Critical medial literacy – Protectionist and Critical pedagogy approach

Lukanne Lowe

  Protectionist approachSM..

The protectionist approach according to Abels Tobias (2008) states “this approach remains the most popular with education” (p. 5).  The other current approaches to media education include the  critical thinking approach and the media arts or appreciation approach. The protectionist approach described by Redmond (2012) states “media literacy practice is to inoculate youth with a cognitive defence against the media in order to protect them from potentially harmful media messages and effects” (p. 107). Kellner and Share (2005) also agree, they stated that “A traditionalist “protectionist” approach would attempt to “inoculate” young people against the effects of media addiction and manipulation” (p. 372). The protectionist approach come from media educators, theorists and scholars who see viewers as needing shielding from the media and all that it constructs. Abels and Tobias (2008) describe viewers as people who need protection from the negative influences that the media contains. The protectionist approach focuses on students being able to have the appropriate skills to deconstruct texts so that students’ “can protect themselves from the onslaught of negative messages and resist the ideological power of media texts” (p. 5).  Negative influences in the media have strengthened the promotion for the protectionist approach. Negative influences such as violence, stereotypes, misrepresentations, sexuality, and unhealthy attitudes towards eating, smoking and drinking. The aim is for teachers to increase students’ understanding of how the media works, whose interests they serve, how media representations construct media texts and events (“reality”), and how those constructed events are read and understood (Abels & Tobias, 2008). This approach, also known as the interventionist approach has its implications and because of the various viewing habits learners have and their ways of interacting with the media, it makes it increasingly difficult to say media education will result in students’ resistance to the dangerous effects of the media.

Critical Pedagogy approach


Other than the three approaches previously mentioned Abels Tobias (2008) states a forth approach, the critical pedagogy approach. This approach goes beyond critically thinking about what, how and why the media portrays what it does.  Abels Tobias (2008) states that “critical pedagogy is a form of citizenship training and students should be taught to use their knowledge to advocate for social, political and racial equality” (p. 8). This approach is concerned with developing critical thinking skills about the media leading to viewers being able to make “wise” choices about their media viewing. Further on Abels Tobias (2008) states that “We need to know more than who is producing and consuming media as appreciation of the significance of contemporary media demands knowledge of why media is produced and “under what constraints and conditions” it is produced. This approach is more than viewing a form of media and deconstructing the media and events, it is about critically thinking beyond what is presented and thinking about how and why it is presented and what were the processes involved in  the media that is produced.

For me, media literacy is about knowing the importance of being able to critically analyse media and having the right information and tools to teach it to the next generation. “Media literacy education extends knowledge and skill competencies from reading and writing print texts to include analysis of texts in all forms. Media literacy is commonly defined as the ability to access, analyse, evaluate, and communicate information in all forms” (Redmond, 2012, p. 106).


Abels Tobias, J. (2008). Culturally relevant media studies: A review of approaches and pedagogies. Studies in Media and Information Literacy Education, 8(4), 1-17. doi:10.3138/sim.8.4.002

Kellner, D., & Share, J. (2005). Toward critical media literacy: Core concepts, debates, organizations, and policy. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 26(3), 369-386

Redmond, T. (2012). The pedagogy of critical enjoyment: Teaching and reaching the hearts and minds of adolescent learners through media literacy education. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 4(2), 106-120.

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2 thoughts on “Critical medial literacy – Protectionist and Critical pedagogy approach

  1. I like the descriptions you gave for the different approaches – it was clear and helped me understand how to detangle each one from the other. This critical pedagogy approach is quite advanced – could you see it working in a class with juniors? What age do you think would be the best age to begin form of critical ‘awareness’?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is quite advanced but I do think it is important to teach kids not only how to use the media but how the media uses them. Even if it is taught in a very basic and simple way at a young age I think it will be beneficial to children when they are older and they can start critiquing and questioning it in a more advanced way.

      I was looking through a few websites about media literacy and stated “The more questions we can ask about what we are experiencing around us, the more alert we can be about accepting or rejecting messages. Research indicates that, over time, children of all ages can learn age-appropriate skills that give them a new set of glasses with which they can “read” their media culture”.

      I agree that this approach is quite advanced but with the right age appropriate skills and resources, students of any age can be aware and educated.


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