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Type: Thesis
Title: Comics and pedagogy : authorship, authority and literacy
Author: Humphrey, Aaron Scott
Issue Date: 2016
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: Comics can be used as sophisticated teaching tools at a high level of education. Comic books, graphic novels and digital comics are increasingly being accepted into educational institutions, as instructional texts, textbooks and even as a way of publishing academic research. Although advocates for teaching with comics are growing alongside studies showing the benefits of educational comics, there has been little research done to situate educational comics within a theoretical framework. This thesis addresses that gap using several methodologies, including cultural and historical discourse analysis, multimodal analysis and a practice-based case study. I have approached each of these methodologies from the perspective of critical pedagogy, specifically the philosophy of educational constructivism that argues that learners draw on available resources to create their own knowledge. My argument connects this constructivist understanding of comics with the work of media theorist Marshall McLuhan who suggested that comics, like seminars, have the quality of being open to interpretation and participation, compared to the more authoritative qualities of traditional printed text and lectures. Since their inception, comics have had a fraught relationship with authority and education. Despite this, educational comics have been published for more than a century. For example, at the same time that Fredric Wertham was testifying about the dangers of comic books at the 1954 U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, cartoonist Will Eisner was working for the U.S. Army as editor of an educational comic book for their troops. This thesis traces how the relationship between comics and education developed and evolved as pedagogical attitudes about literacy, authority, and the role of students in the classroom shifted during the 20th and early 21st century. It also shows how educational comics themselves changed in accordance with these cultural shifts to model different kinds of pedagogical design, highlighting how the work of Eisner, Mexican cartoonist Rius and comics theorist Scott McCloud have influenced the current boom of educational graphic novels. By engaging broadly with the historical, cultural and formal challenges and opportunities of using comics as vehicles for education, I propose that comics mediate concepts of authorship and authority in ways that align strongly with the principles of constructivist pedagogy. To put this hypothesis into practice, the final section of this thesis details how I designed and drew an educational comic for new doctors at a hospital in Queensland to help them improve their abilities to manage professional challenges. I designed this comic in accordance with theories developed in this thesis, and its effectiveness, as demonstrated through a series of qualitative and quantitative tests, helps to validate those theories. As an additional level of practice research, several chapters of this thesis were also composed entirely as comics. As a whole, this thesis presents a critical and historical survey of the field of educational comics, and suggests how they can be best understood and designed to improve teaching and learning.
Advisor: Humphreys, Sal
Wilmore, Mike
Chad, Habel
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2016
Keywords: Comic books, strips, etc., in education; Graphic novels in education; Visual education; Teaching -- Aids and devices
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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