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Course Goals
This course will familiarize students with:
  • the definition and concepts of visual literacy;
  • the impact of visual images on our culture;
  • the creation and use of educational visuals;
  • the inclusion of visuals in instruction; and
  • teaching critical viewing skills to various audiences.
Course Objectives (hyperlinks are to corresponding course assignments)
This course familiarizes students with visual media and helps students develop the ability to critically analyze and produce visual instruction. Students will:
  • review and define the concept of visual literacy;
  • analyze visual communications;
  • identify and utilize design (and production) elements in visuals;
  • review visual learning research and apply it to specific projects;
  • examine and understand the development of critical viewing skills;
  • review and utilize current technology through "visual literacy eyes";
  • explain/apply/situate concepts of visual literacy into instructional technology practice and/or settings.
Required Texts
  • Moore, M. & Dwyer, F. (1994). Visual literacy: A spectrum of visual learning, New Jersey: Ed. Tech. Publ.
  • Williams, R. (1994). Non-Designers Design Book. Addison-Wesley.

I.V.L.A. Conference Readings (choose one or more):

  • Griffin, R. et.al. (2000). Natural Vistas: Visual Literacy and the World Around Us. Loretto, PA: IVLA.
  • Griffin, R. et. al. (1998). Connecting with the Community. State College, PA: I.V.L.A.
  • Griffin, R. et. al. (1997). Vision Quest: Journeys Towards Visual Literacy. State College, PA: I.V.L.A.
  • Braden, Beauchamp, Griffin, R. (eds.) (1996). Eyes on the Future. Blacksberg, VA: I.V.L.A.
  • Braden, Beauchamp, Griffin, R. (eds.) (1995). Imagery and Visual Literacy. Blacksberg, VA: I.V.L.A.
  • Braden, Beauchamp, Baca (eds.) (1994). Visual Literacy in the Digital Age. Bloomington, IN: I.V.L.A.
  • Braden, Clark-Baca, Beauchamp (1993). Art, Science, and Visual Literacy. Pittsburgh: I.V.L.A.

Older editions still available.

Readings (Recommended on syllabus by parentheses; available for student duplicating on reserve in the Learning Center, Gabel 08)
  • Arnheim, Robert (1954). Art and visual perception. Berkeley, University of California Press, one chapter.
  • Barry, Ann Marie (1995). Media, Youth and Violence. In Couch, Richard (ed.). The Visual Literacy Review. Volume 25, No. 2, pp. 1-4.
  • Braden, Roberts A. (1996). Visual Literacy. JVVL, 16, 2, pp. 9-83.
  • Couch, Richard (1995). Critical Viewing of Television. In Couch, Richard (ed.). The Visual Literacy Review. Volume 25, No. 2, pp. 5-7.
  • Dondis, Donis A. (1973). A Primer of Visual Literacy. The M.I.T. Press, Chaps. 1 & 2 (pp. 1-38).
  • Eysenck, Michael and Keane, Mark (1990). Cognitive psychology a student's handbook. London, Erlbaum Assoc.
  • Fleming, Malcom (1987). Designing pictorial/verbal instruction: some speculative extensions from research to practice. Chapter 5 in Houghton and Willows, eds. The Psychology of Illustration: Instructional Issues. New York: Springer-Verlag; pp. 136-157.
  • Griffin, R. E. and Whiteside, J. Alan. (1984). Visual literacy: A model for understanding the discipline, in Walker, Braden, and Dunker (eds.). Visual Literacy-Enhancing Human Potential. Bloomington, IN: International Visual Literacy Association, pp. 70-82.
  • Lacy, L. (1987). An Interdisciplinary Approach for Students in K-12 Using Visuals of all Kinds. In R.A. Braden, D. G. Beauchamp, and L. W. Millers (Eds.). Visible & Viable: The Role of Images in Instruction and Communication. Commerce: East Texas State University.
  • Levie, W. Howard. Research and theory on pictures. JVVL, 4,2 (bibliog.).
  • Monoco, James (1981). How to read a film. Oxford Univ. Press, Chaps 1&3 (skim).
  • Robinson, Rhonda (1986). Television literacy for adults: Learning to see TV. Media and Adult Learning, 9,1, pp. 13-16.
  • Seels, Barbara and Fredette, Barbara (1994). A dialogue about mythological symbols from the campfire to the digital age. In Beauchamp, Braden and Baca (Eds). Visual Literacy in the Digital Age. Bloomington, IN: International Visual Literacy Association, pp. 119-125.
  • Wiegmann, Beth (1992). Visual Literacy, Science Process Skills, and Children's Books. In R. A. Braden, J. C. Baca, D. G. Beauchamp (eds.). Art, Science and Visual Literacy. Blacksberg, VA: IVLA.

Winn, W. D. (1993). Perception principles. In M. Fleming and W. H. Levie, (Eds.) Instructional message design: Principles from the behavioral and cognitive science, (2nd Ed.) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

  • Zell, Ann and Sutton, Ron (1991). Image manipulation: The Zelig phenomenon. JVL, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 10-37.
Course Outline






Course Overview

ASSIGNMENT DUE (see next page for details) M&D=Moore & Dwyer text
2 9/04

No Class (Labor Day)

