Photovoice and autism : the big picture for art education

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Mihalik, Susan Christina

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The purpose of this study was to explore Photovoice methodology, a relatively new and increasingly popular form of Participatory Action Research (PAR). Photovoice was examined in order to determine whether or not it might assist art educators in expanding access to the arts for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Photovoice has been used in a variety of fields to address a broad range of issues, however, few Photovoice projects have been conducted to investigate topics in art education. This study centered on the following questions: “What are the potential benefits of Photovoice?” and “How might Photovoice assist in the development of a more accessible art education program for people with autism?” For this study, I interviewed four individuals who had conceptualized, organized, and/or facilitated one or more Photovoice projects. Each was asked to discuss their research background as well as describe their interests and experience conducting Photovoice. Using content analysis to identify predominant themes encoded in the interview data, I compiled a set of codes and categories in order to highlight the most salient features of Photovoice from the perspective of the Participants. This data was then compared to “best practices” in art education. “Best practices” establish guidelines for the education of students with disabilities, including students with ASD. Analysis of the interview and “best practices” data revealed four themes: (a) The importance of planning and organization,(b) factoring in technical issues, (c) structuring participation, and (d) therapy vs. empowerment. Through the evaluation of these four themes, I formulated several key assertions to support the claim that Photovoice will not likely be incorporated into the “best practices” curriculum. However, Photovoice may still have a place in the art classroom as a means to inform and enrich practice on a small scale.




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