A mother of a young child has to face a number of challenges and difficulties that she has never encountered before (Jurkowski, Rivera & Hammel 2008, p. 145). As a result, the mother is capable of acquiring and processing new information, the better she can handle these challenges (Smith & Hopkins 2001, p. 1).
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Unfortunately, mothers with learning difficulties not only stumble upon a range of problems, but also endanger their own children (Brine & Waller 2004, p. 98). Therefore, a specific tool that can possibly enhance such mothers’ capacity of learning and memorizing new information quickly must be provided. In their not so recent research, Tim Booth and Wendy Booth have proven that photovoice is an efficient tool for enhancing progress in mothers with learning difficulties.
The approach that the researchers use in order to define the efficacy of the photovoice use in enhancing disabled mothers’ learning capabilities is quite unique. Defined by the authors as “‘normative methodology’” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 431), it provides a plethora of unique opportunities for a qualitative study. The authors have chosen a qualitative research, which is based on a major case study, which incorporates several cases of photovoice application.
Thus, the method chosen by the authors allows for considering real life cases and evaluating the efficacy of the photovoice strategy in the realm of the XXI century and in a specific environment. On the one hand, the use of case studies gives the paper additional pints for observing the effects of photovoice application in real life (Cavanagh, Hogan & Ramgopal 1995, p. 177).
True, the practical application of the given tool could have revealed a range of limitations, which would have hindered its efficiency. Therefore, the method in question clearly needed testing. On the other hand, it should be noted that, using specific cases, the researchers obtained very specific results, which needed generalization. It could be argued that, when applied in a different environment – perhaps, used for a patient with a different social or ethnic background, the results would have been quite different.
Getting down to the details of the paper methodology, one must mention that each of the research participants (i.e., the mothers) was given a camera and asked to make pictures of whatever they liked and wanted to film or picture. In other words, the above-mentioned photovoice method was applied to carry out the project, since “it allows people the opportunity to exercise choice as competent participants in the research process” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 432).
The authors of the research have provided a range of important findings, the key ones concerning the efficacy of the photovoice method (Jurkowski 2008, p. 2). As Booth and Booth explain, the project took much longer than expected; the delay was predisposed by the ethical issues, particularly, the mothers’ unwillingness to share the pictures that they took of themselves with the rest of the group.
As Booth and Booth commented on the given issue, the mothers “did not wish to open up their lives to the scrutiny of strangers or unknown others” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 435). While the mothers’ reluctance was quite understandable, the concern of the researchers was also very legitimate, since the lack of support among the research participants would have not only hindered the research, but also jeopardized the possibility of conducting a case study in general.
The given issue should have been anticipated by the researchers, and the means to convince the mothers to share their pictures with the rest of the group should have been provided well before the research. However, much to Booth and Booth’s credit, they coped with the issue rather swiftly and professionally.
One of the major findings concerning the photovoice method was that the latter, in fact, worked – more to the point, it worked much better than the researchers had actually expected it to. One of the key positive effects of the photovoice technique was that it helped shed the light on the possible methods of intervention, which would help the mothers be more efficient in their communication with other people and interaction with the world in general.
To be more exact, the pictures taken by the mothers have revealed what the study participants treasured most and, therefore, what linked them to reality. As the study results have shown, the pictures taken by the mothers could be categorized in the following way: the first category included the pictures of the mother’s children; the second one had the images of the mothers’ homes on them; finally, the third depicted the mothers’ friends and relatives.
Therefore, Booth and Booth concluded that the mothers’ families and children could be the key to conducting a range of efficient interventions, whereas the mothers’ homes could be the location of the interventions as the most secure places for the research participants. The conclusions mentioned above are quite legitimate; indeed, as numerous researches show, the significance of patient’s contacts, especially the patient’s interactions with their relatives, is crucial for the outcomes of an intervention.
Hence, it is imperative that the mothers should have an opportunity to interact with their children and close relatives and friends during the intervention process. The given necessity is predisposed by the fact that in the course of an intervention, a patient learns new patterns of communication and social behavior; therefore, unless the communication with certain people is included into the intervention procedures, the patient will find it extremely hard to build relationships with the person omitted in the course of the therapy.
