are commonly connected to global cultural and economic participation, to national productivity, and increasingly, to internal cultural cohesion and harmony. Nowhere are these imperatives more evident than in Singapore – a multilingual and deeply multicultural Asian society, with largely human rather than natural resources, with an English-medium school system, with an ethos of rapid technology adoption, and in the lead position in OECD’s global literacy assessments. This setting presents Singapore-based media literacy educator Csilla Weninger with a set of intriguing challenges, and this book develops her response: that progressive and sustainable language pedagogies call for a richer account of the broader and rapidly developing policy, political, and cultural landscapes impacting educators, students, and parents – for a ‘zooming out’. Weninger’s book is based on designing innovative pedagogies that have the potential to provide educators with productive ways of navigating the multiple, often apparently opposing aims of English curriculums. To do this, she ‘zooms in,’ showing us educators caught between the high aspirations of policy statements, the urgent realities of skills testing in print literacy, and the multimodal, multi-perspective, often dangerous zone that is the new communication environment.

Of particular value is Weninger’s outline of a media literacy framework, a template that can be readily generalised to a range of other curriculum areas. Its main dimensions are ethical, aesthetic, functional, and critical, and the book shows us how these dimensions were operationalised and put to work in Singaporean classrooms, along with the successes, irritations, and blockages encountered along the way. Weninger documents real break-throughs, but also how pursuing reform on this scale, with this breadth of aspiration, is not an easy road: The high stakes that assessing accuracy and fluency in English language and literacy evokes lead her to conclude that school English may not be the best home for media literacy education. So Weninger gives us, instead of more utopian promises about the multimedia digital world of learning, a detailed, ‘live’ picture of intelligent, committed teachers at the sharp end of schooling’s conflicting promises to the economy, to communities, and to individuals. Weninger finds encouragement only through confronting and working creatively with these tensions. For working educators – in universities, policy bureaus, districts and schools, and, especially, in classrooms – this book is accessible and, importantly, useful. Weninger is a smart, even amiable, companion, with a resolute optimism about the big picture and the long haul.'- Peter Freebody, Honorary Professor, The University of Sydney, Australia

'As articulated in the Introduction, a key purpose of this book is to argue that “progressive and sustainable language pedagogies” are only possible if educators can take into account a variety of local variables. While that notion is not new, Dr Weninger presents a powerful portrayal of why this is the case as well as memorable examination of how multiple variables can impact literacy pedagogies and attempts at changing those pedagogies. The book begins with a broad historical sweep of the development of English language education and literacy. A highlight is the consistent consideration of both L1 and L2 teaching in light of that development and how English literacy education responds to changing policy landscapes. Clearly summarized, readers will find the overviews presented by Dr Weninger to be informative and relevant to ways in which classroom teaching is currently impacted by policy views.

The heart of the book, however, is in a school-based study of media literacy instruction in Singapore and the lessons that we can learn from no matter the context in which we teach. Transcripts of lesson excerpts and highly readable discussions of those excerpts provide useful examples and food for thought for teachers, curriculum developers, and teacher educators who are interested in media literacy and in effective classroom literacy discussions. Student views are also explored as another important perspective to be taken into account.

Dr Weninger brings the discussion full circle in the closing chapter where she notes the historical, current and continuing issues faced in literacy education including: functional-cognitive (as compared with more social) perspectives which limit understandings of what literacy is; the pervasive use of high-stakes assessments, especially as paper-based examinations of functional literacy; and, the view that media literacy is somehow an ‘add-on’ despite continuing public concern about ‘fake news’ and social media use. Her reflections on her own school-based work and what this might mean in a broader, international context are thought-provoking and relevant to the broad audience this book reaches out to.' - Rita E. Silver, Associate Professor, National Institute of Education, Singapore

'In From language skills to literacy: Broadening the scope of English language education through media literacy, Weninger grapples with a central question of modern education, namely: How can educators prepare their students to critically deal with the multimodal media they encounter everyday while at the same time preparing them for the narrow skill-based exams they must face? In addressing this question, Weninger describes her own attempt to integrate media literacy into a traditionally skill-based language classroom in Singapore. The book is unique in both raising a central concern of modern day education and in documenting how media literacy, within a critical, aesthetic and ethical framework, can be introduced into a traditional classroom.' - Sandra McKay, Professor Emerita, San Francisco State University, USA

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables

List of appendices


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: English language and literacy education: A historical overview

Chapter 3: Media literacy: Key ideas and connections to English literacy education

Chapter 4: Challenges to a literacy approach to teaching English

Chapter 5: Bridging theory, curriculum and pedagogy: Developing a framework for media literacy through English

Chapter 6: A contextual look at the media literacy dimensions in pedagogic practice

Chapter 7: Developing and implementing the media literacy unit in Eastridge Secondary School

Chapter 8: The question of authenticity: Students’ experiences with school media/literacy education

Chapter 9: Conclusion



About the Author

Csilla Weninger is associate professor in the department of English Language and Literature at the National Institute of Education, Singapore. Her research examines the imprint and impact of political and institutional ideologies on the conduct of schooling, including its material dimensions such as textbooks as well as everyday pedagogies. Her publications have appeared, among others, in Teaching and Teacher Education, Discourse, TESOL Quarterly, Linguistics and Education, and ELT Journal.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Language Education

The Routledge Research in Language Education series provides a platform for established and emerging scholars to present their latest research and discuss key issues in Language Education. This series welcomes books on all areas of language teaching and learning, including but not limited to language education policy and politics, multilingualism, literacy, L1, L2 or foreign language acquisition, curriculum, classroom practice, pedagogy, teaching materials, and language teacher education and development. Books in the series are not limited to the discussion of the teaching and learning of English only.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Bilingual Education
EDUCATION / Curricula
EDUCATION / Teaching Methods & Materials / Library Skills
EDUCATION / Teaching Methods & Materials / Language Arts