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Indiana University


K-12 Educators & Students

Recent U.S.-China Photovoice Projects

IU faculty and staff have directed several Photovoice projects with schools in China since 2005, most recently under the aegis of EASC’s NCTA program.

The first IU Photovoice project in China, titled “Imag(in)ing the Voices of Chinese and American Middle School Students,” was developed by Dr. Heidi Ross (Director, EASC and Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, IU). Funded by the IU School of Education, “Imag(in)ing the Voices of
  Group of photovoice participants

Dr. Ross (fourth from left) visiting Xihe Middle School in Shangluo, Shaanxi, China

Chinese and American Middle School Students” started in May 2005 and facilitated short-term exchanges of middle-school teachers between Batchelor Middle School in Bloomington, IN and Xihe Middle School in Danfeng County, Shangluo, Shaanxi Province, China.
Dr. Ross has used Photovoice, a participatory ethnographic-based approach to field research, data gathering and analysis, since the early 2000s to document the lives of children and adolescents in central China. Developed for the Chinese context by Caroline

Map of China with Shaanxi highlighted

Wang and Mary Ann Burris, Photovoice links social action and critical consciousness education to a grassroots approach to photography. By directly engaging youths in recording their own life worlds, the methodology shifts to them the power of meaning-making in research. For the “Imag(in)ing the Voices of Chinese and American Middle School Students” project, 14 students were chosen at each school, and each student was provided with three disposable cameras, enabling them to use a combination of photography and story-telling to document their home life, school life, and life in general in the
surrounding culture. Later, Dr. Ross’ team interviewed students at both schools, transcribed and translated the interviews into both languages, and shared with the students the parallel work done by their peer group on the other side of the world. The project created virtual and real “sharing our voices” exhibitions of Chinese and American middle school students’ photographs and essays. As a result, participating students and teachers gained a firsthand perspective and understanding of each other’s school and society, far beyond what any textbook could have possibly given them. You can view a sampling of the Xihe Middle School students' photos here.

In 2009 and again in 2010, under the aegis of NCTA, the IU East Asian Studies Center coordinated one Photovoice project each year. Two high schools in Champaign, IL and Shanghai participated in the 2009 Photovoice project, and two middle schools in Chagrin Falls, OH and Xi’an, Shaanxi Province participated in the 2010 Photovoice project. Both projects were led by a teacher at each school, and both American teachers are NCTA Teaching about Asia seminar alumni. Five students were selected by the teacher, and each was asked to take digital photographs of their daily lives and exchange them with each other online. As a teaching methodology for the social studies and global education curriculum, the Photovoice project fostered communication and deeper understanding between Chinese and American school children and their teachers and laid the groundwork for institutionalized school-to-school partnerships.