Public pedagogy and representations of higher education in popular film: New ground for the scholarship of teaching and learning


  • Katelyn Johnstone McMaster University
  • Elizabeth Marquis McMaster University
  • Varun Puri McMaster University



public pedagogy, popular film, media representations, higher education, instructor-student relationships, academic identities, disciplinary differences


Constructions of teaching, learning, and the university within popular culture can exert an important influence on public understandings of higher education, including those held by faculty and students. As such, they constitute a rich site of inquiry for the scholarship of teaching and learning. Drawing on the notion of film as ‘public pedagogy,’ this article analyses representations of higher education within 11 top grossing and/or critically acclaimed films released in 2014. We identify three broad themes across these texts—the purpose of higher education, relationships between students and professors, and the creation of academic identities—and consider the implications and functions of these representational patterns for teaching, learning, and SoTL. Particular attention is given to the difference between the framing of science and arts and humanities disciplines, and to how this might resonate with the contemporary ‘crisis of the humanities.’


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Author Biographies

Katelyn Johnstone, McMaster University

Katelyn Johnstone is a student in the Arts & Science program at McMaster University and a student partner at McMaster’s Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching.

Elizabeth Marquis, McMaster University

Elizabeth Marquis is an Assistant Professor in the Arts & Science program at McMaster University and Associate Director (Research) at McMaster's Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching.

Varun Puri, McMaster University

Varun Puri is a graduate of the Arts & Science program at McMaster University and a student partner at McMaster’s Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching.


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How to Cite

Johnstone, Katelyn, Elizabeth Marquis, and Varun Puri. 2018. “Public Pedagogy and Representations of Higher Education in Popular Film: New Ground for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 6 (1):25-37.