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MARNet Conference 2021: Highlights from Pecha Kucha and Photovoice Presentations

MARNet Conference 2021: Highlights from Pecha Kucha and Photovoice Presentations

The MARNet Conference 2021, which was held virtually from 5 – 9 October, 2021, has received impressive feedback from local and international action research practitioners. The organisers from the Malaysian Action Research Network (MARNet) introduced two types of presentations, namely Pecha Kucha and Photovoice. The call for contributions began on 3 September, 2021 and lasted for only 17 days. One of the promotions was led virtually by Dr Zailah Zainudin, Dr Satirah Ahmad and Dr Mohd Syafiq Aiman Mat Noor, on 13 September, 2021 through YouTube and Facebook live streaming (https://youtu.be/N_iT_gMdKac). The showcase event, which lasted for 1 hour and 23 minutes, attracted thousands of viewers. In addition, hundreds of people shared the event through various social media platforms, namely, Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram. The call for contributions closed on 20 September, 2021 and the organisers received a total of 161 Pecha Kucha and Photovoice abstract submissions. After going through the review process, a total of 80 Pecha Kucha and 42 Photovoice abstracts were accepted for presentation at the MARNet Conference 2021. All the 122 presentations were divided into 31 parallel sessions, held over 5 consecutive conference days. In each parallel session, a panellist, who was also an action research scholar, was appointed to provide constructive feedback and to act as a critical friend (Mat Noor & Shafee, 2021) to the presenters.

We introduced Pecha Kucha and Photovoice presentation formats to encourage practitioners to present their practice-based studies in layperson language and to allow presenters to better engage with audiences in a virtual setting. Presentations were delivered either in English or Bahasa Melayu. Pecha Kucha means “chit chat” in Japanese. This is a presentation method that encourages presenters to tell a story using images rather than reading text from PowerPoint slides. Pecha Kucha’s 20×20 presentation format allows presenters to show 20 chosen images, each for 20 seconds (PechaKucha, 2022). In other words, they have got 400 seconds (6 minutes and 40 seconds) to tell their stories, with visuals guiding the way. Meanwhile, Photovoice is a type of participatory action research in which presenters use photographs and/or video to capture and express their thoughts about their environment and experiences. In a Photovoice presentation, presenters have got five minutes to tell their stories, with one slide featuring an image/images.

Pecha Kucha and Photovoice presenters at the MARNet Conference 2021 consisted of practitioners from various disciplinary backgrounds. Most of the practitioners were educators from across a range of levels at Malaysian educational institutions, including primary, secondary, tertiary and ministerial. We also had participants from health and social care backgrounds. 

‘Fear and stigma’ presented by Dr Ashwini M. Madawana

Dr Ashwini M. Madawana from the Ministry of Health Malaysia presented a Pecha Kucha entitled ‘Fear and Stigma’. Dr Ashwini M. Madawana presented in the parallel session entitled ‘Voices from Tertiary Educators and Health Practitioners’ on 6 October, 2021, which was chaired by Associate Professor Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan from Universiti Malaya. Her presentation recording can be viewed at https://youtu.be/BFcfH8fHo-4. Dr Ashwini M. Madawana demonstrated how she had developed an idea for a research project which revolves around ‘Xenophobia’ as part of her research journey. Based on her experiences, “Patients are demanding, can be problematic and overdramatic. They fear anxiety – this is commonly expressed by patients in the form of not knowing what is about to happen”. Addressing the audience, she advised: “Don’t ever let fear and stigmas inhibit you from detecting your potentials or your problems because we all know that early detection saves lives”. Dr Vishalache described Dr Ashwini M. Madawana’s presentation as an example of self-empowerment and reflexive engagement, which demonstrated how she actively sought further capacity development.

‘Casper and the Dinosaur’ presented by Ms Julianah Ahmad

In another parallel session on 9 October, 2021, entitled ‘Voices from Special Education Teachers’, Ms Julianah Ahmad from Sekolah Kebangsaan Pendidikan Khas Kota Kinabalu presented a Photovoice presentation entitled ‘Casper and the Dinosaur’. Her presentation recording can be viewed at https://youtu.be/K2JK0fsJlE0. As a special education teacher who teaches deaf students, she noted how her students have limited engagement with reading materials in Bahasa Melayu. In her studies, she developed a series of story books based on the concept of funds of identity.  Funds of identity refer to the historically accumulated, culturally developed, and socially distributed resources that are essential for a person’s self-definition, self-expression, and self-understanding (Esteban-Guitart & Moll, 2014). To date, Ms Julianah Ahmad has developed 10 story books for students, which include an illustration of sign languages. She found that the used of story books based on the concept of funds of identity attracted students’ interest in reading as the stories developed tapped into their experiences.

