Learning about People, Places and Spaces of the World through Informal Pedagogy:
Socio-(inter)cultural Constructions and Connections to Popular Culture

Shelbee R. Nguyen
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw, Georgia, USA



This article explores how adult and higher education (AHE) learners utilize popular culture as an informal pedagogical resource when learning about different cultures and preparing for international learning abroad or study abroad. Specifically, this case study research is concerned with what particular sources of popular culture serve as informal pedagogy and how these shape AHE learners’ cultural perceptions about study abroad to a specific international destination. A review of current literature at the intersection of popular culture and study abroad identifies both the need to include adult and higher education learners as well as the ubiquitous nature of learning through popular culture outside the classroom. Popular culture’s function as a source of informal pedagogy and how informal learning relates to AHE learning are synthesized in the literature. The theoretical frame from which this research was undertaken is provided to highlight the innately social process of popular media consumption. The researcher offers methodological considerations about participants, data collection and analysis with findings from two different embedded cases to reveal ways AHE learners use and are influenced by popular culture characters, plot and themes. Additional discussion about cultural understandings and motivations to participate in international education or study is also highlighted throughout the findings. AHE learners’ personal hobbies and interests as well as personal goals play an important role in shaping the type of experience desired. Implications and directions for future research underscore the complex and multifaceted nature of popular culture and media to generate support in this research area for educators, scholars and practitioners in the field of international education.

Keywords: Informal learning, Popular Culture, Adult and Higher Education, Study Abroad, Perception, Motivation, International Education, Culture and Language Exchange, Business Education, Multicultural Education, Sociocultural Learning

“Well, I’m not going to lie… I’m a big fan of Jersday” 

In 2010, a group of New Jersey lawmakers made headlines in a highly-publicized move against Viacom’s MTV hit reality television series, Jersey Shore (State Legislatures 7). The New Jersey Italian American Legislative Caucus (NJIALC) reportedly insisted the reality television show be cancelled due to “untrue” and “offensive” portrayals, which encouraged negative and pejorative “ethnic stereotypes” of Italian Americans (State Legislatures 7). Unfortunately for the NJIALC, Jersey Shore went on to air six highly-viewed seasons, resulting in the popular phrase, Jersday, signifying the show’s long-time run on Thursday evenings (Purdon 33). While the NJIALC may have not been successful in their efforts to thwart production of the hit series (and subsequent spin-offs), their concern about how popular culture shapes perceptions about cultural groups/subgroups is a powerful topic warranting further discussion.

Higher education across the United States (US) is comprised of over 17.5 million undergraduate learners with roughly a third of those individuals being characterized as non-traditional adults, 25 years of age or older (National Center for Education Statistics). According to scholars of adult education, age is not the salient or most critical determining factor in categorizing adults and traditional-aged learners, 24 years and younger (Knowles, “Modern Practice” 25; Sandlin, Wright and Clark 4). Malcolm Knowles summarizes that both traditional and non-traditional-aged students can be characterized as adults based on intrinsic motivations to learn, life roles and responsibilities assumed by the learner and the learning dynamic (“Adult Learner” 40). Further, Knowles states that the most pressing matter in differentiating adult education from transactional, teacher-centered instruction is the emphasis placed on the learner. Thus, employing the term adult and higher education (AHE) learners is optimal for examining ways individual learners use popular culture as an educational resource when learning about cultures of the world. This article addresses how adult and higher education (AHE) learners utilize popular culture as an informal pedagogical resource when learning about different cultures and preparing for international learning abroad or study abroad. More specifically, this research is concerned with how particular popular culture artifacts (e.g., TV shows) serve as informal pedagogy, shaping AHE learners’ cultural perceptions about a specific international destination.

Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory explains how AHE learners form perceptions about race, class and cultural ideas through the various mediums of popular culture (9). Sociocultural theory suggests knowledge begins or originates from society or culture and is modified or reordered based on continued engagement within dimensions of social interaction. Because popular culture serves as a socially pervasive and powerful presence in the lives of AHE learners, it becomes important to assess the sort of identifications made when connecting meaning to their own lives. Assumptions critical to understanding learning occurring through social interactions are 1) individuals often construct their own knowledge about the world, 2) the development of cognitions and knowledge cannot be separated from the context in which they exist, 3) learning occurring in context can lead to new growth/new insights, and lastly, 4) the symbols and exchange of communication through language play a role in the evolution of the mind (Woolfolk 3). To understand how AHE learners use popular culture as an informal pedagogical resource, the scope of examination is focused on the individual and the popular culture he/she accesses within the context of his/her own life outside of the educational institution.

