Visual Literacy Levels and Predominant Learning Modality among First Year Design Students: The Influence of Teaching Intervention

By Arianne Rourke and Zena O’Connor.

Published by The Design Collection

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

Knowledge about students’ visual literacy levels and predominant learning styles provides educators with an opportunity to adjust their teaching methods and visual learning materials to suit a range of different levels and modalities. Previous research by the authors has indicated that visual literacy levels among undergraduate design students, was not as high as expected. This expectation was based on the assumption that these students would have a strong interest in design as it was their selected area for study and that they were taught art or design in the later years of high school. This research had also indicated that, while the majority of undergraduate design students were visual learners, auditory and kinaesthetic learners were also common. The current research sought to focus on the effect that design education may have on student’s visual literacy levels and predominant learning modalities. In this study two cohorts of first year undergraduate design students formed the sample group. The first of these comprised students tested in the first week of the first semester and the second cohort comprised students tested in the last week of the semester. Visual literacy level and predominant learning modality were investigated using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods including two questionnaires and F-sort and Q-sort methodology. This study, conducted in a realistic teaching environment, used descriptive statistics to identify varying levels of visual literacy and the predominant learning modality of participants. Correlation methodology was used to examine patterns of similarity or dissimilarity amongst the two cohorts. By gaining a better understanding of the changes that may occur in students’ visual literacy levels and predominant learning modalities both before and after disciplinary knowledge has been provided, recommendations will be made for improving the use of visual material to promote learning in the future.

Keywords: Visual Literacy, Learning Styles, Teaching Design History, Use of Visuals for Effective Learning, Visual Education, Visual Memory, Design Prototypes

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.347-360. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 718.612KB).

Dr. Arianne Rourke

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

My research interests are in online teaching and learning, visual literacy, learning styles 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

Honorary Associate, The University of Sydney, Environment-Behaviour Studies Research Group, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, Honorary Associate, The University of Sydney; Principal, Design Research Associates; Sessional Lecturer, College of Fine Art, University of NSW, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Honorary Associate, Environment-Behaviour Studies Research Group, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning (The University of Sydney); Principal Researcher, Design Research Associates; and Sessional Lecturer at the College of Fine Art (University of NSW). Key areas of research include Environment-behaviour studies, colour theory, environmental evaluation and visual literacy.


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