I can See but I don’t Understand it! Investigating Visual Literacy Skills and Learning Styles among Higher Education Design Students

By Arianne Rourke and Zena O’Connor.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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

When using visual material in higher education to teach art or design history, do we as teachers take for granted that the students not only ‘see’ but also ‘comprehend’ what we are talking about? Schnotz (2002) proposes that “it is not enough that learners posses the cognitive schemata of everyday knowledge required for understanding pictorial illustrations” (p116), they need also to have acquired domain-specific knowledge and the skills to apply it. Superficial observational points are often provided from students who lack visual literacy skills. These students tend to rely on visual type-form (recognition schemata) rather than associations which identify individual representations that required having the skill to recognise relevancy and the prior knowledge to put what they had identified into appropriate language. According to Fransecky and Debes (1972), one of the abilities one must have to be a visually literate individual is the grammar and syntax of visual language and the knowledge of how to apply it. According to Feldman (1982), art “is a language of visual images that everyone must learn to read” (p.5) and according to Broughton (1986) “visual communication relies upon an innate grammar of images that is learnable” (p.127). Within the framework of the literature, this paper will discuss a proposed study that will focus on investigating levels of visual literacy and predominant learning modality of undergraduate design students using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods including: a questionnaire and F-sort and Q-sort methodology. It will use correlation analysis to examine patterns of similarity or dissimilarity in terms of levels of visual literacy and predominant learning modality to examine the hypothesis that there is a strong link between high visual literacy skill levels and visually inclined learners.

Keywords: Visual Literacy Skills, Design History in Higher Education, Learning Styles, Visual Modality, Predominant Learning Modality, Novice Learners

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.19-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 536.283KB).

Dr. Arianne Rourke

Lecturer, The School of Art History and Art Education, COFA University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

My research interests are in online teaching, visual literacy and the application of Cognitive load theory to improving instructional design in higher education specifically in the area of improving the teaching of undergraduate design history and postgraduate arts administration towards the long term retention of learning.

Dr. Zena O’Connor

Sessional Lecturer, School of Art History and Art Education, The University of New South Wales & EBS Research Group, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia


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