Pressure Release

Rosie Frasso Class April 2014
Rosie Frasso and her students

“Any spare easels?” Samantha Barry‘s email brought me the news of a poster exhibit on the porch, the glass-walled space near the entrance to WIC that winds into our new Collaborative Classroom. A few days later, I spent a wonderful half-hour browsing Pressure, an exhibit created by social work and public health students in  Rosie Frasso‘s qualitative research course this semester (visual design by Laruen Hallden-Abberton).

As I walked around the exhibit, I noted comments about how your phone can trigger pressure points. Recent PennWIC posts about manatees and fishing have highlighted how your phone can help you cope with stress. In contrast, the Pressure exhibit includes descriptions of how a text message triggers stress, and how trying to relax can in itself feel like pressure. By capturing campus perspectives, and describing the many ways we experience pressure at Penn, this exhibit may help us all exhale, relax at least for a few moments and gain a better understanding of the graduate student experience.

When I visited Rosie’s class, SW781 Qualitative Research, the students described how they used different qualitative techniques during each step of the process.

First they came to consensus on a topic they wanted to explore using a Nominal Group Technique, and how they began to explore the meaning of pressure among 75 graduate students across campus using Free-Listing. Then, employing snowball sampling they conducted a series of Photo Elicitation Interviews to gain a better understanding of how graduate students experience pressure Pressure Rosie Frasso Class 2014.

Using photo-elicitation, a technique I first learned about through Carolyn Cannuscio’s work, each of Rosie’s students took ownership of interviewing graduate students in disciplines that were different from their own. They had to train each participant in the safe and ethical use of photography to document their experiences, then they met again with each participant, and using the participant generated photos as a starting point, they conducted research interviews, transcribed interviews, and began exploring the resultant data using NVivo software (a frequent PennWIC topic). The exhibit represents a preliminary analysis of 14 interviews with graduate student participants.

Rosie mentioned how important it was to her that her students keep pictures and comments together – to maintain the integrity of each participant’s personal reflection with the image that inspired it. Gala True, a researcher from the VA, and Drew Bendler, Staff Sergeant (ret.), U.S. Army, Operation Iraqi Freedom had visited the class early in the term to share their Photo Elicitation project From War to Home.

Students in the class were moved and inspired by how effective the approach could be. The speakers explained that photos not only enrich the interview experience, they become part of how the participants’ story is shared with the audience.

Rosie mentioned that this project would not have been possible at Penn before Carolyn Cannuscio developed the study protocol addressing the photo elicitation technique that formed the basis for this project.

The exhibit will be here till May 20, so stop by to take a look. Please feel free to share your comments below.



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