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Characteristics of a Meaningful Visual Pedagogy in Design Education

Emma Jefferies Northumbria Univeristy


Research Question:

‘How can visual pedagogy in design education become meaningful to design students and educators?’

Consider... -What does it mean to be visually literate in design?

-Why is being visually literate important to a designer?

-How are visual abilities and skills developed in design education?

What does it means to be VL... ‘the depth that an individual engages with a particular visual situation, to interpret and construct visual meaning’

What does it means to be VL... ‘the depth that an individual engages with a particular visual situation, to interpret and construct visual meaning’.


Why is VL important... Visual literacy is fundamental to a designer’s practice, as it contributes to their observational, thinking and communicative skills. This assists them to represent and solve problems, and to engage others in the process.


How does VL develops..

The Research Opportunity - To understand how students’ visual

practices are currently fostered in design education.

- To understanding how students’ visual practices can be fostered in design education.

How were the characteristics developed? Design-based Research (DBR): “The study of learning in context through the systematic design and study of instructional strategies and tools.� (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003, p.5)

During the i erative proc ess of decision making hypothesise

itcg es

About DBR: - it is not merely observing events but becoming involved in the situation, through designing teaching-learning approaches.

- The hypotheses are not fixed from the

outset. The hypothesis serves to inform the designer of the teaching-learning approaches.

Why DBR? as knowledge gained would provide design educators with a usable framework (based on theory and practice) which could be used to reflect and promote dialogue on their current practice of fostering students’ visual practices, and to generate alternative options.

2. Characteristics of a meaningful visual pedagogy in design education

Characteristics Features of a visual pedagogy that promote communication and understanding of visual practices between all players in the learning community, enabling students to question and improve how they apply such practices within a design project.

Meaningful Real life experiences that a person ‘owns’, and that assist them to develop their visual practices: having more explicit methods leads students to experience what they are doing in a different way which, in turn, enables them to develop in their own visual voice.

Visual Pedagogy Any conscious activity by one person designed to enhance visual learning in another. (Adapted from Watkins and Mortimore, 1999, p.3)

Characteristic’s Elements - Background and Define - Process: Theory behind the characteristics - Practical examples: Show how the characteristic and process can be put into action

Sociocultural Way of Seeing - Define a shared understanding of visual practices that involve a particular design community.

Sherlock Holmes Characters person may show trails of more than one character, if you find, describe why and point area(s) To improve Seeing:


To improve: She need to take responsibility for her work by:

...She works hard through trial and error where decisions are based on personal opinion and knowledge.

...She doesn’t reflect her work or herself, therefore her decision-making is not informed.

1. Reflect weekly, question ‘what’, 'where' and 'how, to understand 'what is appropriate' for her audience.

Barriers which stop 'Seeing’:

2. Employing methods to question and update her knowledge during the:

... single minded doesn’t seek to add to her knowledge pool. ...unquestioning about her work, finding it difficult to offer suggestions to others.

a. Research stage: Expand: Brainstorming and sketch work. Explore: Inspiration of all types, magazine, artist, exhibitions, Looking around and see alternatives. Analysis: Take time to “see”, and analyse what you are seeing.


To improve:

...She can see the need for change if this is pointed out to her.

“Looking but not seeing”


...Knows he is capable of ‘seeing’ using trial and error and previous knowledge, but will realise there are other ways to see by: -taking photographs -understand his audience -sketching -new research material.

“Looking and seeing”

Barriers which stop 'Seeing’: ...doesn’t know when to use his seeing ability.

...He takes responsibility of his work by: -questioning his work. -offer feedback to others, wants to contribute. -taking direction and incorporate this into his practice.

...doesn’t feel confident enough to look round the edged - may feel negative.



