PhotoVoice Essays on the Social Determinants of Health - Part 1

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Maya Gislason, Faculty of Health Sciences

Project team: Rodney Hunt, Faculty of Health Sciences, and Barb Berry, Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), Jemma Tosh, post-doctoral research assistant

Timeframe: November 2014 to November 2015

Funding: $5,000

Course addressed: HSCI 340 – The Social Determinants of Health

Final report: View Maya Gislason's final project report (PDF) and final project poster (PDF)

Description: Undergraduate students in the Faculty of Health Sciences are required to take HSCI 340, The Social Determinants of Health. These students are both BA and BSc students in their third year. Some of these students arrive without background knowledge of how social life influences individual and population health. As a result, they can find it challenging when material uses a social model of health to address linkages between the structural organization of society and population health outcomes.

We aim to clarify the learning outcomes of HSCI 340 in relation to the Health Sciences curriculum and its feeder sources. We also aim to identify ways to more effectively learn the relevance of the social determinants of health, and be able to engage with them intellectually and experientially in current and future practice and education. The proposed grant project will begin to address both of these aims.

Regarding the first aim of learning outcomes, we have the learning outcomes included in the current course syllabus to build upon: a) build student’s capacities to evaluate different types of evidence on social determinants of health and health equity, and, b) explain salient mechanisms and pathways through which social determinants influence the health of populations and result in health disparities.

Regarding the second aim of promoting learning regarding the social determinants of health, we are integrating a PhotoVoice project into the course. PhotoVoice is a method of analysis, which uses photography to represent and express points of view and lived realities and has been used by educators in similar areas of study. This project will link with existing course material. Students will work together in groups on one of the major themes within the course. They will take photographs and illustrate their theme and its relevance to the social determinants of health with captions and essays in both individual and group assignments. Students will choose photographs and text to produce a poster, which will be showcased in a session at the end of the course.

Questions addressed:

  • How does HSCI 340 link to other courses in the program?
  • Should the learning outcomes for HSCI be revised?
  • Where do students struggle with the learning outcomes of HSCI 340?
  • Will the PhotoVoice assignment (as one example of an experiential method) be effective in encouraging student appreciation of the social determinants of health, within the integrated FHS program aims of studying health and illness as the outcome of a range of intersecting biophysical, environmental, and social factors?
  • What are student perceptions of the effectiveness of the PhotoVoice assignment? What suggestions for improvement do they have?
  • Will students have an increased understanding (from pre to post course) of how social determinants of health influence individual and population health?
  • During the course, what factor(s) do students perceive most significantly increased their interest in the theory of Social and Health Inequalities?

Knowledge sharing: By its design, this project is already bringing together lecturers and faculty members who are working on HSCI 340, as well as the educational consultant from the faculty. In addition to modeling this approach by working together across the faculty, the project team will hold at least one informal gathering with interested faculty and students to share ideas specifically related to the themes of, a) working collaboratively on course curriculum, b) developing strategies for integrating more experiential learning into course curriculum in the FHS, and c) the efficacy of using PhotoVoice as a teaching strategy for students who are beginning to explore new threshold concepts in the study of the social determinants of health and illness, and other visual methods to complement writing and exam based assignments and evaluation tools.

Gislason, M., Hunt, R., Berry, B., & Tosh, J. (2015, June). Using PhotoVoice to learn about complexity and interconnectedness in the context of social inequity and health. Paper presented at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Annual Conference, Vancouver, BC.