While popular culture in an increasingly globalized, technological and interconnected world is virtually inescapable for AHE learners, identifying, defining and mapping functions of it outside of the classroom can be both attractive and also elusive. The ways students make meaning from popular culture is receiving increasingly more attention in AHE research as the pervasiveness of popular culture becomes more powerful. Messages or artifacts within popular culture can be seen as negotiations between preservation of current dominant practices/ideals and resistance, or transformations into new cultural practices/values (Stuart Hall 59). Ernest Morrell’s work encourages learners to think about popular culture as the “struggles between the subordinate and dominant groups” (78). Collectively, researchers agree on contentiousness inherent in popular culture. Additionally, the meaning derived from popular culture by AHE learners about their own culture and about other cultural groups can be multifaceted (Guy 16). Scholars in the field of AHE focus on the pedagogical power of popular culture, underscoring its function as a “site of education beyond formal schooling” (Sandlin, O’Malley and Burdick 1). Henry Giroux’s work emphasizes increasing awareness about “student experiences and their relationship to popular culture” rather than defaulting to dismissive attitudes about mere entertainment value (66). Although it appears quite obvious that learners would have some sort of interaction with popular culture prior to a trip abroad, a more critical perspective could be more helpful to understand individual student experiences within a recent, culturally relevant frame. Exploring learners’ individual relationship with popular culture can provide educators and practitioners with specific resources, which can then be targeted as a point of critical inquiry. An interdisciplinary foundation composed of cultural theorists, feminists, critical media scholars, psychologists, sociologists, educational researchers and humanists unanimously places a high value on the teaching mechanisms inherent in the Internet, movies and television. Collectively, these outlets teach individuals about the world and its cultures (Sandlin, Wright and Clark 5; Guy 17).

Most recently propagated by the work of cultural theorist Henry Giroux, the term public pedagogy addresses Carmen Luke’s research, which “ . . . refers to various forms, processes, and sites of education and learning that occur beyond the realm of formal educational institutions—including popular culture (i.e., movies, television, the Internet, magazines, shopping malls” (Sandlin, Wright and Clark 4). For example, Talmadge Guy’s central argument explains how learning that occurs outside of formal institutions teaches viewers what it means to be ‘white,’ ‘black,’ ‘straight,’ ‘gay,’ ‘middle-class,’ ‘poor,’ ‘wealthy,’ ‘Christian,’ ‘Muslim,’ ‘American’ and so on” and that it is mass mediated through music, television, cinema, radio and advertising (18). Oprah and Gayle’s Big Yosemite Camping Adventure illustrated this idea in a two-part episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show that aired in late October of 2010. This episode set out to “change perceptions about camping for African-Americans” (“Oprah and Gayle”). The trip was reportedly in response to Park Ranger Shelton Johnson’s letter to Oprah where he explained that only 1% of the 280 million tourists who visit the national parks each year are African-American. Oprah shared her desire to alter the thinking “about the kind of people who go camping,” extending Guy’s position about how race and class-based identities are formed and how this serves to limit perceptions about cultural groups (“Oprah and Gayle”). Both agents within popular culture, like Oprah and Gayle, and scholars (e.g., Talmadge Guy and Henry Giroux) concerned with the problematizing of popular culture recognize innate social construction within and throughout popular culture.

