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Three Part Conference Presentation: Visual Literacy

Presentation for the 2016 TAM/TPT/STA Joint Conference in Nashville

Visual Literacy - Definitions


Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.

AAM - Visual Literacy and Visual Thinking Strategies

In his 1997 article Thoughts on Visual Literacy, Philip Yenawine describes visual literacy as

"…the ability to find meaning in imagery. It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification (naming what one sees) to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. Many aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing. Objective understanding is the premise of much of this literacy, but subjective and affective aspects of knowing are equally important."


Visual literacy is the ability to recognize and critically appreciate meaning in visual content and to use visual elements to create effective communication.

Visual Literacy - Competencies


In an interdisciplinary, higher education environment, a visually literate individual is able to:

• Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed
• Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently
• Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media
• Evaluate images and their sources
• Use images and visual media effectively
• Design and create meaningful images and visual media
• Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and access and use visual materials ethically

More visual literacy resources

Jessie Ball duPont Library, University of the South
178 Georgia Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383