However, some of the research results trigger a range of questions, especially the ones concerning the reliability of the evidence. Despite the fact that the method of photovoice chosen by Booth and Booth does seem very promising and can be viewed as a legitimate tool, one might wonder if the researchers have identified the reasons for the mothers to take pictures of particular objects correctly. Seeing how most of the objects and people in the pictures could be identified as whom and what the participants had to encounter on a regular occasions, one might suspect that the participants did not approach the research process responsibly and did not try to capture what they considered essential.
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Nevertheless, the assumption provided above can be rebutted by the fact that the mothers did not take as many pictures of other elements of their environment as they did of their children, friends and houses. It would have been just as easy for the participants to take shots of the buildings in the vicinity, their neighbors, etc.; however, the participants preferred to focus on the specific elements mentioned before. Thus, the research results concerning the further treatment strategies seem quite reasonable.
The rest of the research results are just as impressive. It should be noted that Booth and Booth have managed to not only prove that photovoice is a viable and efficient method of research when it comes to exploring the possible intervention designs, but also that the problem of mothers with disabilities must be viewed from two different angles, i.e., a structural perspective and a biographical one (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 440).
In addition, the research has provided sufficient reasons to suspect that social isolation was the key factor discouraging the mothers with disabilities from learning and interacting with the rest of the world. For example, the absence of partners, distant relatives and other people that are traditionally supposed to represent family support shows that he mothers participating in the study did not feel secure enough. Again, one must bring up the proximity issue – perhaps, the mothers could not physically reach their relatives yet contacted them regularly. Nevertheless, the absence of the aforementioned support is clearly a reason for concern.
Defining the validity of the research and the effects of using photovoice as a major research tool, one still has to address the fact that in the course of the research, some of the pieces of evidence have been overlooked. For example, the researchers state that, based on the numerous shots of the participants’ houses and elements of their home environment, the significance of their homes as the key location for interventions rises. However, Booth and Booth state at some point that one of the participants was not inclined to capturing her home environment; quote on the contrary, she preferred to take shots of the streets: “Jez’ album of 30 photographs contained 20 apparently anonymous streetscapes” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 438).
The given detail seems to be major evidence against the assumptions concerning the significance of interventions location; however, the researchers did not take it into account. In fact, the researchers acknowledge at some point that their study might be somewhat lacking objectivity in terms of the results: “Looking at the collected photographs and analysing their subject matter in this way gives an insight into the commonalities of the lives of this group of mothers, but this is not the whole story” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 438).
No matter how subjective the data might be, it does make very strong statement about the issues that mothers with learning disabilities have to face on a regular basis: “While the photographs taken together illuminate the mothers’ lives in context, it is only through their individual lived experience that we can grasp the biographical significance of the photographs they each took” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 438).
Despite the aforementioned minor contradiction in the results of the research carried out by Booth and Booth, their paper was still admittedly innovative at the time and provided a unique opportunity of examining the priorities of mothers with learning disabilities, as well as evaluating the efficacy of photovoice as a tool for conducting a research in the field related to occupational therapy: “The photovoice project has provided two different angles of vision on the world of mothers with learning difficulties: a structural perspective and a biographical perspective” (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 440).
A decent review of the technique that was innovating and incredibly promising at the time, Booth and Booth’s research is worth taking a look at. By locating several case studies and analyzing them carefully, the authors have provided an insightful and accurate representation of a strategy that had a huge potential in terms of assisting people with disabilities. More to the point, the researchers have chosen a unique methodology for addressing the issue and advocating for the new method that would later on become the key tool in occupational therapy (Booth & Booth 2003, p. 431).
Booth, T & Booth, W 2003, ‘In the frame: photovoice and mothers with learning difficulties’, Disability & Society, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 431–442.
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Cavanagh, S J, Hogan, K & Ramgopal, T 1995, ‘The assessment of student nurse learning styles using the Kolb Learning Styles Inventory,’ Nurse Education Today, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 177–183.
Jurkowski, J 2008, ‘Photovoice as participatory action research tool for engaging people with intellectual disabilities in research and program development,’ Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 1–11.
Jurkowski, J M, Rivera, Y & Hammel, J 2008, ‘Health perceptions of Latinos with intellectual disabilities: the results of a qualitative pilot study,’ Health Promotion Practice, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 144–155.
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