Participatory Photographic Inquiry

Photomedia in a tertiary e-learning environment: Participatory Photographic Inquiry


Why is the project important?

There are major gaps in research on how to effectively use e-learning to educate tertiary photography students; how students engage in the process of creating imagery; the expectations of students for using imagery in their work and personal life; and the impact of reflexivity in their work.

It is essential that students build awareness of how they work with critical reflective processes in personal photographic pedagogies and how these are used in aninteractive process to construct images.

Given the exponential growth of use of digital imagery in personal and professional life, these are areas in need of empirical research.

What is the focus of the research?

Current photographic students live in a society that consumes media. How can the teacher build engaged, creative and reflective visualisation practices that see the students developing an artistic disposition that considers the cognitive work and inner conversations of the artist and their relationship to their machines (Camera)?

This needs to be addressed in the development of visual teaching and learning strategies that build in the student and interaction aesthetic' awareness with an emphasis on successful composition.

The key objectives are twofold.

  • The first is to consider how tertiary students are learning in the e-learning context about photography, specifically digital photography, and how they are translating their experiences as 'digital natives' into this learning.
  • The second is to undertake an intervention based on participatory inquiry that is intended to build student reflective practice and to evaluate its effectiveness in improving reflection on, and the creation of, effective imagery

Who are the researchers?

This research is been undertaken by Aaron Bellette for his PhD in Education. His supervisors are Dr Kath Grushka and Professor Allyson Holbrook.

How will the research be conducted?

This research will be conducted at The University of Newcastle and Avondale College of Higher Education. The study is grounded in qualitative research methodology because the focus is on the meanings and interpretations of the phenomena of e-learning photomedia as a social process in the particular setting of tertiary learning in photomedia. The first stage is devoted to a survey across institutions to gain information on photomedia students in a higher education environment. This data will allow development of insights into the background of students, their interests in, expectations of, understandings and approaches to photography. This will present a profile of digital-native learners hitherto unavailable in the sector. Crucially this will also allow comparison between groups. The Photographic Participatory Inquiry (PPI) intervention group will be based on volunteers. Information provided by the survey can identify if the PPI group has a different profile to that of a broader sub-group of students and this, in turn, will support informed appraisal of the results of the intervention.

The second stage is Photographic Participatory Inquiry: doing and reflecting. This stage will be with a small group of students allowing deeper explorations of the creative process through e-learning methods and reflective practice. In this stage the students will keep an a/r/tography diary exploring their artistic practice, research and reflection and their moments of learning

Who can participate in the research?

Students enrolled in unit VISC22100 at Avondale College of Higher Education, and University of Newcastle students enrolled in DESN1111 and AART1410.

Want to know more?

Aaron Bellette  If you would like to learn more about the research, please contact Aaron directly by email
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To learn more about Aaron's work, visit his profile page