Patricia Duff’s research indicates that limited knowledge about a particular destination or culture can encourage a student to access multiple formal and informal learning resources, including popular culture, when forming opinions and perceptions (482). For example, Stuart Hall discusses the ways in which learners connect popular television networks like The History Channel to concepts and ideas from their coursework (297). Scholars further note that popular culture serves as a critical resource of informal learning or learning occurring “outside the curricula offered by formal and non-formal learning activities, self-directed . . . [which] can happen anywhere, and can occur at any point from birth to old age” (Schugurensky 2). Encountering a new culture in a foreign or international destination via study-abroad is a major academic and life event for most AHE learners (Dolby 151). When a student makes a decision to participate in international study abroad, any number of resources can be considered in offering new insight, learning and understanding about the destination and culture of interest (Simon and Ainsworth 2). To investigate how AHE learners use popular culture when forming perceptions and ideas about international education or study abroad, individuals were recruited from two faculty-led study abroad courses set to depart in the spring and summer semesters of 2012.

The two faculty-led study abroad courses available for recruitment were an Italian Language and Culture course (IL&C), taking place in Italy, and an International Marketing and Business Course (IM&B), taking place in one of seven different destinations (Chile, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Finland, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore). Because informal lessons from popular culture are inherently (AHE) learner centered, intimate and highly individualized (Giroux 68), learners are likely to consume pieces of popular culture that connect to their immediate life circumstances. Further, the Internet, television and movies actively and passively “teach us about race, class, gender and other forms of socially significant difference” (Guy 16).

In the selection of participants from faculty-led study abroad programs, criteria were 1) adult or higher education learner status and 2) a commitment to departure classified as the explicit decision to participate in the study abroad program and having enrolled in the course. This offered the researcher opportunity to identify specific sources of popular culture and how they contributed to cultural understandings or perceptions of their destination of interest. A total number of 15 participants (n=15) were recruited for this study, eight females and seven males. Participants ranged from 19-54 years of age with a mean age of 26. Students were from a variety of majors including business, international business, marketing, English literature, British literature, political science, history, educational psychology and engineering. Participants self-identified their ethnic backgrounds and listed Caucasian, Japanese-Caucasian, Native-American and Hispanic.

Three data collection techniques were employed to assess how AHE learners use popular culture as an informal pedagogical resource: focus group interviews (Appendix A), individual reflection within the group interview, and follow-up interviews were used to assess how AHE learners connected to various mediums of popular culture in forming perceptions about the culture they would be immersed in and their destination of interest. Focus groups of six-to-eight interviewees and telephone interviews were utilized with “generally open-ended questions . . . few in number and intended to elicit views and opinions from the participants” (Creswell 181). The focus group interviews were conducted for each embedded case with nine participants in the IL&C course and six participants in the IM&B course. Note cards offered private space to reflect on specific questions about the culture and destination in addition to demographic information. Follow up telephone interviews (Appendix B) aimed to extend understanding of particular participant answers from the focus group interview and private reflections. All interviews and private reflections were recorded and transcribed for analysis.

AHE learners across both cases took part in the construction/modification of their own identity and the identity of others when they connected to multiple interfaces of popular culture. As social constructions of identity and difference are constantly changing, it becomes important to gauge how AHE learners utilize popular culture to make meaning about their world and its cultures in the 21st century dynamic. To account for these nuances, the interview protocols were developed with a loose structure so that AHE learners could discuss meaningful places and spaces of popular culture that added to their understanding of the culture and values they would soon be encountering. John Creswell’s process for analyzing qualitative research was used to organize, prepare, read, make sense and interpret the data within a coding process that uses actual participant responses to “organize the material” into categories and common themes to transform data into findings (Creswell 186). Emerging codes were identified from participant responses and were compared to other responses both within and across the embedded cases.

Case One: Italian Language and Culture

To begin discussions about how popular culture influenced thinking about a particular culture or destination, participants were asked to reflect privately on “What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about your study abroad course and media?” One participant noted “Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Food Network,” while another offered “Letters to Juliet (the movie).” Other students mentioned specific identifications to the destination or cultural artifacts like “Discovery Channel and any food network show taking place in or around Italy, specifically Rome” and “Jersey Shore and the Statue of David.” For some participants, “media” translated to popular television and/or film specifically, and for others, it translated to web sources and other media outlets available via the Internet. However, two participants within this case shared a resistance to popular culture outlets; for example, one shared: “I do not watch TV, but media for me is Google and of course Facebook and all of the social media components . . . especially blogs and forums. I feel like you learn a lot from personal testimonies where people don’t get paid, rather than TV shows pushing some agenda.” Responses varied in degrees of trust and distrust of popular culture and media. Sociocultural theory explains learning happens when individuals interact in the context and society of lived experience. Thus, sociocultural theory may serve an explanatory value in the sense that students were possibly more receptive to learning and knowledge co-constructed in personalized Internet social networking than in more overt mediums like popular film and television. Most importantly, there seemed to be a distinction between the credibility of Internet testimony and those prevalent on popular television networks.

