Communication idol: using popular culture to catalyse active learning by engaging students in the development of entertaining teaching and learning resources

Tinashe Dune, John Bidewell, Rubab Firdaus, Morwenna Kirwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Bringing popular culture to tertiary education can potentially increase student engagement with learning tasks and content, especially when the learning task has students producing the content. Using a single-group intervention plus post-test design, this study implemented and evaluated a purposely developed learning and teaching innovation capitalising on popular and consumer culture to promote active over passive learning in a large, interprofessional health science unit. Students were invited to develop educational video presentations in a friendly competition based on high-rating television musical and vocal talent quests, with cash prizes based on peer ratings, this being the intervention. From a cohort of 569 students in 12 undergraduate allied health programs, 14 students in seven teams of 1 to 3 students produced seven, high-quality videos about communication in professional health practice, and recorded their experiences of doing so. Ratings showed the majority found the process fun (85%) and instructive (64%), with 29% finding the task harder than expected. The prospect of prizes along with intrinsic motivators were reasons for producing a video. A further 285 students viewed the productions and for extra marks completed evaluation of the videos’ educational value. Videos were perceived as an educationally valuable yet entertaining way to engage unit content. Producers of videos rated the teaching and learning experience significantly more positively than students not involved in production. Qualitative analysis of open-ended responses supported relevant numerical findings. Barriers to producing videos were identified as time, resources, confidence and lack of a team. Results should encourage educators contemplating similar initiatives. The project highlights benefits of harnessing popular genres with which students identify, to encourage involvement in producing educationally justifiable content that rewards both performer and audience. The project shows how learning content and tasks created and presented in familiar and entertaining formats can catalyse students’ agentic engagement in tertiary curricula.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of University Teaching and Learning Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Consumerism
  • Health science
  • Interprofessional education
  • Popular culture
  • Student creativity
  • Student engagement
  • Student-led learning
  • Tertiary education
  • Transformatory pedagogy
  • Video production


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