Photography as a research method with learners in compulsory education: A research review

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This article offers a review of thirty-one research articles from 2001–2019 on the use of photography as a research method with learners in compulsory education. Understood within the scope of ‘visual’, ‘participatory’ and ‘arts-based’ research methods, many scholars have linked the increased use of the photographic method to greater awareness of the rights of the child and changing understandings of children as full ‘human beings’ with agency rather than simply vulnerable ‘human becomings’. Nevertheless, photography is still a relatively under-utilised approach in research with learners in school-based compulsory education and its use is not widespread globally. Against the background of the history of visual and photographic methods in general and in education in particular, this article highlights two key themes in the empirical research literature: why the photographic method is used (dealing with representation, participation and emancipation); and how the photographic method and the photos themselves are used (pre-generated and participant-generated photographs). It closes with a reflection on what may be holding back its expansion, including key ethical concerns, and a proposal for encouraging its use in education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-34
Number of pages24
JournalBeijing International Journal of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020


  • Photography
  • visual method
  • research method
  • school
  • student
  • research review


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