Metaphorically Speaking: Semiotic Analysis of Images Gathered from an International Service Learning Course

By Lori Unruh Snyder and Tim Durham.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Service-learning is an integral part of the collegiate experience. In particular, it extends instruction beyond the “four walls” to provide an outlet for introspection, accomplishment, and personal growth. International study abroad experiences can prove especially transformative. As a facilitator, it is incumbent on instructors to develop metrics that can capture and convey these deliverables to administrative, faculty, and student stakeholders. Semiotics, with its interpretative focus on imagery, is especially well-suited for this purpose. Here we outline an experiment that evaluated student images submitted at the close of a 2011 study abroad trip to Costa Rica. Ten (10) students enrolled in the course each submitted five images from two different community-based service-learning projects. The images were compiled and coded based on semiotics analysis. Eight predefined service-learning themes were employed, including: (1) connecting service with learning, (2) reflection, (3) reciprocity, (4) critical thinking, (5) social responsibility, (6) experiential learning, (7) needs-based, and (8) other (unrelated). Themes were pulled from each image and analyzed for descriptive analysis using SPSS statistical software. Recurring themes are presented pictorially as word clouds to demonstrate their citation frequency and commonalities among locations.

Keywords: Costa Rica, Curriculum, Images, Service-Learning, Semiotics, Tropics, Word-cloud

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.9-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.676MB).

Dr. Lori Unruh Snyder

Assistant Professor, Agronomy Department, Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Dr. Snyder has a passion for international education. She has initiated both teaching and scholarly research initiatives in four Latin American countries. Her leadership in teaching includes research and development of service learning and critical thinking pedagogy. She has also created pathways to broaden crop science disciplines to include international experiential learning in sustainability, including collaboration within the areas of plant breeding and genetic diversity. She continues to strive to develop new ways to internationalize crop science curriculum.

Dr. Tim Durham

Instructor, Office of Curriculum and Instruction University Colloquium Library, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, USA

Tim is a lifelong agriculturalist. His family operates Deer Run Farm—a 30 acre “truck” farm on Long Island, New York. Deer Run grows a variety of leafy greens, including spinach, cabbage, and ethnic lettuce for wholesale in New York City. As one of a handful of farms in the area, it faces unique challenges, especially those associated with urban-edge agriculture. Tim has a keen interest in the interplay between science, sustainability, and policymaking. He currently teaches University Colloquium: A Sustainable Future at Florida Gulf Coast University.