AECT Handbook of Research

Table of Contents

16. Visual Literacy

16.1 Introduction
16.2 Theoretical Foundations of Visual Literacy
16.3 Establishing a Visual Literacy Research Agenda
16.4 Visual Vocabulary
16.5 Visualization
16.6 Visual Learning/Visual Teaching
16.7 Visual Thinking
16.8 Visual Literacy and Verbal Literacy
16.9 The Visual-Verbal Relationship
16.10 Visible Language:Text as Visuals
16.11 Eletronic Visuals
16.12 Conclusions
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Visual thinking is the most abstract concept that draws attention from researchers of visual literacy. Arnheim (1969) was one of the first to use the term. His theory of visual thinking has dominated the later work of such popular writers as McKim (1972), Dondis (1973), and Paivio (1971, 1975). Hortin (1982a) stretched the concept to. add the dimension of visual rehearsal as a strategy for employing visual thinking in the learning process, and introduced the concept of introspection (is that a form of metacognition?) to the discussion of visual thinking (Hortin 1982b). Hortin also looked at the ways we use imagery in our daily lives (1983), connections of mental imagery to instructional design (1984), and the use of both internal and external imagery as aids for problem solving (1985). As noted earlier, the Minneapolis Public Schools have initiated a program that attempts to teach visual thinking (Lacy, 1989).

Since each individual's thinking is idiosyncratic, the teaching of thinking and thinking skills is problematic and controversial. Salomon (1979b, reprinted 1994) set a theoretical base for discussions of visual thinking in his comments on symbol systems: "Symbols serve as characters or coding elements ... (p. 29), [and] ... some coding elements of symbol systems can become internalized to serve as vehicles of thought (p. 84).

Conclusions about visual thinking evolve in strange ways. For example, Richard Mayer participated in two very different studies. One related to conceptual models for teaching computer programming (Bayman & Mayer, 1988). The other involved cognitive processing during reading (Mayer, 1987). From the two studies, he concluded that "Illustrations may help readers build useful mental models" (Mayer, 1989, p. 240).

Updated August 3, 2001
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