Students are often inadequately prepared for higher education, particularly concerning independent learning and critical thinking. These attributes are essential, especially in health science students as health care needs are complex. Innovative methods of teaching that promote these attributes are thus required. One such method, which has been included previously in other disciplines is photovoice, a participatory method, in which students become co-creators of knowledge. The aim of the study was to determine whether photovoice would promote critical thinking in students enrolled for a module in Public Health. The study also aimed to analyze the experiences of students using this methodology, as part of their learning.
Photovoice was introduced to a class of 56 chiropractic and homeopathy students registered for a module on Epidemiology: Public Health in 2019. Students working in self-selected groups were required to take photographs of environmental factors, involved in causing disease. After engaging in a group dialogue, one photograph was selected for presentation in class, with a discussion of how environmental factors visible in the photograph affect the health of individuals. Presentations were assessed based on the picture, presentation quality and ability to answer questions. Focus group discussions were subsequently held to understand the experience of students with this new teaching method. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis.
Students established that it was a positive experience. They recognized the lived realities, within the community, that cause disease. The assignment demonstrated how learning can occur beyond the lecture room and extend into communities. Students offered realistic solutions to health problems that were confronted by communities. In addition, students participated in unintended community engagement.
The incorporation of photovoice into undergraduate teaching in the health science module promoted higher order learning such as problem solving and critical-thinking. Students transformed from rote learners to critical thinkers who reflected upon what they were taught and how this related to the lived realities of the community. Student communication improved as they disseminated knowledge to others. Teaching using this alternative pedagogy has the potential to produce graduates who are responsive to the local needs of the community.