Although some participants had prior exposure and knowledge about Italy, their responses highlighted a choice to learn new things about their personal interests like “Italian culinary traditions” and “Shakespeare romanticism.” Other learners more generally shared: “Honestly, I don’t even know what initially made Italy stand out over study abroad options, it’s just . . . especially in the last few years . . . with so much about Italy in movies, television and a lot of other stuff, it’s always fresh on my mind.” Another stated: “Well, I’m not going to lie . . . I’m a big fan of Jerzday (sic) so really when I found out about this trip, I found myself paying way more attention to the interactions between the cast and Italian people.” Participant responses place importance on popular culture as a “go-to” resource when thinking about their study abroad destination and forming perceptions about Italian people and their cultural interactions with Americans. Adult and higher education learners within the embedded case did not report especially critical views about ways that media sources like Google, television networks, popular movies and reality television tacitly construct and encourage positive perceptions and romanticized ideals.

Many connections made between Italy and popular culture were highly personalized and revealed identifications with characters and even romantic ideals. For example, one learner reported on the “magical and historical context of Italy” and how it contributed to some of the “everlasting . . . living literature and the period of re-birth” still present in many popular stories. Rather than feeling compelled to live the lives of these characters, this particular person felt a relationship to the author and was inspired to write similar stories or “ to do something like that.” Similarly another participant shared her passion for creative writing and expressed motivations to “Write main characters that have a real sense of themselves, and they try do what’s right for them no matter what other people say . . . it is also about identity, and getting to be in the context of where those identities were formed . . . I feel like Italy could really shape my identity in the same way, plus I would like to see like Juliet’s house and all that stuff.” Both examples paint a captivating picture of the way characters in television, movies and literature speak to both personal interests and personal identity. Participants alluded to how stories and characters, at least in part, provided a preview into what Italian living and culture would be like. Additionally, both participants suggested that context was important to character development and internalized the idea their identity, too, could be enriched abroad.

Other participants mentioned more general character and identity associations about the kinds of experiences they connected with from popular shows on the Travel and Cooking Channel.No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain” portrays “a pioneer” who “has no fear.” One learner suggested “that is something I wish I had and hopefully something I can work on (abroad).” Another participant similarly stated a “no fear” mentality was a powerful connection for her as well. She noted, “watching Rachel Ray, . . . she just seems so confident and has so much fun with it when she travels.” This participant continued, “that is something that has always made me want to learn more, to have that confidence. . . .” Participants valued courage, confidence, risk-taking and strength cultivated in experiences abroad to Italy, isolating these as experiences they wanted to have for themselves. Moreover, AHE learners alluded to an inherent fear that exists when interacting with people from a different culture in an international setting. While learners were quick to identify the kinds of experiences they wanted to have, using popular culture as an illustrative resource, it is not clear whether or not fear was also cultivated from media messages. Ultimately, learners relied on popular culture to alleviate fears and uncertainties and form ideas about the world and its cultures. So, it could be suggested that popular culture contributed, in part, to those initial fears and uncertainties.

Case Two: International Media & Business

For participants in embedded case two, media translated to television shows, television networks, online sources and magazines. When talking more fully about study abroad and popular culture, one participant suggested watching shows on the Travel Channel “gives me a better idea of how I think my experience abroad will be like.” Participants enrolled in the IM&B course placed importance on cultural understandings as a core component of modern-day business practice. Learners suggested that popular culture prepared them for what cross-cultural business would be like in specific destinations. Shows like House Hunters International, Samantha Who?, and NatGeo Explorer were some of the specific places learners identified how “Chileans network” or “outsiders engage local Australians.”

