Visual Literacy InFUSION Project

Visual Literacy InFUSION Project

  January VL Faculty Institute with Philip Yenawine

Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.

In Spring 2015 the Davis Educational Foundation awarded Lesley University $175,000 for the Visual Literacy InFUSION Project (the Project) to design a professional development program to increase the creative teaching and assessment of learning in visual literacy to transform undergraduate student learning experiences at Lesley. The relocation of the College of Art and Design to Cambridge served as a catalyst for the Project, bringing the two University undergraduate schools of approximately 1,800 students and 85 core faculty members into close proximity.  The University seized this opportunity to create a model of a fully integrated undergraduate experience where visual literacy is fostered in the liberal arts and sciences disciplines as well as professional majors.

The Project spanned two years, moving from model creation and pilot implementation of sixteen Faculty Fellows in 2015- 2016 to their leadership of professional development of the entire undergraduate faculty in 2016 – 2017.  Collaborative teams of Faculty Fellows were drawn from across the disciplines and majors to design and pilot new pedagogical projects based in cross-disciplinary content and pedagogy; implement their pedagogical projects and assess their impact on students learning; and then expand their professional development experiences to the entire undergraduate faculty.

The Creativity Commons facilitated the Project, working with sixteen Faculty Fellows (eight from the College of Art and Design and eight from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) to create new pedagogical approaches for undergraduate teaching. Since its inception in 2011, the Creativity Commons has offered innovative faculty development that has focused on cross-school explorations in creative pedagogical practices. This collaborative effort also involved the College of Art and Design librarian and eLearning and Instructional Support program designers with expertise in visual literacy and technology integration.  Their participation is consistent with the Association of College & Research Libraries Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education:

Visual literacy education is typically a collaborative endeavor, involving faculty, librarians… and learning technologists. Integrating visual literacy into the curriculum requires partnerships and shared implementation strategies across academic departments and units.

During the first year of the project Faculty Fellows re-imagined teaching and learning experiences by integrating visual and textual literacies, thus providing new openings for students to create, interpret and express their knowledge through both images and words.  In the second year, the 16 Faculty Fellows brought their understanding of the process of collaborative integration as well as the importance of visual literacy to their peers across the undergraduate schools. This cross-pollination has had an impact on the institution, leading to a continuation of innovative ideas and generative thinking; cross-disciplinary integration of arts; designing integrative pedagogy with the physical and social sciences; building critical inquiry and engaging participants actively with social change.

The Visual Literacy Fellows presented this collaborative model of professional development and provided examples of pedagogical projects that integrate visual literacy across the curriculum at the International Visual Literacy Association Conference September 14th – 17th at Lesley University.  The Fellows presented various approaches for engaging students in visual literacy learning across the disciplines:

Kazuyo Kubo      Visual Ethnography: Participant Photography and Social Illustration

Ellen Schon    Learning to look; looking to learn: Using 2D images and Video to Reflect on 3D Creative Production

Andre Ruesch   Counter Narrative to Alternative Facts

Heather Shaw    Ready, set, play!  Using physical and digital prototyping to teach complex systems in interactive design.

Janet Sauer   Designing Visual Literacy Experiences from a Dis/ability Perspective

Brandon Strathmann   The Creation and Understanding of Artwork is an Important Achievement in developing Visual Literacy

James O'Keefe    Visual Literacy Experiences that Enhance Student Understanding  of Concepts in Mathematics

Albert Liau, Deborah Davidson, David Morimoto  Thinking. Visually. Together.
Designing Visual Literacy Experiences