The Role of Visual Culture Studies on Primary School Students' Interpretation of Visual World

Article excerpt

Abstract

Visual culture studies have become the focus of research in recent years mainly due to the frequent use of art applications in Visual Arts courses in primary schools and the inadequate content of discipline based art education for the interpretation of today's multiple stimulants. By interrogating students' semantic stratums related to visuals, visual culture studies carried out in Visual Arts courses can help students gain a different perspective regarding artistic studies. The present study aimed finding out how visual culture studies can be carried out in Visual Arts courses in primary schools. The study had an action research design and was conducted during the 10 hours class-time of a Visual Arts course in a third-grade class of a primary school in Eskisehir in the fall semester of 2007-2008 academic year. The data of the present study, which was conducted on seven focal students, were collected with various data collection tools, such as demographic information scale, video recordings, semi-structured interviews, document analysis, researcher diaries and student diaries. The collected data were analyzed using descriptive analysis. The present study revealed that the students effectively participated in visual culture studies; that they made critical interrogations by broadening their thoughts based on their previous knowledge; and that they found the course more entertaining thanks to the visual culture studies. In conclusion, findings of the study suggest that visual art applications, which will encourage students to criticize cultural meanings within the Visual Art Curriculum, may be used as a strong instrument to help students interpret the visual world and become more efficient in expressing their ideas in art works.

Key Words

Primary Education, Art Education, Visual Culture Studies, Action Research.

Since prehistoric times, every era expresses itself via different linguistic arts such as legends, sayings and writings. Today, with the rapid developments in technology such as the invention of the camera followed by animated images like cinema and television, the world is going through an era dominated by "images and visual culture" (Parsa, 2007, p. 1). Visual culture is defined as "making the values and beliefs of a culture apparent in various ways (Barnard, 2002, p. 22). Mitchell (1995, p. 209) considers visual culture as an interdisciplinary approach and as "a cultural and social examination of visual experience". This new culture is a visual synthesis. In this respect, visual culture includes perception of observations and understanding of carrying this perception to a meta-consciousness level (Karadag, 2004, p. 13). Parallel to the increasing cultural values in today's pluralist world, cumulative images help concretize the conflicting way of seeing, which is historically, socially and culturally typical (Leppert, 2002, p. 14). What is handled in visual culture is not the visual itself but the meaning that the visual conveys for the society and the world.

Recent studies have revealed that visual culture studies in art education develop students' critical perspectives (Sherman, 2001; Tavin & Hausman, 2004); that focusing more on their own lives and on details, students can establish relationships between subjects and create their own meanings by broadening their horizons (Bezerra, 2006; Sohn, 2004; Tavin, 2003); that visual culture studies help students create their own images (Tavin & Anderson, 2003); that they experience the process of giving meaning to life (Chan, 2005); that visual culture studies are influential on students' becoming socio-cultural ties (Darts, 2004); and that the drawings of students who can reflect their visual culture knowledge are rich in description and composition and have a variety of objects (Türkkan, 2006).

One of the most important tools that visual culture helps individuals gain meanings via education is the course of Visual Arts and art education. …