Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Fatih Ari


The purpose of this action research was to evaluate the effectiveness of implementing reflexive photography as a means for a transformative community-based learning (CBL) experience. CBL is an experiential teaching pedagogy that helps prepare college students for a rapidly changing and diverse society that fosters social, health, and cultural awareness about individuals and populations. Students engage collaboratively within the local community to help solve societal problems.

This study focused on three research questions, each exploring how a reflexive photography project (RPP): (a) changes how students view occupational justice, (b) influences students awareness about contextual barriers that may impact community residents health and wellness, and (c) changes how students perceive their role as a socially responsible citizen for occupational justice within their local community.

The research took place at a Jesuit University located in the Northeastern region of the United States. Nineteen, 1st year occupational therapy students (OTSs) completed a six-week RPP as a component within a designated occupational therapy course. The RPP was designed to align with the principles of project-based learning (PBL). Students worked independently to take photographs of community barriers that hinder attaining health and wellness, followed by small group collaboration to decipher contextual barriers to community health; jointly deliberated how to solve a societal problem; and presented their findings to interested stakeholders for discussion.

The study utilized a convergent parallel mixed methods research design that applied quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. Data collection methods included a quantitative retrospective pretest-posttest survey and qualitative self-reflections and a questionnaire. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Qualitative data were analyzed using a thematic analysis approach to gain a better understanding of the students’ transformative perceptions, behaviors, and actions as a result of the RPP.

Findings showed that the students perceived a transformative change after completing the RPP. Students reported an increased awareness of existing occupational justice and injustices in the local community, environment and personal contextual community barriers, health implications, and a change in how they perceive their role as responsible community members. Aspects of the RPP that attributed to the positive outcomes included engaging in the learning process, collaboration, and experiential learning opportunities that were embedded in a recursive reflective practice of inquiry. Conversely, challenges that impacted the learning process were identified: logistical factors and personal experiences. This research has implications for service-oriented, community-based education in occupational therapy; a PBL approach was used as the guiding framework for designing this study.


© 2021, Patricia Ann Wisniewski