Symbol due (#1); Dondis), (McKim), M&D:Chap 1,2,3,6
3 9/11

Visual Literacy: Definition

Bring a favorite photo M&D: Chap. 2,4,7,&10
4 9/18 Psychology of Perception Bring a favorite photo
5 9/25 Decoding Visual Images Design Elements/Vis Lit Lecture and PracticeCritique Assignment Practice (Sutton reading) M&D: Chap. 5,10,11
6 10/2 Critique Presentation Image Manipulation #2; M&D: Chap. 12,13
7 10/09 Visual Communications:Introduction to Research (Braden reading) M&D: Chap. 22
8 10/16 Conference Discussion Lab Session - Work on Assignment #3, 4 M&D: Chap. 14,15 Williams, TBA
9 10/23 Visual Language of Motion Media (Barry reading) (Monoco reading) M&D: Chap. 19
10 10/30 Visual Research: Continued #3 Discussion Assignment #3 Presentations (Fleming Reading)
11 11/6 Teaching Critical Viewing Skills M&D: Chap. 14,16 (Couch, Seels, Robinson)
12 11/13 Assign. #4 Discussions No assignments are required
13 11/20 Assignment #4 Discussions readings) Lab time on indiv./grp. projects (Arnheim, Eysenck M&D: Chap. 17,18
14 11/27 Visualization/Visual Thinking (Lacy, Wiegmann readings) M&D: Chap. 8
15 12/4 Class Presentations: Papers and Visual Productions #5
16 12/11 Class Presentations: Papers and Visual Productions #5




































































Course Assignments

15% - analyze visual communication

1. a. Participate in class assigned readings, discussions.

b. Develop a personal visual symbol, and select 5 colorful pictures which describe a particular characteristic of you (each picture a different trait).

c. Communicate electronically with instructor and classmates, as needed; all students must activate their NIU e-mail account.


15% - identify and utilize design elements in visuals

2. Select one visual presentation item (commercial or educational), print advertisement, photograph or Web Page, and utilize visual design criteria to discuss and critique the visual presentation, focusing on visual design characteristics. Copy the visual and make two new visuals changing one design element in each. Written critique (at most, one page per visual) presented in class in small discussion groups. (Can be print or electronic.)

20% - review visual learning research and apply it to specific projects

3. Review at least three related articles or chapters from the IVLA Readings or others as recommended (see list). Summarize the articles in a written review paper (approximately 5 pages) in which you discuss the ideas, and examples of the ways the information could translate to the design of a project, development of instruction, etc. Prepare to share your ideas in a group, including examples if available. (Doctoral students should use research reports as sources.)

20% - review and utilize current technology through 'visual literacy eyes'

4. Review, critique, and explain the content and design of an educational or commercial segment of a current motion technology such as a film, a music video, an advertisement, a video, a World Wide Web site or a CD-ROM. Choose two or more elements from the definitions of visual literacy presented in class to focus your review (maximum of 3 pages). Copy your segment or material and bring to class if possible for a presentation in small groups (may be done with a partner or small group).

30% - explain and apply the concept of visual literacy as situated into Instructional Technology settings

5. Individually, or in partners or small groups, develop a final project/presentation for class. Select an area of interest related to visual literacy as it applies to your profession, i.e., business, higher education, K-12 education, etc. (Most people choose a topic related to their earlier paper)

a. Define/discuss visual literacy in the context of your professional application

b. Explain how your chosen component of visual literacy is situated in your area and in Instructional Technology. Visualize your definition and discussion by providing an example developed for your setting.

The written component (a., b.) should be 2-4 pages in length.

c. This presentation should be highly visual, with visual materials you have either produced or selected, such as overhead graphics, slides, a PowerPoint presentation, a Web site, or video, for example. This is the final classroom presentation in lieu of an exam, (and may be done in small groups).


Related Readings

  • Arnheim, Robert (1954). Art and visual perception. Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Berry, Ann M. (1997). Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication.
  • Curtiss, Deborah (1987). Introduction to Visual Literacy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Dwyer, F. (1978). Strategies for Improving Visual Learning, State College, Pennsylvania.
  • Eysenck, Michael and Keane, Mark (1990). Cognitive psychology a student's handbook. London, Erlbaum Assoc.
  • Fleming, Malcolm and Levie, Howard (1978). Instructional message design. New Jersey, Englewood Cliffs
  • Fleming, Malcolm and Levie, Howard (1993). Instructional message design: Principles from the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences. 2nd Edition. New Jersey, Englewood Cliffs.
  • McGibbon, Bill (1992). The Age of Missing Information. New York: Random House.
  • McKim, R. H. (1972). Experiences in visual thinking. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co. chapters 4 and 9.
  • McKim, R. H. (1980). Thinking Visually, a Strategy Manual for Problem Solving. Palo Alto, CA: Dale Seymour Publications.
  • Mander, Jerry (1991). In the Absence of the Sacred. San Francisco: The Sierra Club (Chaps 4-8).
  • Mason, Kathy (1991). Going Beyond Words. Tucson, AZ: Zephyr Press.
  • Messaris, Paul (1994). Visual Literacy: Image, Mind, and Reality. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, Inc.
  • Pettersson, R. (1991). Visuals for Information, New Jersey: Ed. Tech. Publ.
  • Sobchack, Vivian (1992). The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Wileman, R. (1993). Visual Communicating, New Jersey: Ed. Tech. Publ.
  • Willows, D.M. and Houghton, H.A. (1987). Psychology of illustration, Vol. I, Vol. II, Springer-Verlag, New York.

Course Particulars:

This course is fairly introductory and somewhat a "survey" of issues in visual literacy. It is designed to engage learners in a variety of experiences which should help them develop their own visual literacy skills and provide them with ideas/activities to build visual literacy into their own practice. Engaged learning requires participation, active learning, and often cooperative learning in groups, through technology. Participation is assumed; learning will not be effective if students cannot/do not take responsibility for their own and others learning.

Grading criteria will be included in the class discussions of assignments; assignments should be on time and presentations/discussions in class are an important part of the learning experience. Being a thoughtful and successful class member includes listening as well as viewing skills.