Critical Pedagogy for Socially Just Media Production Education and Media Work Futures

June 21, 2021

Bio: As a PhD candidate in the Equity Studies program, I research relationships between media production education, media work cultures, and systems of oppression. My work engages critical and decolonial pedagogy, social justice education practices, critical whiteness studies, feminist and queer theory, and media and cultural studies. I work as an instructor in the Communication Studies, Motion Picture Arts, and Women’s and Gender Studies departments at Capilano University. Previously, I was a film and television producer and executive for Canadian and international productions.

You have worked in film production before and taken a critical stance toward media studies. Can you tell us how your journey has evolved? 

When I worked as a media executive, I experienced and witnessed many of the challenges, abuses, and inequities of media industry work that many people are now aware of through recent news reporting and social media movements. The problems exist in front of and behind the camera as they are embedded in a work culture that media studies scholar Julie Frechette calls “go along to get along” (2019). So it has not been part of media work cultures to question, speak up about, or refuse work practices. It has also not been acceptable for media workers to challenge offensive, harmful, and/or stereotypical acting or writing choices because these are considered off-limits to anyone but the studios, broadcasters, and key creatives like the director, writer(s), or producer(s).

After over a decade of working in the industry, I was recruited by some teacher-practitioners to teach courses in media producing in a newer hands-on film degree program at Capilano University. They told me the purpose of the program was to train students to do better in the industry. What I discovered, once I began teaching, is that teacher-practitioners have all kinds of different ideas about what media-production students need to learn. Some instructors prioritize teaching students to endure work hardships, but for many it is about teaching detailed craft skills and new technologies. For others like me, it is a priority to educate for the purpose of challenging how media work cultures are constructed in harmful and oppressive ways. Given the lack of industry standards for media production education, and the wide variety of educational approaches I have witnessed through eleven years of teaching, early on I was really bothered that teaching future media workers might happen uncritically. It left me with a sense of unease that media teaching and learning approaches might reproduce these harms too. These concerns led me to start researching media production education practices through an equity studies lens.

My dog Chewy Lewis is my constant doctoral companion and one of the main reasons I remember to stop work and get outdoors. Together we walk, run, bike, and hike, and these things help us process our ideas.

You mentioned critical pedagogy influenced your thinking toward media studies. Can you describe your area of studies and how influential this perspective has been for your doctoral research?    

When I started exploring critical pedagogy, it was such a relief to read scholars like Freire, hooks, or Giroux because they offered me insight on how teaching practices could be reconceived to centre students’ agency and citizenship. Alongside decolonial pedagogies of scholars like Tuck or Cote-Meek, these readings supported my thinking about how traditional educational hierarchies might serve to control students based on often immaterial or punitive assessment criteria and educational processes. As I studied, I consistently thought these theories would be important for media educators to integrate in their teaching practices in order to avoid reproducing media-oriented dominance. These theories, then, can also assist students in learning about the kind of agency needed to refuse harmful media industry practices and inequities, and transform media futures.

My doctoral research undertakes a critical discourse analysis of the top six media production program websites in Canada. I ask what media production education programs say they do and explore the implications of what they say they do. Critical pedagogy has attuned my analysis to the ways media education programs frame their faculty and students as agentic and/or compliant with media industry practices and cultures. In my work, critical pedagogy is engaged alongside cultural and creative industries research, media studies, and equity studies and social justice literature: these all assist me in analyzing the tensions among media cultures, social responsibility, social justice, and individualism or individual expression in media education. It has been exciting for me to get to this point of being able to analyze and express some of my earlier frustrations by theorizing and articulating more socially just methods of media teaching and learning.

How would you describe the potential impact of your research? What perspectives would it bring to your field of research?

There is a dearth of research on media production education specifically, yet there are quite significant changes happening with respect to diversity and equity in the media industries right now. I hope my doctoral research can be used and developed further with the participation of other media educators so that media production education programs in Canada have empirical research to support more socially just education practices: particularly with respect to teaching and learning, program and curriculum design, hiring practices, and teaching evaluation processes. Overall, my blue-sky hope is that my work will eventually inform and inspire media educators to take up more equitable media futures as a central principle of their teaching and program practices.

What would be your general advice for students and emerging scholars considering doing research in your field?

Many exciting and transformative social movements are happening within the media industries and broad media culture, so the time is ripe for questions about how our educational institutions are responding to and integrating these contemporary movements. Critical problems also endure in the media industries that need continued research. Examples of these include racism in media representations and industry work practices, and the widespread expansion of commercial media platforms dedicated to misinformation and disinformation. For students and emerging scholars, there are clear opportunities to study media industry problems as well as changes in how we educate future workers and leaders who will engage with these critical issues.


Frechette, J. (2019). #timesup: Breaking the barriers of sexual harassment in corporate media for you and #metoo. In M. Huff & A. Roth (Ed.), Censored 2019: Fighting the fake news invasion (pp. 185–208). 7 Stories Press.