Go to Home Page Go to Gallery Go to Biography Go to Resume Go to Assignments

Visual Literacy Article Summary

Susan Connell
Fall 2003


Branden, R. A. (1996). Visual literacy. Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. (chap. 27.2). Retrieved September 17, 2003, from https://www.aect.org/Intranet/Publications/edtech/27/index.html

This article (from the previous edition of the Handbook) summarizes and compares research findings in a number of areas relating to visual literacy. The author notes that visual literacy can be defined broadly and eclectically as anything from visualization to art to vision competencies that individuals integrate with other sensory experiences. In the section on "Visual Literacy and Verbal Literacy" Branden cites research findings regarding the use of illustrations in textbooks and learning materials.

Interestingly, the research findings summarized indicated that illustrations could actually interfere with learning to read for students in grades K-3. However, in other types of instructional texts, relevant illustrations, placed close to appropriate text facilitated both comprehension and recall of the depicted subject matter. However, inclusion of illustrations that were not matched to the text actually caused students to perform worse on tests about story content.

Several factors improved the value of illustrations in texts, including:

  • Referencing illustrations in the text
  • Using captions to explain the illustrations
  • Using photographs or realistic detailed drawings
  • Use of dynamic rather than static images
  • Placement of illustrations near referenced text

As technology has expanded our ability to richly illustrate learning materials, there is sometimes a tendency to ignore the objective of the content - letting function follow form. This article reminds us that gratuitous use of illustrations can actually be counter-productive in a learning environment.


Home | Gallery | Bio | Resume | Assignments

© 2003, Susan Connell, Educational Technology Student at San Diego State University