Interestingly, participants suggested because international experiences are becoming an essential component of business, “more and more people are realizing that it’s possible to travel without being rich.” Participants in embedded case two were eager to offer input and discuss popular culture’s role in shaping their perceptions about other cultures, affordability of studying in that country, as well as what the destination in general could offer. Participants identified connections to informal learning resources because they served to paint a picture or illustrated something that was of personal interest. Similar to embedded case one, interest played an important prerequisite function, indicating the more interest one has in a particular program/movie/television show, the more likely they would be to internalize information from that program/movie/television show. Additionally, this finding suggested that pictures and visual media become important for all of the participants who have limited knowledge or experience of any given culture and destination.

In following up on these responses, participants revealed that particular television shows influenced how they perceived or pictured other countries and cultures. More specifically, informal learning via television shaped the kind of experience that each of those students wanted to have for themselves. For instance, one participant explained how impactful it was to see television programs with “a normal person, not some travel guru, going to a foreign country or a foreign city and not really going to the touristy places, but going to the places that all the Australian locals go to. She encourages other people to venture off the path . . . so they can also continue that on, and share with other people who may not know about it.” This participant also introduced the idea of “paying it forward,” by sharing new knowledge gained about less popularized destinations and cultures with others. Emphasis here can be placed on uncovering and discovering new places and sharing personal stories as an educational experience. Her idea of a “normal” person having these experiences was particular noteworthy. She suggested that the “Samantha Who” character was someone with whom she could relate to personally, rather than an expert or aficionado who may have professional experience with travel. Identifications with themes and characters in foreign destinations also occurred when the individual shared similar thinking and cognitive process. For example, American students identified with the American characters and revealed feeling like the “outsider.” Television networks, blogs, Facebook pictures, narratives and movies supported identifications by creating an “outside looking in” dynamic told from the experiences of someone who has limited knowledge about the place of interest.

Participants touched on their desires to be a source of knowledge on new cultures and people of the world. Respondents internalized a need to play an ambassadorial role and express motivation to model some of the same themes or plot lines from the messages they consumed. Through popular culture, learners identified and mirrored the plot and characters of individuals they connected to and use these individuals to map out the kind of experiences that they wanted to have. Emphasis on discovering “something new . . . something not everyone would have the chance or opportunity to do” was especially important.

Many of the participant responses throughout the study emphasized how popular culture and media, in various forms, shaped students’ perceptions of other cultures and can shape the kind of experiences sought after by AHE learners. While these findings can appear fairly obvious or can be taken for granted, it remains important to underscore that popular culture is a powerful pedagogical resource utilized by students. Scholars concerned with study abroad participation have yet to direct much attention to how popular culture functions in shaping perceptions in the most critical time when students have made the commitment to study abroad (Jackson 16). Students may have learned a great deal about how interactions occur with foreigners and locals in such places as Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Argentina, Finland and Australia, but this knowledge is specific to the programming, message and independent motives of the creators and directors of that media. For several networks, including the Travel Channel, Cooking Channel and Food Network, the goal is to encourage tourism and market international travel as a consumer commodity. The veracity of content and reality of how these experiences compare to study abroad or international learning for AHE learners is fairly unexplored. However, given that an AHE learner studying abroad is not a popular narrative across main-stream media, students supplemented knowledge from sources they perceive to be comparable in nature. This is especially important to consider from a scholarly and cultural perspective.

Data from this study demonstrated popular culture plays a powerful and recursive role in forming new ideas and understanding about cultures of the world. Cultural and media scholars like Henry Giroux suggest popular culture has the strength and ability to teach and educate its audiences (58). Giroux identified popular culture as a site of public pedagogy or place of powerful learning outside of a classroom, with drastic implications for its viewers. As stated earlier, much of the research concerned with the relationship between popular culture and study abroad places importance on barriers to participation, underscoring an exclusionary perspective for minority students. Marilyn Jackson’s research further identifies that associations between media and its viewers are made possible to affluent Caucasian females but do not offer minority students and males the same chances to form identifications with messages and narratives within the media (17). Jackson’s work echoes the research in the present article in that popular culture messages have power in shaping cultural understandings about others, in addition to shaping one’s own cultural understanding of self.

