Media Literacy: Analyzing Audience

Effective media literacy instruction to help students develop the skills to analyze and understand the role audience plays in the production and understanding of media.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Teacher-led student analysis and critical response to popular, media-based texts related to students’ course of study.

Method Components

Through any of a variety of methods (written report, poster, video or audio production, etc.) students clearly demonstrate the knowledge required to effectively analyze and understand the role audience plays in the development and understanding of specific pieces of popular media. This micro-credential forms one part of the message–audience–production (or Media Triangle) framework for teaching media literacy. Analyzing Production and Analyzing Message are additional micro-credentials in this set. Analysis can be conducted individually, in small groups, or in whole-group instruction.

Frames for analyzing the role of audience in the production and understanding of popular media

  • Target Audience: Who is the target audience for this media piece? How can you tell? What traits do members of the target audience share (i.e., gender, culture, age, political orientation, etc.)? What choices did the producers of the media make in order to appeal to this audience? How might the media be different if the target audience was different?
  • Frame of Reference: Will differences in the culture, age, gender, education, values, or beliefs of the audience affect the way the media is interpreted? Are multiple interpretations possible or intended?
  • Call to Action: What actions do the producers want the audience to take after seeing the media? Is this call to action the same for everyone? What choices did the producers make in order to make this call to action appeal to the target audience?
  • Background Knowledge: Is there specific knowledge, cultural background, or insider information required for the audience to understand the intended message? Does this required knowledge exclude some people from understanding the message? Do you think this was intended?

Suggested preparation

  • Media Choice: Choose a set of media that addresses specific content in your curriculum. Select media employing similar messaging and production formats, but targeted to different audiences. This will help to isolate audience as the key variable to explore so that students do not confound the analysis of audience with message and production.
  • Anticipatory Set: Before beginning formal analysis of media for the first time, address the role of media in the lives of your students either in whole-class or small-group discussion or through individual reflection and sharing. This ensures you and the class have an opportunity to express, consider, and explore students’ preconceptions about different media and its influence on them. Suggested questions include:

- Who and what is “the media”?

- Which medium appeals to you the most? Which medium do you most dislike? Why?

- Has any information you received from the media ever angered you? Made you feel really good?

- Do you think the media influence you in your attitudes toward school, work, family, clothing, what to eat and drink? If so, how?

- What cultural messages do you get from the media (e.g., regarding clothing, food, behavior, language, personal interactions)?

- Do you feel represented in the media (e.g., through references to race, religion, background, gender, age, talents, abilities, weaknesses)?

- Are certain issues or groups of people represented more often than others in the media? Why do you think this is?

  • Framing Analysis: Provide a specific lens for students to use during analysis. Are they consumers making decisions about what products to use? Are they teachers deciding what content best fits the needs of the class and best communicates the messages? Are they marketers or advertisers doing research for their own campaigns? Are they members of the voting public deciding how to cast their ballot? Or is there another problem to solve? Assigning a role helps students understand the relevance of the task by connecting it to a specific real-world purpose.
  • Reflecting and Sharing: Have students share and discuss their work with others. A gallery walk, class debate, blogging, presentations, or any number of other activities that promote discourse between students can be effective avenues to get students to reflect on their work in ways that will deepen and refine their thinking.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

This approach is informed by the Media Triangle (, a student-friendly approach to understanding the key concepts of media literacy. Students analyze media texts using prompts organized around the three arms of the triangle. Each arm can be simplified into the following questions:

- Message: What meaning is being conveyed?

- Audience: To whom is the meaning being conveyed?

- Production: How and why is the meaning being conveyed?

Embedded in the arms of the media triangle are the five key concepts of media literacy. The concepts overlap, supporting the ideas that understanding media messages requires consideration of multiple perspectives and that ideas come together to create meaning.

“Media literacy empowers people to be both critical thinkers and creative producers of an increasingly wide range of messages using image, language, and sound. It is the skillful application of literacy skills to media and technology messages.” - National Association of Media Literacy Education


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and 4 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • Activity Description: What project or activity did you engage in with your students to develop competency in analyzing the role audience plays in the production and understanding of media? What media artifacts did you use for the activity? (Provide URLs for all online artifacts and bibliographic citation for offline materials.) Explain the processes you used and any special considerations you made based on the subject area you teach.
  • Activity Evaluation: How did you evaluate your students’ skill and proficiency in analyzing audience? What evidence did you collect to demonstrate learning gains?

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

Submit two examples of student work (writing, images, video, audio, etc.) that demonstrate the students’ ability to effectively analyze the role audience plays in the production and understanding of media. Your student work submission will be assessed based on the following rubric. You must earn a “Yes” score on this portion of the total submission in order to earn the micro-credential.

Part 3. Student reflections

For each of the student artifacts listed above, submit a student reflection on his or her experience. Use the following questions as guidance (200 word limit):

  • How did this learning activity impact your ability to understand and evaluate the role of audience in the production and understanding of media?
  • In what ways is this improved ability important in your day-to-day life?
  • What decisions and actions of yours might be different due to this new understanding?

Part 4. Teacher reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as guidance (200-word limit):

  • What was the impact of engaging your students in the audience analysis process?
  • How will this project shape your daily future practice?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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