Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Jeffrey A. Mangram


English, Film, High School, Narrative Film, Teachers

Subject Categories



Although English teachers have integrated narrative film into their classroom instruction for over a century, the medium remains highly vulnerable to suspicion of its pedagogic value. While film has become ubiquitous in the English classroom, training for teachers in instructing with the medium remains nearly non-existent. This has led to the regular misuse of film as a time-filler, babysitter, reward, or mere break for student and teacher, alike. Such malpractice has only reinforced skepticism of film’s instructional value in the classroom despite the ample scholarly literature supporting its inherently cognitive nature and literary and linguistic likeness. Though film has been codified in the English Language Arts standards, none offer best-practice teaching methods. Therefore, this dissertation investigated how high school English teachers in central New York make sense of and instruct with narrative film in the classroom.

Twelve high school English teachers from five school districts participated in this study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, direct observations, and document analysis and was informed by a multi-layered theoretical lens consisting of structuralism and its related offshoots, as well as schema theory and critical pedagogy. The results of this study revealed that these teachers understood film as another narrative form of text, with the same active learning potential as printed literature when employed purposefully, and with particular benefit for struggling and marginalized students. Effective practices, as participants understood them, took three distinct pathways, relating to what the teacher does in the classroom while film plays, and through centering instruction on either what or how film communicates. Participants saw the power of the visuals in film as particularly effective for teaching plays, for helping students critically examine their world and themselves, and for teaching skills related to evidence-based writing, analysis of literary techniques, and the Common Core Regents exam and state standards by transferring student understanding from the screen to the printed page.


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