Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 96

Re-visioning Bulletin Boards
. . . arts-based methodologies can be used in student affairs and
higher education research to expand possibilities for practitioners
to understand what students want to voice and to assess student
learning directly. Bulletin boards are a ripe subject because they are
used in residence halls all over the country and are a common tool
for residence life departments.
McTaggart, 2005). To support participants as drivers of the research project, researchers
must facilitate the group elicitation process without prescribing themes and must
seek to be self-reflexive (Higgins, 2016). Photovoice researchers are educators who
seek to facilitate participants' increased ability to critically assess problems and communicate
needs to policymakers (Teti et al., 2013). Because the work requires a great
deal of participants' time and energy, however, they should also be compensated beyond
the learning they take from the project. Overall, photovoice research must be
carefully planned and resourced so as to support participant agency, respect participant
labor, and ensure project efficacy.
We were interested in how students engaged with educational bulletin boards
posted in their residence halls. Photovoice served in this case as an alternative form
of assessing student learning, since participating in the project offered students
the chance to reflect on what and how they learn from these displays. The findings
from the study are briefly contrasted with those secured by the conventional research
method-quantitative questions on a large survey-to show how our approach facilitated
personalized expression and direct assessment. Bulletin boards function as
architecture, revealing themselves to students in complex spatial environments, and
photovoice may help residence life leaders understand how students see and experience
these sources of information. The opportunity to document their experience,
make meaning together as a group, and present to the senior leadership in residence
life provides student-participants an opportunity to construct their own voice. As
researchers, our goal is to amplify their voice by ensuring that it is " heard " . . . [in]
the halls of decision-making power " (Wang & Burris, 1994, p. 182) and to support
an overall empowering experience for student-participants. Through this project we
sought to empower students and to understand how they navigate symbolic systems
through the artistic presentation of their experience with the bulletin boards in their
residence hall.
Research Setting
This project utilized photovoice methodology as an assessment tool for student engagement
with the bulletin boards in a residence hall. The researchers are both White,
cisgender people who work in residence life at UT-Austin. We decided to recruit students
from the largest residence hall on campus, with the study open to any interested
participants. The study was carried out during April 2022, and students interacted
with bulletin boards currently on display that month. These boards represented the
following five topics: Arab-American heritage, gender pronouns, financial wellness,
environmental sustainability, and preparation for final exams.
Volume 50, No. 2 * 2024 93

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