Learning is a journey

My colleagues and I have been researching student conceptions of learning using a research method called photovoice (Wang &Burris 1997; Wang 2006). Students take photographs that metaphorically represent learning, and then talk about what they have depicted. To prepare for a second round of this research, I decided to take my own photos to explore my own conception of learning. (Luckily for me, photovoice is about the quality of the ideas represented, not the quality of the photos).



We often start a learning journey without a clear view of the journey we will face. We might see some signposts, but they don’t always make sense at the start of the journey, and we only have a glimpse of our path ahead.




If we start the learning journey we get a clearer picture of the daunting climb we face.





But after the climb we realise that our initial view of our learning path was inaccurate, and there is much further to go than we thought.





With further progress we start to see a glimmer of light, the end of our journey?





And finally a whole new vista opens up for us, which we could not have imagined at the start of our journey. Now where to?



If this is a useful picture of the learning journey, then what does it say about good teaching? What would a good teacher be doing?

  • Guide students so they keep making progress along the path of learning
  • Motivate them to carry on, especially when they are unclear where they are going or how to get there
  • Build their self-efficacy so they feel that they are doing well, and that they will succeed if they carry on, despite difficulties
  • Give them feedback on what they have achieved so far, and what is next.


Wang, C., & Burris, M. A. (1997). Photovoice: Concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment. Health Education & Behavior, 24(3 ), 369-387.

Wang, C. C. (2006). Youth participation in photovoice as a strategy for community change. Journal of Community Practice, 14(1-2), 147-161.


About Clinton Golding

Clinton Golding is Associate Professor at the University of Otago Higher Education Development Centre. His previous positions include Philosopher in Residence at Rangitoto College in Auckland, and Thinking Coordinator at Queen Margaret College in Wellington and St. Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, where he worked to develop the thinking of staff and students. He was also a senior lecturer at The University of Melbourne where he received 5 local and national teaching awards.
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