Provoking Awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education

Recognizing how we absorb ourselves with popular culture offers potential for learning more about ourselves and enhancing teaching and learning. Yet seeing our practices can require purposeful effort. Over time, scholars and advocates have promoted increasing our awareness of the popular culture we consume and what influences, ideas, and values are produced and reproduced. For example, to unpack gender in media, the Bechdel-Wallace Test is an exemplar of raising awareness of women’s presence (or lack thereof) (Hooton, 2015). The test asks audiences to consider: if there are any women in the narrative, if the women have names, and if the women talk to each other about something other than a man. Through a simple analysis, viewers are prompted to engage in a simple critical reflection of the work. 

A simple analysis of the presence of women in media echo organizational and governmental work through gender audits and gender mainstreaming. Such work aims to unpack how gender is represented and ways to embed considerations of gender from the onset of teaching, learning, research and other work. Looking into curriculum for instance, a gender audit can be a simple tool to review the authorship of assigned readings. How many are authored by a certain gender? Who is missing in the authorship? And what does the potential emphasis on one gender say about the production of knowledge? Often the result in assigned readings in curriculum showcase an emphasis on male thought and authorship, suggesting men own knowledge (CohenMiller & Lewis, 2019; Lewis & CohenMiller, 2022). 

We are pleased to announce our fall issue, “Provoking Awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education” of Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. With a special double issue in February, this issue marks a unique fourth issue of the year. In the first article of this issue, Becca Craigin emphasizes the importance of syllabi and what they evoke and suggest to learners. Cragin describes how she works with students to engage them and lead to generation of ideas through studying the historical canon of feminist theory. She further notes how the prejudices of the past can be implicated in today’s teaching and learning if not carefully unpacked and addressed.Ultimately, Cragin guides readers through the importance of syllabus development and the ways in which our choices are “building cultural theory today.”

Framing a class with a syllabus offers an essential path towards teaching and learning. Likewise, understanding examples of classroom practice suggest insights for pedagogical practice. In our second article of the issue, Erik Stanley, David Sweeten, and Michelle Schmidtunpacks how games can be embedded within the formal classroom. Drawing from experiences of using one game, Fiasco!, they explain the utility of its application across disciplinary fields of English, anthropology and sociology.

Just as we can consider how gender is represented in popular culture and pedagogy, we can also work to increase our understanding of the intersectional nature of our lives. The ways we enter the world and the way others see us often intersect with our perceived ethnicity, region of world, socioeconomic status and class/caste/tribe, gender identity and presentation. These topics reflect our cultural and historical context.

In the third article of this issue, Melinda Butler, Nadine Bravo, and Eva Arbor explain in their article, “It’s Not My Immediate Instinct”: Perceptions of Pre-service Teachers on the Integration of Popular Culture,” how sociocultural theory can help explain how our backgrounds influence our today. Specifically, the researchers examine preservice teachers’ consumption of popular culture and how their unique experiences with popular culture (or lack thereof) may color their openness to and/or hesitation over integrating popular culture texts into their curriculum. Butler et. al., in turn, observe five key themes that emerge across their interviews with pre-service teachers as related to questions of the incorporation of popular culture in the classroom: 1) Popular culture as social and sharing; 2) Popular culture as a way to hook kids; 3) Popular culture integration and engaging and relatable; 4) Popular culture as digital texts; and 5) Popular culture as unknown and unimportant. Through a robust exploration of these themes, Butler et. al. reveal the invaluable benefits of integrating popular culture in the classroom. Further, they offer suggestions on how to encourage the active and intentional use of poplar culture texts on the part of teachers and how this incorporation can lead to a more generative and “permeable” curriculum.

In addition to the three robust articles in this issue, this issue also includes connections to a recent online publication of Tyler Sheldon’s Review of The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching, by David Gooblar. Sheldon emphasizes Gooblar’s points about the critical need for drawing in students through active learning especially in extracurricular learning.

Overall, the scholarship offered in volume 9, issue 4,Provoking awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education, speaks to “diversifying the narrative” (Cragin, this issue) about popular culture and pedagogy. Ultimately, we can work and learn from one another about consciously increasing our awareness and practices for enhancing research and teaching and learning.

We want to thank the incredible team of collaborators including the authors featured in the issue and willing peer-reviewers who made the scholarship possible, insightful Copy Editors (Arlyze Menzies, Miriam Sciala, and Robert Gordyn), Reference Editors (Joseph Yap, Yelizaveta Kamilova, and April Manabat) and Production Editor and Creative Director (Douglas CohenMiller). In reading the articles and Book Review in this issue, we hope you are engaged to consider and actively take steps to provoke new thinking and practice in teaching and learning in popular culture and pedagogy.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue and look forward to your submissions for future issues as we move into our 10th year in 2023!

Happy reading!

Anna CohenMiller
Editor in Chief

Karina A. Vado
Managing Editor & Musings Editor


CohenMiller, A., & Lewis, J. (2019). Gender audit as research method for organizational learning and change in higher education. In V. Demos, M. Segal, & K. Kelly (Eds.) Gender and Practice: Insights from the Field (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 27), Emerald, pp. 39-55.

Hooton, C. (2015). Please stop calling it the Bechdel Test says Alison Bechdel.

Lewis, J., & CohenMiller, A. (2022).  Gender audit as pedagogical tool. In Kitchener, M. (Ed). Handbook for the Promotion of Gender Sensitive Curriculum: Teaching and Learning Strategies. Available from:

Suggested Reference Citation


CohenMiller, A., & Vado, K. (2022). Syllabi, games, and teaching in higher education: Provoking awareness and practical applications in popular culture and pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(4).


CohenMiller, Anna, and Karina Vado. “Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education: Provoking Awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 4, 2022.