characteristics of a meaningful visual pedagogy in design education

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This paper was present at 1th Annual International Visual Literacy Association Conference. October 6-9, 2009 Chicago. This presentation talk about a visual pedagogy for design education


  • Characteristics of a Meaningful Visual Pedagogy in Design Education

    Emma JefferiesNorthumbria Univeristy

  • 1.Background

  • 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.

  • 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 designers 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.

  • examples

  • 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.


  • During the it-erative proc-ess of deci-sion makinghypothesises

    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 it-erative proc-ess of deci-sion makinghypothesises

    How were the characteristics developed?

    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.

  • Why DBR?

  • 2. Characteristics of a meaningful visual pedagogy in design education

  • CharacteristicsFeatures 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.

  • MeaningfulReal 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.

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

  • Characteristics Elements---

    Process: Theory behind the characteristics

    Background and Define

    Practical examples: Show how the characteristic and process can be put into action

  • Characteristics Elements---

    Process: Theory behind the characteristics

    Sociocultural Way of Seeing-


    a shared understanding of visual practices that involve a particular design community.

  • Seeing:...She works hard through trial and errorwhere decisions are based on personalopinion and knowledge.

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

    Reflect: ...She doesnt reflect her work or herself,therefore her decision-making is not informed.

    Looking but not seeing

    Barriers which stop 'Seeing:... single minded doesnt seek to add toher knowledge pool.

    ...unquestioning about her work, findingit difficult to offer suggestions to others.

    To improve: She need to take responsibility for her work by:1. Reflect weekly, question what, 'where' and 'how, to understand'what is appropriate' for her audience.

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

    a. Research stage:Expand: Brainstorming and sketch work.Explore: Inspiration of all types,magazine, artist, exhibitions, Lookingaround and see alternatives.Analysis: Take time to see, and analysewhat you are seeing.

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

    Seeing:...Knows he is capable of seeing usingtrial and error and previous knowledge,but will realise there are other ways tosee by:

    -taking photographs -understand his audience -sketching -new research material.

    ...He takes responsibility of his work by:-questioning his work.-offer feedback to others,wants to contribute.

    -taking direction and incorporatethis into his practice.

    Reflect: ...He reflects on his work giving a gooddiagnosis, see his weakness he does notyet reflect on himself.

    Looking and seeing

    Barriers which stop 'Seeing:...doesnt know when to use his seeingability.

    ...doesnt feel confident enough to lookround the edged - may feel negative.

    ...Pelentless pursuit of perfectionism stophim moving on and experimenting.

    To improve: He needs to take ownership of his learning through:3. Reflecting on himself:a. To realise when it is necessary totakesome time to 'think', when thestake are high. Asking: Why am I doingit this way?.

    b. To acquire an understanding of anyweakness in his learning style.Asking: is there anything stoppingme from seeing?

    4. Developing as a self-directed learner by:a. Actively seek to update hisknowledge rather than waiting forinformation from others.

    b.Seeing that failure is a positive thing,and failure earlier onleads to a betteroutcome and learning experience.

    Seeing:...Applies himself to new challenges by:

    -look at the audience and brainstorming.-discover new knowledge tohelp 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.

    ...However, he realises the importanceto evaluate 'what is appropriate', beforeputting new process and data intopractice, to understand the impactthis will have on the finished design.

    Reflect:....takes ownership of his own learning:

    -learns by questionng what he doesntunderstand.-takes responsibility for his work-Reflect upon problems actively, (regularly)-He reflect on himself.

    Barriers which stop 'Seeing:...There may be time when he overreflective and this stops him from solvingthe problem.

    To improve: He must constantly transform his ability to see andlearn through:5. Continue to question, evolve, experiment and change

    6. Apply reflection in a plan by:a. Acquiring an understandingof any weakness in his learning,take this into account whenplanning.

    b. Develop some imaginativeways to plan, trying newmethods 'of seeing'.

    c. Being more adventurous, try outnew ideas or tools. Feeling braveenough to explore round the edges,analyse what is unusual and what isnot understood.

    d. Employing guidance from othersbe consider what advise to take.

    Knows when to lookand when to see

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

  • Individuals Way of Seeing-


    a self-awareness of an individuals own visual practices that can be explicitly communicated to others.

  • Critical Ways of Seeing-


    a critical awareness of an individuals or groups Ways of Seeing that allows the individual to analyse and question what and how they see.

  • What they see: Brainstorm

  • What they seeWhat they see: 6 Hats

  • How they see: Looking and Seeing

  • How they see: Looking and Seeing

  • 4. Discussion: Engaging with the Characteristics

  • Level of Engagement-




    Practical examples


  • Philosophy- the underlying beliefs and values of the characteristics.

  • Philosophy-

    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.


  • Philosophy: Visually Literate-


    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


  • Structure- 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.

    Usefulness: Nordina and Juuti


  • Review of DBR: Novelty

    Review of DBR: Usefulness

    the results of DBR in education should: be in the zone of the proximal development of teachers pedagogical knowledgea 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.

  • Contribution:



    Development of structure

    Application or adoption of the characteristics in different teaching and learning environments

    Development of the characteristics in design practices




  • Thank you.

    [email protected]