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Using photovoice to explore the impact on a student community after including cross-sectional content on environmental sustainability in a university subject: a case study

Carmen Coronado (Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Nursing and Podiatry, Research Group GRINCAR, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña, Spain)
Carla Freijomil-Vázquez (Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Nursing and Podiatry, Research Group GRINCAR, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña, Spain)
Sara Fernández-Basanta (Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Nursing and Podiatry, Research Group GRINCAR, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña, Spain)
Elena Andina-Díaz (Faculty of Health Sciences, Research Group SALBIS, University of León, León, Spain and Faculty of Health Sciences, Research Group Nursing and Culture of Care (EYCC), University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain)
María-Jesús Movilla-Fernández (Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Nursing and Podiatry, Research Group GRINCAR, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña, Spain)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 17 September 2020

Issue publication date: 11 December 2020

Abstract

Purpose

Higher education institutions have a significant impact in preparing future generations for the creation of a sustainable society. By formulating appropriate curricula, the university can shape student personality with sustainability concerns. This study aims to present the results of a teaching approach on environmental sustainability using the photovoice methodology. A guided visit to the sewage treatment plant of A Coruña was included as a teaching activity in the “Microbiology and Parasitology” classes of the podiatry degree at University of A Coruña. The teaching objectives were to reinforce contents through observation and to introduce citizen awareness on sustainability and responsible water use in a cross-sectional manner.

Design/methodology/approach

In this case study, different steps of photovoice as a qualitative participatory action methodology were developed. A total of 43 university students willingly participated with their photographs. Qualitative data were collected from the students’ photovoice visit reports and a subsequent discussion group. Thematic content analysis was performed manually.

Findings

This study explored the impact of an environmental sustainability teaching activity on the university student community. Six main categories emerged from the qualitative analysis: savings/waste of water, misuse of the water closet, disposing of used oil, solid waste/trash, reuse of clean water and reuse/reduction of the use of plastics. The cross-sectional findings on the needs of education and awareness of sustainability in the community and companies are presented.

Originality/value

The findings provide evidence of the ability of photovoice method as a pedagogical tool to promote reflection and change in the university community and to introduce sustainability cross-sectional content in green campus curricula. This photovoice experiment is simple and feasible to implement and has a very low economic cost, as long as there are qualified educators.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the first year students in podiatry degree (UDC) for their commitment and enthusiasm in participating in the experience described in this study.

Supported by the Xunta de Galicia (Competitive Reference Groups ED431C-2018/38), Spain.

Citation

Coronado, C., Freijomil-Vázquez, C., Fernández-Basanta, S., Andina-Díaz, E. and Movilla-Fernández, M.-J. (2020), "Using photovoice to explore the impact on a student community after including cross-sectional content on environmental sustainability in a university subject: a case study", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 7, pp. 1331-1350. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-01-2020-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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