Struggles over meaning: Social studies teachers' perspectives of media and popular culture

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Sari Knopp Biklen


Social studies, Teachers, Media, Popular culture

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


This dissertation is a qualitative study analyzing how 15 middle and high school social studies teachers make meaning of media and popular culture in their personal and professional lives, and how those meanings affect their pedagogical choices and relationships with students. Drawing from data collected over a three year period, including participant observation and in-depth interviews, this study also examines how particular ideologies circulating through media and popular culture texts shape these teachers identities, attitudes and behaviors. Each chapter of the dissertation explores the teachers' talk to reveal their complex and contradictory negotiations and struggles around media and popular culture. Each of the data chapters examine different contexts for the teachers' meaning making processes. Chapter Four, "Terrains of Struggle: Schools, Teachers, Youth and Popular Culture," explains how these teachers negotiate with both school administrators and students over media and popular culture representations and practices within a school context that emphasizes discipline and order. Chapter Four also looks at how the teachers navigate the school organizational structures, such as dress code rules or other school polices, to use their school sanctioned authority to resolve issues around popular culture artifacts. Chapter Five, "Social Studies Teacher's Speak: Discourses around Media and Popular Culture," explores how the social studies teachers talked about media and popular culture in their personal lives. Chapter Six, "Teaching Media and Popular Culture Rules: Discourses and Pedagogical Practices of Social Studies Teachers," investigates the discourses the teachers employ to explain why and how they use media and popular culture in their pedagogical practices. I argue throughout the dissertation that popular culture texts (movies, televisions, cartoons, rap music, video games, clothing, internet websites) circulating through various media forms, produce, sustain and protect particular ideologies. Individuals, however, do not always accept these ways of viewing the world, but, rather, evade or resist these depictions.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.