David Urias on a Unique Reflective Tool as an Evaluative Component

My name is David Urias. I am the Founding Director of the Evaluation Research Network at Drexel University. I would like to introduce you to the value and process of using photo journaling as an evaluative tool of student participant growth trajectories in a variety of learning experiences.

Photo Journaling enables participants to express, capture, and chronicle their emotions through photography and journaling. Working independently in this venue allows participants to tell their personal story in a powerful and reflective way; and share insights, thoughts, and fears about their experiences. The process can be a powerful qualitative evaluation tool for many types of learning experiences, including research or industry experiences, cornerstone or capstone projects, service-learning or community-based projects, international experiences, innovative curricular experiences, mentoring, etc. Pictures, unlike logs and wikis, provide a glimpse of another’s world, the events that make it special, and the captions help to sort through the emotions and put the events into context. This method can be used or tailored to meet a set of educational program evaluation goals.

Hot Tip: The Process: To enable the capture of a particular moment’s essence in a photo, and then reflect upon that moment from a later (different) perspective, one will need to: (a) describe in detail the setting of the photo(s) chosen, giving as much background as possible to help convey the emotion or experience to the viewer of the photo; and (b) analyze the event from the perspective of being an outsider.

The process can be modified to be more structured to collect thoughts and emotions on more focused instructions based on the goals of the program. For example, if a program goal was to measure the knowledge and skills gained during the practice of research, students would be asked to photo journal the research experience (i.e., laboratory work, experimental setups, research team members, use of research equipment, etc.)

Benefits of using photo journaling:

  • Is a means to acquire and improve reflective thinking;
  • Captures a broader, more in-depth look at “authentic” efforts, progress, and achievements over time;
  • Recognizes accomplishments of participants, as well as particular aspects of the program;
  • Informs stakeholders about program successes;
  • Provides practical and meaningful suggestions for program improvement;
  • Acts as a recruitment tool to promote awareness of program; and
  • Is an effective strategy for discovering, collecting, analyzing and reporting stories that illustrate program processes, benefits, strengths, or weaknesses.

When used properly, the added value is that the images can make a presentation come alive for an audience in a way that’s nearly impossible to achieve with text alone. Pictures relate to reality for an audience and the message behind the text becomes that much stronger.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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