Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education from ACRL

The ubiquity of images and visual media -- together with their great power to persuade, contextualize, engage, and illustrate -- underscore the importance of visual literacy today. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), which published its Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education over a decade ago, recently released its visual complement: Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. These standards define visual literacy as "a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media."

Relevant to studies in any discipline, these standards aim to provide educators with "an intellectual framework and structure to facilitate the development of skills and competencies required for students to engage with images in an academic environment, and critically use and produce visual media throughout their professional lives."

Detailed performance indicators and learning outcomes expand on each of the following seven standards:
  1. The visually literate student determines the nature and extent of the visual materials needed.
  2. The visually literate student finds and accesses needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently.
  3. The visually literate student interprets and analyzes the meanings of images and visual media.
  4. The visually literate student evaluates images and their sources.
  5. The visually literate student uses images and visual media effectively.
  6. The visually literate student designs and creates meaningful images and visual media.
  7. The visually literate student understands many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and accesses and uses visual materials ethically.
Of course, these issues are the bread and butter of visual artists and art historians in academia; after all, this is what you do. However, the standards note that "visual literacy education is typically a collaborative endeavor, involving faculty, librarians, curators, archivists, visual resources professionals, and learning technologists." There are many ways that the VRC can support your students in pursuit of each of these standards. These include, but are not limited to, help with:
  • identifying a variety of image sources, materials, and types;
  • finding and accessing images and visual media effectively and efficiently;
  • retrieving or reproducing the needed image using appropriate technologies or systems (e.g., download functions, copy and paste, scanning, cameras);
  • making judgments about the reliability and accuracy of image sources;
  • using technology effectively to work with images;
  • using a variety of tools and technologies to produce images and visual media;
  • understanding many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding images and visual media (including intellectual property, copyright, and fair use).
We look forward to discussing ways that we can support your teaching in pursuit of these goals. Drop us a line!

Image: Michael Coghlan (mikecogh), Buddha with Swastika, 2011, available from Flickr under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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