- Using Photovoice to Uncover Campus Issues and Advocate Change for Black Males
Disparity of Black male academic achievement compared with non-Black males is well documented in a variety of educational settings (Dancy & Brown, 2008; Harper, 2006; Jackson & Moore, 2008; Sander, 2014; Strayhorn, 2012). The literature has primarily focused on discussing educational shortcomings of Black male students rather than exploring contributing factors, environmental supports, and systemic strategies that could improve achievement (Harper, 2009; Jackson & Moore, 2008; McGuire, 2005). Experts contend that an individually based perspective on the issue is too narrow and suggest structural factors within the broader campus environment should be identified and addressed (Douglas, 1998; Harper, 2009; Latz, 2012). Unfortunately, when college administrators attempt to develop programs to help Black male students, the students themselves are rarely fully engaged or consulted to help understand their unique environmental and cultural contexts (Harper & Kuykendall, 2012).
The purpose of this Research in Brief is to report a campus intervention that used photovoice to actively engage Black male students on a predominately White campus (PWC) by documenting their lives and advocating for structural changes to support their academic success. Photovoice is a method that has been used to conduct participatory action research in which participants use cameras to photograph their community's strengths and weaknesses, critically discuss issues that emerge, and advocate to decision makers and community members for change (Wang & Burris, 1997). The photovoice project's three goals were: (a) to enable participants to document their community's needs and assets, (b) to spark critical dialogue, and (c) to provide platform to influence change. The project resulted in increased campus dialogue around [End Page 491] issues of race and improved organizational support for Black males on campus.
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Students at a public university with a large minority population (38%) in the Southeast region of the United States were invited to participate in the project through flyers, e-mails, and face-to-face recruitment. A final convenient sample of 10 undergraduate Black males of varied academic years, majors, and ages (18 to 25 years) agreed to participate. For this study, we use the term Black male to describe the experiences of students inclusive of African American and international students. At the time of the project, 6% of the student body identified as Black males, and the average graduation rate (completion within 4 to 6 years) of Black males (50%) at this university was consistently lower than Black females (61%). Given that the small sample was from one campus, findings may not be generalizable to other universities. Institutional Review Board approval was received before project implementation.
Participants were taught basic photography techniques, privacy laws, the use of photo-release forms (Wang & Redwood-Jones, 2001). We directed students to photograph any self-identified aspects of their lived campus experiences that helps or hinders them and possibly other Black male students at the university. After a 3-week period of taking photographs, participants met to discuss the issues identified and wrote captions that described their photographs.
We analyzed and categorized the students' photos and captions into themes using constant comparison analysis (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) in which each photo and theme was compared to the components of Taylor and Miller's Necessary Components Retention Program Assessment model (NCRPA). The NCRPA is a conceptual model for evaluating retention programs on college campuses [End Page 492] that address needs of minoritized groups. The six components of the NCRPA explain the psychological and social needs of people entering new environments (Table 1) and were used to categorize the content of student photographs and captions.
To address the validity of photo categorizations, we conducted member checking (Creswell, 2007) by having students confirm the accuracy of photograph categorizations. Following photovoice protocol, several photo-voice exhibits were conducted at which students advocated for change regarding the issues addressed in their photographs and captions. Exhibits intentionally targeted community members and university decision makers, including the Provost, Faculty Senate, Director of Multicultural Affairs, and Admissions Office.
The 10 students...