Participatory Video Study

Participatory Video with Youth from Refugee and Immigrant Backgrounds in a Metro Vancouver Secondary School

Still image from one of the students’ reaction videos. In the reaction videos, students recorded themselves watching a YouTube video of their choice and communicated their experience and perceptions of the video.

This multi-year, ethnographic, qualitative case-study research explored possibilities for language and literacy learning through in-school digital media production (specifically, filmmaking) in popular new media genres (e.g., Reaction Videos, Video Podcasts) among nine newcomer students from refugee and immigrant backgrounds in a Metro Vancouver secondary school. 

Still image from one of the students’ video podcasts. In the video podcasts, participants interviewed each other on-camera about their lives, interests, and future goals.

In collaboration with their teachers, and anchored in provincially mandated curricular goals, PhD Candidate Amir Michalovich facilitated participatory video production activities with groups of students during class time (in person and then online, due to COVID), in which they inquired about issues of interest and concern to them. He employed a play-based pedagogical approach, in which students rotated between the performance of various authentic roles (e.g., Director, Editor) along with scripts, props, and relevant actions, striving to create a space where errors, setbacks, spontaneity, risk-taking, as well as enjoyment, exploration, and choice could be pursued as part of learning.

Still image from one of the students’ COVID safety videos. In the COVID safety videos, participants followed the Public Service Announcement (PSA) genre to communicate COVID-related safety practices. They filmed each other speaking on-camera with a green-screen background, which they later replaced with images of various relevant locations along with captions.

Reflexive thematic analysis indicated several ways in which the digital media productions afforded students possibilities for language and literacy learning: 

  • the video production processes involved increased written production, including sustained attention to language in multimodal forms; 
  • students invested in and carefully edited their videos to make visible their imagined identities, e.g., through editing their speech and performance to express themselves as proficient and literate users of English;
  • students positioned themselves anew in storylines that troubled common deficit narratives and went beyond trauma stories, highlighting the creative and knowledgeable human beings they are, bringing rich arrays of assets, strengths and competencies that could too easily have been overlooked in print-based or language-dominant school work; 
  • students’ sustained engagement in the production processes could be explained by the potential social and economic capital they felt they were gaining from these digital literacy practices, and from the relationships of mutual dependence and accountability they developed with each other in their role performances.
Still image from one of the editing sessions that showcases students’ meaningful and sustained engagement in the production process. The photo was taken by one of the participants.

This project was supported by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship and Insight Grant [435-2017-0338], as well as the University of British Columbia’s Public Scholars Initiative Award.

This website showcases a research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Insight Grant no. 435–2017-0338). The study has been reviewed by the UBC Behavioral Research Ethics Board (Certificate no. H17-01074), and the procedures were found to be acceptable on ethical grounds for research involving human subjects.

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