Using Visual Narrative for Reflection

This post is an abstract from a non refereed paper I delivered at a conference (Australian Association for Research in Education) back in 2006 when I was first beginning to use image based research. I thought I would share this with you, and then if you want to read further the link to  the PDF is provided –

Street Art in San Fran painted by young people (N.Lemon, 2012)

People are storytellers by nature and these stories or narratives provide us with access to people’s identity and personality while playing a central role in our communication with others (Richardson, 1990; Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach & Zilber, 1998). Much research has been done on the use of narratives and how they inturn provide a unique insight into a range of multiple interconnecting forces that enlighten relations between self and society (Bager- Charleson, 2004; Lightfoot, 2004).

A relatively under researched area of narrative inquiry is the use of photographs, visual narrative (Bach, 1998; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Moss, 2003), to provide prospect to reflect and grow from our experiences, to evoke memory in our lives, a memory that can be used to construct and reconstruct stories, and to share stories with the community.

In education, the role of visual narrative as a form of reflection in the classroom has not been extensively investigated. Photographs can be used as a way to preserve the appearance of an event or a person or as a metaphor of an experience that has been closely associated with the initial idea or relationship (Bach, 1998; Bach, 2001). Visual narrative makes visible the different parts or narratives of a story as well enabling opportunity to explore different positions within a dynamic environment or situation.

This paper explores the use of visual narrative as providing an opportunity for early childhood students to photograph their world in an educational setting. Throughout the inquiry of students using digital cameras to create visual narratives themes emerged associated to the creation of learning communities and development of reflective skills. An exploration of first time use of the camera is discussed as well as some key themes that emerged over time.


Bach, H. (1998). A visual narrative concerning curriculum, girls, photography etc. University of Alberta: Qual Institute Press.

Bach, H. (2001). The place of the photography in visual narrative research. Afterimage. 29 (3), 7.

Clandinin, D. J. & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Moss, J. (2003). Picture this: visual narrative as a source for understanding diversity in our classrooms. Melbourne: Festival against Racism in Education.


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