Show and Tell: Photovoice as International Travel Pedagogy

  • Sheryl Tuttle Ross


The appeal of international travel has long attracted college students to spend time away from their home campuses. From semesters or years spent studying abroad in France, Spain or China to spring break weeks spent in Jamaica or Mexico, wanderlust is part of the college experience. The educational value of each trip varies and depends crucially on the quality of activities engaging the students. Teachers who use an appropriate pedagogy may make the difference between students who develop cultural competencies and those who simply enjoy bacchanalian vacations. In this paper, I suggest that photovoice projects enhance short-term, faculty- led study tours so that students gain knowledge that is beyond the tourist’s checklist. Students embarking on a photovoice project distribute cameras (either disposable or digital) to locals of the area they are traveling, with questions that the photographers should address when they are taking their pictures.1 The students develop or download the images, and then ask the photographers to explain the story behind the photos or how it is that the photos address the question set forth by the students. By engaging with a local population, photovoice creates an experience that moves toward seeing the world through another’s eyes. To illustrate the value of photovoice, I provide a sample of a photovoice project that occurred during a short-term, faculty-led study tour to Tanzania, January 2009.