‘Intelligence Board 3.0’ presented by Mrs Shazrina Mazny Mazlan

At the secondary school level, Mrs Shazrina Mazny Mazlan from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tun Tijah presented a Pecha Kucha during a parallel session entitled ‘Voices from Design and Technology Teachers’. Her presentation recording can be viewed at https://youtu.be/-rYrzGI36MA. She presented innovative teaching and learning materials for electrical engineering students, which form part of a learning suite called ‘Intelligence Board 3.0’. She developed Intelligence Board 3.0 for students to study electrical courses at home, in response to the distance teaching and learning context of the Covid-19 pandemic. She found that students were able to develop the necessary skills to pass the course based on the curriculum, despite the various challenges presented for conducting practical work during these unprecedented times. Assistant Professor Dr Nazatul Akmar Mokhtar from the International Islamic University Malaysia, the panellist of the session, applauded Mrs Shazrina Mazny Mazlan’s initiatives, highlighting how they went the extra mile during the Movement Control Order (MCO) to ensure teaching and learning continued.

‘Arabic Language Learning Programme’ presented by Associate Professor Dr Azlan Shaiful Baharum

Associate Professor Dr Azlan Shaiful Baharum from the Islamic Science University of Malaysia, also representing tertiary educators, presented a Pecha Kucha on 8 October, 2021. He presented an Arabic Language learning programme for the public, which he had initiated during the Covid-19 pandemic. His presentation recording can be viewed at https://youtu.be/0o-pMOM2GKU. Since study of the Arabic Language is becoming very popular in Malaysia, Dr Azlan Shaiful Baharum wanted to provide free Arabic Language learning programmes to members of the public aged from 18 to 75 years. He found that the majority of students wanted to learn Arabic to communicate and understand the recitation of the Quran and of prayers. He hoped that the programme would open the minds of community members, especially Muslims, to the importance of learning the language of the Quran, and also the importance of the medium of da’wah as a means of spreading its understandings. The session entitled ‘Voices from Teacher Educators’ was chaired by Emeritus Professor Dr Othman Lebar from Sultan Idris Education University. Professor Dr Othman Lebar felt that Dr Azlan Shaiful Baharum’s presentation was “very well done” and he, himself wanted to sign up for the Arabic Language learning programme.

At the end of the conference, we asked the 216 participants to fill in an evaluation and feedback form. A total of 164 completed the form. All participants indicated that they had enjoyed presenting and/or watching action research presentations in the Pecha Kucha and Photovoice formats. The majority of participants described the presentation formats as “interesting”, “unique” and “new”. Most of the participants considered Pecha Kucha and Photovoice as a new approach and knowledge-making practice, as these formats have not been used at other conferences. One of the educators from Sabah was inspired by the approach introduced by MARNet and applied a similar structure to a regional conference he later organised. The new experiences gained by the participants have had a positive impact, and the majority of them (98.2%) thought that MARNet should continue with Pecha Kucha and Photovoice presentation formats for future conferences. Some other participant responses concerning Pecha Kucha and Photovoice presentations are recorded below:

“Pecha Kucha and Photovoice Presentations are the best format ever”.

“I think it was unique to present action research in the Pecha Kucha and Photovoice format. I never thought of this kind of presentation before. When I saw MARNet want to do that, it sparked my curiosity. I was wondering whether it is possible to present action research using this method? To my surprise it was great! All the presenters did very well in their presentations”.

“A new method of presentation for me and my friends. It was a challenge to us. To me, normally to make a presentation takes a very long time, but with the Pecha Kucha format I could express my ideas and made storylines easily and made others understand my story better”.

“I have gained lots of knowledge on how to use various research methodologies to improve my teaching method and to make learning easy and fun for my students”.

“I really fell in love with this format of presentation because it is more relaxed and friendly and does not require complex data and methodology discussions”.

“I can express my feelings and share the pleasure of doing research with findings that are not necessarily ‘beautiful’. I don’t feel any stress with Pecha Kucha and Photovoice formats of presentation and the conference is not a competition-type conference like other action research conferences in Malaysia”.