...Applies himself to new challenges by: -look at the audience and brainstorming. -discover new knowledge to help him solve problems -interested to look beyond his peer group for insights. -comparing his work to others -actively seeking feedback from others. -still working by trial and error but guided by a systematic process, developed through past notes. “Knows when to look and when to see”

...He reflects on his work giving a good diagnosis, see his weakness he does not yet reflect on himself.

...However, he realises the importance to evaluate 'what is appropriate', before putting new process and data into practice, to understand the impact this will have on the finished design.

...Pelentless pursuit of perfectionism stop him moving on and experimenting.

....takes ownership of his own learning: -learns by questionng what he doesn’t understand. -takes responsibility for his work -Reflect upon problems actively, (regularly) -He reflect on himself.

Barriers which stop 'Seeing’: ...There may be time when he over reflective and this stops him from solving the problem.

b. Development stage: Expand: Brainstorming and sketch work. Explore: Inspiration of all types, be inquisitive and question visual images throughout the design process. Analysis: To employ guidance from others.

He needs to take ownership of his learning through:

3. Reflecting on himself: a. To realise when it is necessary to takesome time to 'think', when the stake are high. Asking: ‘Why am I doing it this way?’.

b. To acquire an understanding of any weakness in his learning style. Asking: ‘…is there anything stopping me from seeing?’

4. Developing as a self-directed learner by: c. Being more adventurous, try out a. Actively seek to update his new ideas or tools. Feeling brave knowledge rather than waiting for enough to explore round the edges, information from others. analyse what is unusual and what is b.Seeing that failure is a positive thing, not understood. and failure earlier onleads to a better d. Employing guidance from others outcome and learning experience. be consider what advise to take.

To improve: He must constantly transform his ability to see and learn through:

5. Continue to question, evolve, experiment and change 6. Apply reflection in a plan by: a. Acquiring an understanding of any weakness in his learning, take this into account when planning.

b. Develop some imaginative ways to plan, trying new methods 'of seeing'.

Individual’s Way of Seeing - Define a self-awareness of an individual’s own visual practices that can be explicitly communicated to others.

Critical Ways of Seeing - Define a critical awareness of an individual’s or group’s Ways of Seeing that allows the individual to analyse and question what and how they see.

What they ‘see’: Brainstorm

What they ‘see’ ‘see’: 6 Hats

How they ‘see’: Looking and Seeing

4. Discussion: Engaging with the Characteristics

Level of Engagement - Philosophy - Structure - Process - Practical examples

Philosophy - the underlying beliefs and values of the characteristics.

Philosophy: Ways of Seeing - General: The form is ‘learning’, the ‘content’ is visual literacy.

- Design: Personal development, questioning and application.

Philosophy:Visually Literate - By engaging with a design community of practice and the visual world.

- Transferring experiences into the next learning context through different forms of reflective practice.

Structure - The characteristics themselves, as they provide a frame of reference based on the philosophy to prompt design educators’ reflection on their own teaching practices and encourage debate around the fostering of students’ visual practices within the institution.

Structure - Depend on the educator and institution

- Mix and match - Promote debate - Design process

5. Summary

Review of DBR: Novelty - The process of designing, processing and testing has offered the researcher: An immersive engagement with the educational context. Knowledge produced incorporated the complexity of the educational setting into the characteristics.

Review of DBR: Usefulness - the results of DBR in education should: “be in the zone of the proximal development of teachers’ pedagogical knowledge…a huge challenge for researchers” (Nordina and Juuti p.62).

Contribution: - Developing knowledge that informs the act or conversations of fostering students’ visual practices, which previously could only be inferred.

- .This research has endeavoured to transpose visual literacy from a ‘noun’ in design education into a ‘verb’.

Ambitions -Development of structure - Application or adoption of the characteristics in different teaching and learning environments

- Development of the characteristics in design practices

Thank you.

Characteristics of a Meaningful Visual Pedagogy in Design Education  

This paper was present at 1th Annual International Visual Literacy Association Conference. October 6-9, 2009 Chicago. This presentation talk...

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