The Development of an Academically-Based Entertainment-Education (ABEE) Model: Co-opting Behavioral Change Efficacy of Entertainment-Education for Academic Learning Targeting the Societal Landscape of U.S. Geographic Illiteracy Thesis uri icon


  • Educators and scholars continue to lament United States citizens' geographic illiteracy and are calling on Congress to address the crisis. However, despite recent public attention, a lack of national commitment to teaching geography in all public school grade levels persists. Therefore, non-formal educational avenues need to be pursued to address this crisis. One such avenue may be Entertainment-Education (E-E). E-E interventions have been used outside of the U.S. to impact social problems and detrimental behaviors by presenting positive role models in entertainment products designed to stimulate changes in viewers' behavior. For example, soap operas promote condoms use as a HIV prevention strategy (Tanzania), model culturally-sensitive actions to stop domestic violence (South Africa), and promote infant oral-rehydration therapy (Egypt). This study posits academic learning can be facilitated in a similar fashion as behavior change through an E-E methodology. Beginning with an examination of the E-E field by indexing E-E literature found in scholarly publication databases, this study demonstrates the 30-year health message focus of the field and presents a catalogue of E-E interventions cross-referenced by name and target country. The combination of these two products illuminates how U.S. audiences and non-behaviorally based outcomes have not been targeted, leaving academic subject learning as an area into which E-E can expand. The expansion of E-E methodology into geography education (or any other subject) requires understanding of how academic concepts interact with the structure of fictional narratives. Using a grounded theory approach, this study analyzes the U.S. television series NUMB3RS, which uses math to drive the story (as opposed to simply serving as context), to develop an Academically-Based Entertainment-Education (ABEE) model. ABEE is then applied to Google Earth, exploring how to leverage non-linear and visually dependent narratives as well as develop user-driven learning experiences. The implications of research presented here and through future refinement of the ABEE model may potentially (1) develop educative entertainment products supporting formal education and (2) bring geographic knowledge into the realm of popular culture through mass media, thereby impacting geographic literacy at a societal level in the U.S. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible from

author list (cited authors)

  • Simms, M.

complete list of authors

  • Simms, Michelle

publication date

  • May 2011