Assignments are getting more visual: introducing strategies for developing visual literacy in our students
Keywords:visual literacy, assignments, visuals
For decades (even centuries), university has been dominated by text-based assessments. However, things are changing. With the massive increase in visual communication in society, and with an acknowledgement that diverse assessments allow a more diverse student body to thrive, there is a gradual, but noticeable, increase in visually-rich assessment types being set. Whilst traditional academic presentations and posters have the potential to develop some basic visual communication skills, assessments such as infographics, blogs, magazine articles, and posters aimed at the general public require higher levels of visual literacy. This means learning developers may need to improve their own strategies for supporting students with such assignments and ensure that our practices allow all students, especially those who struggle with text-based assessments, to shine (see Bartram, 2021).
Following on from calls at the last conference for practical ways to develop visual literacy, this workshop has been designed to introduce some tried and tested learning development activities that can support the development of the practices and approaches needed when undertaking visually-rich assignments. The activities consider the Framework for Visual Literacy (ACRL, 2022), specifically helping students to:
- be aware that they are participating in a changing visual environment,
- understand how images can communicate information both effectively and affectively,
- approach images with criticality,
- work with images sensitively and ethically.
The workshop provided opportunities for more experienced participants to share ideas and activities that they have already used that develop any of the knowledge practices and dispositions from the Framework. In addition, we brainstormed new ways that these can be incorporated into our general learning development practices. Both participants who are new to developing visual literacy and those who are already involved in this area were able therefore to take away new ideas to try in their own context.
ACRL (2022) The framework for visual literacy in higher education. Available online: https://acrl.libguides.com/IRIG/frameworkforvisualliteracy (Accessed 11 May 2023).
Bartram, J. A. (2021) Bridges and barriers to developing visual literacy in UK undergraduate students. EdD Thesis. University of Hull, March 2021. Available online: https://hull-repository.worktribe.com/output/4223611/ (Accessed 2 May 2023).
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