vii. Teaching Visual Literacy

I have been reflecting on the following quote as part of my essay on ‘Designing and Planning for Learning’:

During our lives we are taught how to read the printed word. We are shown how sentences are made up of grammatical units, how authors go on to use a whole cornucopia of grammatical devices to get their meaning across, and how meaning is both created and communicated at a remarkably sophisticated level. […] Things are much less straightforward in the visual world. Often, we are left on our own when it comes to figuring out what a visual image means.

(Howells and Negreiros 2012: 1)

Visual literacy is something we build in students as part of their art and design education, and something that has been key to my teaching in Visual Culture. However, I am aware that my own socio-cultural position and my own research interests will inevitably influence the kind of materials that I present. I think asking students to bring in their own images to discuss is one way to decentre the tutor, as is group work in seminars where students draw upon their own ‘cultural competences’ in order to decode an image or set of images. This allows students to learn from one another, and avoids visual culture being imposed on the students in a ‘top-down’ manner.


Howells, R. and Negreiros, J. (2012) Visual Culture, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity

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