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Curricular Uses of Visual Materials: A Mixed-Method Institutional Study

Carleton College is at an exciting point in its history as members of the faculty consider the growing curricular role of visual modes of expression. Given the resource-intensive nature of the visual, discussions of curricular growth must be paired with careful considerations of the kinds of support and resources available on campus. In this context, the present study addressed the central question: Are the sources of support that the College provides well suited to the work demanded of students and faculty as they make curricular use of visual materials?

This study was funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the results of which will serve as the basis for institutional planning for curricular support at the College.  For the purposes of this study, visual materials is broadly defined and includes maps, images, films, video, and spacial data.  Given the ascendant curricular uses of visual materials, the recommendations and data in this report are intended to provide the means to ensure that curricular support at Carleton is suited to the work demanded of Carleton students and faculty members.  The survey instruments developed for the second half of this study, were specifically designed to lend themselves for use at other institutions.  The student and staff surveys in particular are also designed to examine curricular support broadly defined.

The following sections identify findings that may be of particular interest, highlight relevant portions of the study, and in most cases include selected quotes.  A full version of the report is freely available through the link to the right of this text. 

For further information please contact the authors at anixon at carleton dot edu.

Recommendations, Implications, and Selected Quotes

  • Overarching Recommendations

    Recommendations derived from study findings relate to the role of curricular support on campus as well as ways of examining, fine tuning, coordinating, and communicating about curricular support.
  • Implications for Student Support

    What types of institutional support would help students as they learn to express ideas visually or analyze visual media such as films or maps? Learn about research findings and their implications for supporting students.
  • Implications for Faculty Support

    What types of institutional support would help faculty members as they/we work with visual materials? Learn about research findings and their implications for supporting faculty members.
  • Implications for Staff Members

    How many staff members are providing curricular support? Where do those staff members work? What kinds of support do they provide? Learn about the research findings and their implications for they ways in which curricular support might be more closely aligned with shifting needs.
  • Student Work Patterns

    Where do students study? What time of day? Do they seek support in completing assignments? If so, from whom? The student survey asked Carleton students about their experiences completing course assignments. Key findings include variations in responses based on class year that have important implications for providing support for first- and second-year students.
  • Characteristics of Study Spaces

    What do students look for in study spaces? Do student preferences vary by the type of assignment they are working on? By class year? This page contains study findings that relate to the characteristics of study spaces that students report seeking while working on assignments.
  • Evaluating Student Work

    What criteria do faculty members use to evaluate student work that incorporates visual materials? Across the case studies included in this study, faculty participants identified the criteria they used in evaluating and grading student work that incorporated visual materials. Assignment types included film short creation, group presentation, and science writing.
  • An Inventory of Curricular Support

    What kinds of curricular support are available? Who is providing curricular support? Is this support coordinated with faculty members or provided directly to students? The staff survey analysis provides the first comprehensive list of people who provide curricular support to students.
  • Research Methods

    Learn about the research methods employed in this study. A flip-chart exercise and four case studies centered around assignments in which students worked with visual materials and adapted the methods of Foster and Gibbons (2007). Three survey instruments were designed based on the case study findings.
  • Student Researchers and Case-Study Methods

    Learn about the methods employed in the study and the critical contributions Carleton students made to the research design, interviews, and analysis.
  • Acknowledgements

    Recognition of the 19 individuals who were part of the research team.

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