Wellbeing in the school yard - a photovoice study

Year: 2008

Author: Wyra, Mirella, Lawson, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

High school yard is a complex place with a multitude of interactions. These interactions can create positive or negative experiences for school yard users who are primarily students and teachers. Students spend most of their non-class time in the school yard participating predominantly in three activity categories: engaging in social interactions, undertaking physical activities (play/games/ sports), and attending to physiological needs (eating, drinking, resting etc). Teachers' work in the school yard during non-teaching times is perceived as predominantly supervisory. The school yard, as well as being a source of positive interactions, can contain friction and conflict. Most research on school yard focuses on the experiences of students rather than the experiences and perceptions of teachers. Astor, Meyer and Behre (1999), in their research on school yard violence, indicated that the interactions between school staff, students, locations and times need further explorations.

In this two-stage study we were interested in finding out how different sites in the school yard are perceived by students and teachers. A sample of Yr 8 and Yr 11 students in three high schools and Year 6/7 students in one primary school in South Australia participated as researchers in stage 1 of this study - the photovoice study. The main interest of our study was, ' to project a vision of their (students') lives that might educate others, especially power brokers and policy makers to better understand the realities of their condition' (Booth and Booth 2003 p. 432). Students took photographs of places in the school yard where they do and don't feel "OK". In the second stage of the study, these photographs were used to elicit teachers' (N=132) written perceptions of the photographed places and of what happens in these places. Teachers' responses were analysed in terms of teachers' perceptions of these places as being 'OK' or 'not OK' for students and for teachers. Teacher perceptions of their professional roles in these places were also examined.