Inspired by partnerships between medical schools and museums that produce measurable outcomes in the frequency and sophistication of diagnostic observations through limited art history-based interventions, this paper documents the re-orientation of a traditional art history survey course to explicitly address foundational visual literacy skills. This Spring 2019 pilot implemented a series of exercises and assessments designed to directly target transdisciplinary components of visual literacy and to highlight these competencies through student discussion and reflection with minimal disruption. This study employed content analysis and qualitative coding of pre- and post-tests to capture and characterize the number and types of observations made on descriptive, timed writings. This data was combined with participant reflections to assess whether students enhanced their skills of observation and description. The results suggest that minimally-invasive, low-stakes assignments, coupled with reflection exercises, produced increases in both the quantity and quality of student observations; students also demonstrated more awareness of their audience, adjusting the information as appropriate to the specific task and recognized connections between this practice and other fields of study. This suggests that art history could better communicate the transdisciplinary skills of visual literacy and promote their development within the survey course without a radical course redesign.
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Archino, Sarah. 2020. "Addressing Visual Literacy in the Survey: Balancing Transdisciplinary Competencies and Course Content." Art History Pedagogy & Practice 5, (1). https://academicworks.cuny.edu/ahpp/vol5/iss1/3