Course Development Strategies

The "Backward Design" process used for our sample course: Introduction to Visual Literacy.

1. Identify Desired Results
2. Determine Acceptable Evidence
3. Plan Learning Experience and Instruction

Sample Syllabus


   Identify Desired Results

The process of begins with the instructor thinking about three levels of desired results: "enduring understanding", "important to know or do", and "worth being familiar with."

Enduring Understanding

Become cognizant of the visual work around them; learn that visual culture is a part of their lives ? it effects them and they can effect it.

Be able to decode visual culture that they previously may have just absorbed without thinking about it.

That they can and should learn more about topics that interests them ? to go below the surface.

Be able to respect and try to understand cultures different than their own.

Important to Know or Do

Be able to research.

Be able to write intelligently on a chosen topic.

Be able to have basic understanding of common theories, even if they don¡t master the jargon.

Be able to define terms common to the study of visual culture.

Be able to collaborate with classmates.

Worth Being Familiar With

The language of a variety of visual culture, from Àhigh” art to Àlow” art, subcultures, TV/film media, na‚ve art, advertising.

Read analysis of these.

Research and discover the wide scope of documents that can relate to an aspect of visual culture.

FIltering these general ideas:

Filter 1
To what extent does the idea, topic, or process represent a Àbig idea” having enduring value beyond the classroom?
Citizens should be active participants in the shaping of their culture.

Filter 2
To what extent does the idea, topic or process reside at the heart of the discipline?
Education should result in an engaged citizen, no matter their place in society.

Filter 3
To what extend does the idea, topic, or process require uncoverage?
People are often inured to what they encounter every day. Exercises to demonstrate to them their own skills in decoding culture require research into examples of how this is done, after which they demonstrate their own ability to decode.

Filter 4
To what extent does the idea, topic, or process offer potential for engaging students?
Our society is dominated by visual culture. By bridging between popular culture and less available aspects we can engage students in discovery of these less available aspects. They will enjoy rediscovering their own culture.

   Determine Acceptable Evidence back to top

Course Objectives Paired with Standard
Objectives were refined from the notes above. The Standards were then consulted to find those appropriate to each objective.

Course Objectives and Standards
Course Objectives Standards

Demonstrate active participation in the classroom learning community by initiating discussion, presenting own ideas, and responding to questions.

Standard 1.1.a
Standard 3.6.a
Demonstrate ability to use information resources by doing library, Internet, and field research for written and creative assignments.

Encompasses all five standards.

For creative work in particular:
Standard 4.1.c
Standard 4.1.d

Learn the vocabulary of visual literacy and culture and apply it appropriately by defining terms, and using it to study and describe objects and images from our visual culture.

Standard 3.3.a

Demonstrate an understanding of the use of theories to study images and their contextual meanings by using them to analyze their own visual culture and paraphrasing and distinguishing between theories and critiques from the texts.

Standard 3.3.a
Standard 3.3.b
Standard 3.4.c
Standard 3.4.f
Standard 3.5.a

Understand the historical shifts in the dynamics of visual culture in the 20th century and be able to outline and summarize these in written assignments.

Standard 3.1.b
Standard 5.2.f

Successfully collaborate with fellow students in developing and presenting creative research projects.

Standard 1.1.a
Standard 4.1.b
Standard 4.3.c
Standard 4.3.d

Show respect for cultures different than their own through class discussion and writing. Standard 3.5.a

As can be seen in this matrix, the course emphasizes the skills articulated in Standard Three:The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

   Plan Learning Experience and Instruction back to top

In-class sessions will be of a combination of slide lecture and discussion.

Assessment will take the form of wriitten assignments, creative assigments, very brief weekly vocabulary quizzes, and midterm / final exams that use a short-answer / essay format.

Sample Assignments

Visual Description
This is the first assignment for the class. Students are asked to visually describe an object. This may be a fine art object or a pop culture object. This same object will be the subject of a research paper later in the course (this aspect on addressed here).

Primary IL Objectives addressed:
Standard 1.1.e
Standard 1.2.f
Standard 2.3.d

Bricolage/Montage/Collage - "The Flyer"
This assignment comes after lecture/discussion on the history of montage in public discourse (dada and punk in particular). Students are asked to produce their own flyer on a socio-political topic of their choice. They may use a computer in the production of their flyer, but the final piece must be "xeroxable"

Primary IL Objectives addressed:
Standard 1.1.f
Standard 4.1.c
Standard 4.1.d
Standard 5.1.c


   Sample Syllabus back to top

This sample does not include the specifics of a real course, such as course number, professor's contact information, schedule, etc.

Introduction to Visual Culture
Lower Division - 200 level
Prerequisite: Completion of the University's Writing Requirement

Course Description
Our culture is becoming more & more saturated with visual media every day. The dividing lines between fine art, pop culture, and science are becoming blurred, as are the definitions of local, regional, and global culture. The purpose of this class is to assist students in learning the process of decoding the visual culture that surrounds them. Through this process they will become active participants in their culture rather than just passive consumers. This class will be looking at fine art, indigenous art, advertising, and more; students will enounter both the familiar and the unfamiliar. This course will also introduce Information Literacy Standards to the students as part of the course objectives and assignments.

Course Objectives
At the completion of this course students should be able to:

Demonstrate active participation in the classroom learning community by initiating discussion, presenting own ideas, and responding to questions.

Learn the vocabulary of visual literacy and culture and apply it appropriately by defining terms, and using it to study and describe objects and images from our visual culture.

Demonstrate ability to use information resources by doing library, internet, and field research for written and creative assignments.

Demonstrate an understanding of the use of theories to study images and their contextual meanings by using them to analyze their own visual culture and paraphrasing and distinguishing between theories and critiques from the texts.

Understand the historical shifts in the dynamics of visual culture in the 20th century and be able to outline and summarize these in written assignments.

Successfully collaborate with fellow students in developing and presenting creative research projects.

Show respect for cultures different than their own through class discussion and writing.

Required Text
"Practices of Looking: an introduction to visual culture". Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright

Course Format
For the most part class time will consist of slide lectures and discussion. Each class session will start out with a couple of minutes of freewriting on a topic related to the course (these may be collected on occassion, but you are not graded on content). As you can seen in the course objectives participation in discussion is expected.

Course Requirements

Attendance: Needless to say, missing class will seriously effect your ability to get a good grade.

Bricolage/Collage/Montage: The Flyer: A creative project that will be presented in class.

Visual Description: A written visual description 2-3 pages in length.

Research Paper: a deeper exploration of the subject of your visual description, five pages in length.

"Mapping the Scene": a collaborative project, creative with a brief written summary, presented in class.

Midterm: Short answer and essay.
Final: Short answer and essay.
Quizzes: These will be very brief weekly quizzes focusing on terms used in the text.

Good writing is an essential element of this class. The Writing Center is here to assist you, so please avail yourselves of it. Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and if it is detected you will fail the course. We will discuss the definition of plagarism in class.

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