Individuals available for participation in this study mirrored the plot and characters reflected in the media and popular culture they consumed. Individuals have the ability to identify markers of social status, encouraging associations with characters’ products, dilemmas, houses, celebrations, experiences and overall life situations in order to model and replicate these in terms of their own lives. Nearly ten years ago now, the conversations surrounding the intersection between popular culture and study abroad were characterized by deficits and privilege. Pat Burr’s research revealed minority students felt like study abroad and international education was not something applicable to their lives or identities (36). However, AHE learners are now recognizing, both through formal and informal learning spaces like popular culture, the growing importance of international experiences in an increasingly global and competitive business market.

Students reported an awareness of the changing nature of why a student engages in international education and identified places in popular culture that have contributed to these changes in thinking. This is especially important when thinking about the national participation rates for AHE learners across the US. Practitioners and educators must recognize the importance of showcasing these messages within the classroom to encourage direct engagement and breakdown preconceptions, should they exist. These messages then become popular culturally relevant curricula and are offered a certain level of credibility as course material, holding potential to be even more impactful for AHE learners. Further, instructors across AHE may find practical use in critically analyzing popular culture messages in the classroom even if the major aim and focus is not study abroad. Findings from this study lend importance to the fundamental relationship between intercultural perceptions and popular culture’s influence. Instructors at the undergraduate level could find value in isolated sources of popular culture, identified by participants in this study, which also resonate with modern-day AHE learners in their classes.

Adult higher education learners reported a “demystified” understanding about what interactions across two different cultures would be like in a foreign locale. Popular culture offers a window into the other countries around the world, but because of the volume of messages accessed, learners end up paying particular attention to the plots, characters and themes that are most directly related to their own personal interests. Participants indicated that popular culture was commonly used as a resource when seeking information about their personal interests in other cultures’ cooking, baking, wine, travel and people. The reciprocal nature the role of interest plays can be both satisfied by and originate from popular culture sources. Scholars and educators, including practitioners and cultural theorists, encouraging global and cross cultural understandings must remain conscious and aware of how personal interests and incidental learning serve as a baseline or foundation of knowledge about other cultural groups. In bell hooks’ research, a similar contention further illustrates that popular culture has the ability not just to shape audience members’ cognitions but also has the potential to stay with that individual over a long period of time (3). Long held interests in particular hobbies, stories, subject matter or pastimes fuel motivation to live and be a part of those experiences in the context that they authentically happen. Conversely, reality television and commercially dramatized interpretations seeking to exploit and reify cultural stereotypes and stigmas may also need to be approached and accounted for by faculty and international education staff when a student is thinking about study abroad.

For participants in embedded case two, popular shows, channels, social media, networks and movies were often accessed to get a sense of a specific cultural practice and travel in general. Participants noted seeing an “average/normal” person immersed in a lesser-known foreign locale as encouraging. Connections were made readily because the individual was coming from a similar place of limited understanding about the country and its people. Adult higher education learners expressed a desire to foster similar experiences and emulate the very same goal and themes depicted in the popular culture they consumed. As such, learners expressed motivations to be ambassadors of cultural understanding for places and people across the world that are less known to the general public and are not commonly depicted in popular culture.

Popular culture undoubtedly plays a powerful and pervasive role in the lives of 21st century learners. The seamless way story, characters, themes and plot interweave within and throughout AHE learners’ cognitive processes are extremely complex. To advance this and previous research at the intersection of popular culture and international learning, it becomes important to map out the current dominant practices/ideals across time in order to gauge where preservation and transformation has occurred (Stuart Hall 59). International learning or study abroad has yet to be the norm for each AHE learners’ undergraduate experience, but it is clear that students across AHE in this study saw the importance and necessity of establishing global and cultural understandings. The consumption of popular culture and media will exponentially continue to increase, and as such, understanding about how it shapes AHE learners becomes not just important, but necessary.

