The visual literacy movement has been tied to the field of education from the outset. While the research on visualization has demonstrated that visual skills can be taught (Winn, 1982a, and others), there has been no standard approach to teaching visual skills. Although visual skills and visual literacy instruction in the schools is the exception rather than the rule, in several instances visual literacy courses have been introduced. Dake (1982) reviewed 50 visual literacy curricula representing all education levels. He concluded:

Programs that propose to promote visual literacy come in an amazing variety of formats with significantly different content. Each program seems to have been uniquely formed around existing conditions, the support and facilities available, and the knowledge and dedication of personnel already on hand.

As to the significantly different content that he mentioned, Dake went on to list 20 topics that could be found in the various curricula. The list is interesting because of its diversity and because several topics seem only remotely related to communicating visually.

1. Developing an understanding of visual media
2. Development of an awareness of communications (mass media) technology and its pervasiveness
3. Technical information on photography, video, etc.
4. The psychology and physiology of vision (These are organized with various levels of analysis of specific behaviors as well as holistic subjective content.)
5. The analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of visual communication
6. Aesthetics
7. How visual literacy contributes to the development of general intellectual skills
8. Developing [visual] learning skills
9. Developing positive self-concept, autonomy, and selfesteem
10. Learning attentiveness to concrete experiences
11. The blending of vision with other senses
12. Developing self-knowledge (The selectivity that goes into visual messaging reveals a great deal about the creator.)
13. Metaphoric thinking and language—development of meaning
14. The creative process
15. The nature of consciousness
16. Imagination
17. The relationship of visual literacy to concept development
18. Perception of patterns and classification (such as causation)
19. Body and object language
20. Exploring visual/verbal relations

Dake (1982) concluded that “the programs surveyed do not show a consistent relationship between visual literacy theory and research and the structure of the curricula.” While he gathered and published information about 19 of the curricula, including evaluation information, no conclusive research conclusions can be drawn. (All of the programs were considered to be “successful,” but evaluation evidence was more anecdotal than empirical.)

Roberts A. Braden
California State University at Chico

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