To educate and entertain: the pedagogy of television

Ava Laure Parsemain

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Many media scholars agree that television can be used as an informal site of teaching and learning. However, little is known about how television teaches. This thesis explores the pedagogy of television by investigating the processes by which television teaches and viewers learn. It addresses the following questions: how does television teach through production techniques and textual features? How do viewers learn from television? To investigate televisual pedagogy as a communicative process, this study links producers’ discourses, audiovisual textuality and audience responses. By connecting production, text and reception, it shows how teaching and learning interact in the context of televisual communication. Taking into account the distinction between public service and commercial television and the traditional demarcation between programmes that are explicitly produced to educate and those that are produced primarily to entertain, it examines the production, textual features, and reception of two Australian programmes: Who Do You Think You Are?, a documentary series broadcast on the public service channel SBS, and Home and Away, a soap opera broadcast on the commercial Seven Network. These two case studies reveal that regardless of conventional labels and categorisations, entertainment plays a crucial role in televisual education. In addition, they highlight the role of authenticity and realism in televisual teaching and learning. Although different programmes use different techniques and generic conventions to achieve this goal, it is argued that television must signify the real and invite referential involvement in order to educate, and that viewers must trust that the programme is authentic, realistic or accurate in order to learn from it. This thesis contributes new knowledge in two ways. Firstly, it demonstrates that entertainment is not only compatible with education, but that it can serve televisual pedagogy. Secondly, it makes an original contribution to audience research by distinguishing two modalities of response: critical viewing, which is a form of intellectual distance that hinders learning, and critical involvement, which facilitates learning through literate analysis, trust and intellectual proximity with the content.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of New South Wales
  • Mills, Jane, Supervisor
  • Harindranath, Ramaswami, Supervisor
Award date2 Dec 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • television
  • entertainment
  • education
  • pedagogy
  • documentary
  • soap opera


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