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Appendix A

Focus Group Protocol for Faculty-led Study Abroad Participants

Legend: SN—Question gauging social network, as public pedagogy, influences

PC—Question gauging popular culture, as public pedagogy, influences

1. Nominal Data: “Can we briefly go around the group and identify age, what year of study,
academic interest (for example I am 25, I am a sophomore, I’m an education major).” To be
completed on the Note Card

(SN/PC) 2. Let’s talk about the beginning of your interest in study abroad?: “Can you remember the first
time that studying abroad became of interest to you? When was the first time you thought
about being in a study abroad? End quote?

(SN) 3. Who in your lives has provided support to your upcoming trip abroad to DESTINATION X
(destination to be inserted, depending on specific faculty-led program)?:
“What do you know
about the place you are going? What do you not know, or want to know? Where do you feel this
information comes from?”

(SN) 4. Can you tell me about any individual in your life (parent, teacher, advisor, friends, classmates,
peers) that may have influenced you in making the decision to participate in a study abroad?:
“What sort of messages were conveyed about study abroad? (what sorts of things do they talk
about in terms of what study abroad would do for you as an individual)”

(SN) 5. What do your family and friends say about you upcoming study abroad trip?: “Do you feel like

you are encouraged to go abroad by your family and friends? Do you feel discouraged by your
family and friends to go abroad? How does this encouragement or discouragement get
communicated? Have you shared your upcoming trip ‘news’ with all of your friends and family?”

(SN/PC) 6. Are there still things you feel like you want to know about where you are going? Or uncertainty
that exists?:
Where would you seek out this information? What kind of information is it?”

(SN) 7. What sort of messages do you see conveyed from individuals in your life (parent, teacher,
advisor, faculty or friends) about their own study abroad experiences?:
“What sorts of artifacts
or mementos have they used to talk about their experience (could be pictures, souvenirs,
personal stories or narratives)? Do you think that these showed or illustrated what it means to
study abroad for you?”

(PC) 8. Can you think of a movie/tv show/book/radio show/pod cast/musical, or song that comes
to mind when I say DESTINATION X?:
“Is there a particular show, channel, movie that may
have reminded you of destination X? Is there any particular movie/tv show/book/radio show/
pod cast/musical, or song that made you more interested in destination X? Can you think of
a story (movie/tv show/book/radio show/pod cast/musical, or song) that served to inspire your
own interest to study abroad?”

(PC) 9. If you asked you to think of a recent example of something that you saw on TV that influenced
what you thought about DESTINATION X what would it be?
“Do you think that there characters
in Pop culture that have influenced how you perceive the people of culture of DESTINATION X?”

(SN/PC) 10. What is the first word that comes to mind when I mention DESTINATION X? “What do you
feel that this word is informed by or where does this word come from?”

(PC) 11. Is there any particular informative channel on television that offers you insight into DESTINATION X? 

(PC) 12. Is there any particular movie that offers you insight into DESTINATION X? 

Appendix B

Follow-up Interview Protocol for Faculty-led Study Abroad Participants

1. Can you elaborate more on the individuals who encouraged study abroad experiences? What made these
messages meaningful?

2. Can you elaborate more on a movie/tv show/book/radio show/pod cast/musical, or song that gave you
insight about study abroad or destination X?

3. Can you give more detail on _______________?

4. Can you tell me what you meant by ______________?

5. Since we last spoke, is there anything else about your influences and motivations to study abroad that you
thought of that you’d like to talk with me about


Author Bio:

Shelbee R. Nguyen is an Assistant Professor of Education at Kennesaw State University in the Department of First-Year and Transition Studies. She has taught in six different international locales, including two years spent in Dubai exploring intercultural and international experiential education. Central to her core research is academic and social adjustment within multicultural contexts. Her particular research interests place importance on sociocultural influences to the learning environment, study abroad participation and the practice of adult learning theory. Recently her research has underscored critical reflection and transformational learning for Veteran and Hispanic learners transitioning into the higher education environment.


Reference Citation:

Nguygen, Shelbee. “Learning about People, Places and Spaces of the World through Informal Pedagogy: Socio-(inter)cultural Constructions and Connections to Popular Culture.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy 2.1 (2015). Web and Print.

Nguygen, S. (2015). Learning about people, places and spaces of the world through informal pedagogy: Socio-(inter)cultural constructions and connections to popular culture. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2(1). http://journaldialogue.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/S-Nguyen.pdf

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