Moving beyond words – using photovoice to understand international students’ information literacy practices

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsConference Presentation


Library research often focuses on dominant white, western voices and rarely includes the views and experiences of those from diverse backgrounds (Roberts, 2021; Tewell, 2019) . Increasing numbers of international students are entering UK postgraduate (PG) education . There is little research exploring their information literacy practice or transition into UK PG study (Murphy & Tilley, 2019) . However, literature recognises that PG students are a diverse group (Murphy & Tilley, 2019) that bring various cultural and social practices into the classroom (Hicks & Lloyd, 2016) .

As the research into information literacy moves from a measurement of competency to a recognition of contextual practices (Hicks & Lloyd, 2016), the way we research and disseminate our findings is changing. Those working with international students in Higher Education (HE) have the opportunity to collaborate and co-create information that can enhance both the ‘academic’ staff and student experience (Mittelmeier, Lomer, Al Furqani, & Huang, 2022).

Researchers are increasingly turning to participatory research methods to help address perceived power dynamics in libraries and HE research (Hicks & Lloyd, 2018; Tewell, 2019) . Participatory photography, also known as photovoice (Wang & Burris, 1997), combines participant photography with descriptions to showcase their experience . This allows the researcher to work with students to build a community understanding (Tewell, 2019), and holistic picture of the student perspective (Hicks & Lloyd, 2018) .

The presenter has received a fellowship from the AHRC and RLUK to fund their research exploring the transition of international students to UK Higher Education (HE) and how their existing information literacy practices adapt to studying on a masters programme . The project is seeking to move from the idealised librarian ‘expert’ to a recognition of the importance of the community in creating knowledge (Hicks & Lloyd, 2016; Roberts, 2021) . Using participatory photography to explore the information literacy practices of international students allows them to showcase their experience . This project will help contribute to the research demonstrating the value international students bring to UK HE (Mittelmeier et al ., 2022) .

In this 60-minute workshop the concept of photovoice or participatory photography will be presented to attendees . It will contextualise the project in the literature relating to information literacy and international postgraduate students . The workshop will present the progress, findings, and lessons learnt from the research so far. Attendees will have the opportunity to test the photovoice methodology and see what insights
it can give them into the experience of their library users . Using their own device, attendees will be invited to photograph and caption their experience at LILAC .

Showcasing how photovoice can be used to highlight personal experience, giving attendees the chance to experience the methodology first hand.

The research is funded by the AHRC-RLUK Professional Practice Fellowship Scheme for research and academic libraries .
Period26 Mar 2024
Event titleLILAC: The Information Literacy Conference
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational