The Value of Self-Reflexivity for Learning: A Study of Self-Reflexive Practice in Photography Criticism

Denison, Simon (2023) The Value of Self-Reflexivity for Learning: A Study of Self-Reflexive Practice in Photography Criticism. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Simon Denison EdD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted May 2023_Final Award May 2023.pdf - Accepted Version

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This study is an exploration of the learning value of self-reflexivity within practices of interpretation, undertaken in the context of photography criticism.

Reflexivity, understood in this study as the practice of making the researcher’s presence explicit within a research-based interpretation, is an established part of research methodology in a number of disciplines, but is rarely employed in writing about photography and is seldom discussed in the discipline’s theoretical literature. The study addresses this apparent ‘gap’ by exploring self-reflexivity’s potential to produce metacognitive and other learning gains, and personal growth, both for researchers/practitioners of photography criticism and for readers/audiences of criticism.

The study has found that self-reflexivity based on critical self-reflection and disclosure can reveal the pervasive entanglement of thinking and feeling in critical interpretation, and the links between thinking/feeling and the researcher/practitioner’s life history. These links, which indicate that criticality can have an affective and biographical basis, are not generally recognised explicitly in photography writing, and the findings support the case for a new, ‘postcritical’ form of criticism – one interested in subjectivity and the operations of feeling – that is beginning to emerge within the discipline and cognate fields.

More broadly, the study has developed an expanded conception of self-reflection as a mechanism for producing learning and growth when used within a self-reflexive interpretive framework. The study has found that by revealing links between thinking, feeling and life history, self-reflection can generate transformed, enriched and extended forms of understanding about photographs, ourselves and the world, and forms of personal growth, in such a way that suggests it can lead to a ‘new’ or largely unrecognised threshold concept, understood as the most powerful type of learning concept, within practices of criticism. The capacity of self-reflection to lead to alteration and enrichment of interpretation in fields such as visual culture seems to be underexplored in practical education research, and the study thus makes a significant contribution to reflective practice studies as well as to threshold concepts research, with direct implications for how critical studies curricula within arts-based higher education are designed and how the subject might be taught and learned.

The study was undertaken as a self-reflexive, practice-led research inquiry, first by the researcher (a practising photography critic and lecturer) working independently, and later with a group of eight academic colleagues acting as research participants. To produce its findings, the study has pioneered an innovative nine-step protocol for engaging in self-reflexive interpretation. Practical guidelines and protocols for undertaking reflexive research seem to be rare in any field and are thought to be unprecedented in photography criticism and related disciplines. The study’s self-reflexive analytic protocol therefore represents a substantial contribution to interpretive research methodology, as well as an effective practical learning tool that is ready to use in formal education settings and beyond. The protocol is presented here, however, as the first iteration of a methodological tool that is likely to continue to evolve with further use.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
4 May 2023Submitted
16 May 2023Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Photography, Photography Criticism, Reflexivity, Self-Reflexivity, Postcritical, Postcriticism, Affect, Affective Turn, Art Criticism, Visual Culture, Cultural Criticism, Reflection, Self-Reflection, Critical Reflection, Reflective Practice, Critical Practice, Critical Interpretation, Reflexive Interpretation, Life History, Memory, Habitus, Emotion, Emotional Response, Feeling, Thinking-Feeling, Worldview, Practice-led Research, Interpretive Research Methodology, Qualitative Research Methodology, Circle of Voices, Subjective Research, Autoethnography, Education, Learning, Metacognition, Life-long Learning, Biographical Learning, Transformative Learning, Threshold Concepts, Tacit Knowledge, Personal Growth, Self-Realisation
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-04 - cinematics and photography
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2023 16:07
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2023 16:07

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