Movie lessons for new learning

David Saltmarsh

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


    In 2004 the Australia Council of Deans of Education (ACDE) released a report entitled 'New teaching, new learning: A vision for Australian education'. This report was prepared on behalf of the ACDE by Mary Kalantzis and Andrew Harvey, respectively the President and Executive Officer of the ACDE. The argument put forward in the report is that education is implicated “in the realms of work, citizenship and identity … that learning is pivotal to its success, and that teaching is the central profession in the knowledge economy” (p. 5). However, developments in technological, commercial and other realms deem it necessary to reconsider the practices of, and the relationship between, teaching and learning. New Learning basically recommends that teachers concentrate on creating a productive learning environment and adopt teaching strategies that encourage students to take greater responsibility for their learning. The ACDE has thus called on educators to dramatically rethink “education systems, the nature of knowledge and the role that educators need to play” (p. 91). This invitation to reconceptualise teaching and learning also raises questions about what models of practice that may already exist and how these examples are popularly accepted. In popular culture the ‘urban school’ genre of movies portrays some teachers as individuals who are able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and succeed in teaching students for whom others have given up, and do so with positive results. These portrayals of ‘hero’ teachers have sometimes been dismissed as Hollywood fantasies designed to appeal to middle-class beliefs about the limitations imposed by bureaucracies, the power of the individual and the relative ease of overcoming what have become entrenched educational problems if a little creativity and persistence are applied (see Bulman, 2005). The urban school genre therefore was useful to explore using a basic discourse analytic approach for examples of teaching ‘success’ and evidence of teaching strategies that were consistent with the new learning approach. This paper examines the idea of ‘New Learning’ in relation to three urban school movies to ascertain whether the strategies depicted were consistent with the vision put forward by the ACDE. The three films considered Stand & deliver (Menendez, 1988), Dangerous minds (Smith, 1995) and Freedom writers (LaGravenese, 2006), were all set in Los Angeles public schools and respectively show events from 1982, 1989 and 1992. Interestingly, each of the movies also made some claim to being based on true story to some degree. In these movies instances of classroom interaction were analysed to determine the pedagogic strategies used by the teachers concerned. It was found that the first two films showed behaviourist teaching techniques, though the teachers were shown to be benevolent and caring. However, the more recent film, while portraying the teacher as a caring individualist, the film also contained examples of learning and teaching consistent with the new learning approach. In particular, the third film provided a strong example how narrative techniques can be used with students to good effect.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTeacher education crossing borders
    Subtitle of host publicationcultures, contexts, communities and curriculum : proceedings of the 2009 Australian Teacher Education Association National Conference
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    PublisherAustralian Teacher Education Association (ATEA)
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Print)9780975232446
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventAustralian Teacher Education Association conference 2009 - Albury, NSW
    Duration: 28 Jun 20091 Jul 2009


    ConferenceAustralian Teacher Education Association conference 2009
    CityAlbury, NSW


    • New Learning
    • urban school movies
    • pedagogy
    • narrative


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