June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.89.1 - 23.89.21
A picture elicits a thousand meanings: Photo elicitation as a method for investigating cross-disciplinary identity developmentPhoto elicitation is a qualitative research method that allows researchers to deeply comprehendstudy participants’ personal beliefs, experiences, and understandings. Photos, either provided bya study administrator or by a study participant, are used as an artifact in a semi-structuredinterview to elicit the meanings and experiences embodied in the photos. As such, one strengthof the method is that it allows study participants to connect to personal experiences or beliefs(and the meanings associated with these) that can be difficult to elicit using other interviewtechniques. The photos also enable researchers to create probing questions that allow theparticipants to further unpack their experiences.In this paper, we summarize the central ideas and benefits of photo elicitation as a richqualitative research method for investigating study participants’ experiences as learners. Weillustrate both the technique and benefits of this method by providing examples from alongitudinal study of cross-disciplinary ways of thinking, acting, and being. In our study,participants were asked to create and/or supply the researcher with photos that represent facets oftheir experiences—so, for example, a photo that represents each of their personal, professional,disciplinary, and cross-disciplinary lives. Having photos/images that attest to how studyparticipants understand those concepts, we were able to make an interview protocol that helpedstudy participants with explaining their experiences to us. We have found that participants weremuch more talkative, and at a deeper more reflective level, than they were in interviews that usedother techniques. We have also found that the method supports participants in makingconnections across sets of ideas and experiences, revealing a densely connected web of ideas.
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