July 1, 2019

Lesson Plan Series #6: Special Collections and Visual Literacy

What is your name? Where are you in the field currently? What has been your teaching experience thus far?

My name is Jillian Ewalt and I’m the Librarian for Visual Resources at the University of Dayton. My position includes managing a large art and visual resources collection for the Marian Library, a special library on the Blessed Virgin Mary, and serving as the liaison to the department of Art & Design. I recently transitioned into my liaison role and am excited to provide library instruction and research support for Art & Design students. Since I also work with special collections, much of my past teaching has focused on using special collections and archives (particularly religious collections) to teach visual literacy.

What is the name of the institution and position that you were in when you wrote and gave this lesson plan? What is the context of the lesson plan you wrote – who was the audience, were there any specific learning objectives that you had to work with, or were you able to write your own, etc?

I created and taught this lesson plan while serving as a Librarian in the Marian Library at the University of Dayton. The lesson plan was developed as a two part session as part of the 1-credit mini-course This Is UD: Archival and Primary Source Research (UDI 204). This is a 10 week course developed and taught by librarians and archivists which offers students the opportunity to explore primary sources, utilize research techniques, and understand methods for preserving, finding, and analyzing materials related to the rich history of the University of Dayton and the surrounding area. Students ranged from freshman through seniors and came from a variety of majors including communication, history, business, and others. Each week has a different theme, including one week on Visual and Material Culture. As the instructor for that week, I developed sessions to meet select course learning outcomes based on the SAA Primary Source Literacy Guidelines. I also created content based on select ACRL Visual Literacy Standards, primarily interpreting and analyzing images.

Were there any resources you used in the creation of the lesson plan? What were they?

I relied heavily on several sources in the creation of my lesson plan. I enjoyed the book Learning Things: Material Culture in Art Education and incorporated the Personal Ethnography activity into the lesson. I did this activity towards the beginning of the first session and it was a great way to get students thinking about visual and material culture in their own life or family history. In the second session, I adapted the Learning to Look activity from Visual Literacy for Libraries and the Postcards and Visual Literacy activity from the book, Using Primary Sources : Hands-on Instructional Exercises. Around the time that I was planning this session, I started to become more curious about critical and feminist pedagogy. I consulted several resources (listed below) that allowed me to deepen my exploration and begin to integrate these pedagogical approaches into my sessions.

Students exploring images and objects during the session.

How was the plan received? Would you make any changes if you had to repeat it in the future?

I think the lesson succeeded in that students had the opportunity to think critically about special collections while practicing visual literacy skills, such as analysis and interpretation. My goal is for future sessions to allow more time for activities and discussion as opposed to lecture. Since I teach with special collections, I also want to find more ways to help students make connections between historical sources and contemporary issues. Lastly, I hope to consider ways to critically and effectively assess student learning for one or two shot sessions.

My full lesson plan is linked below. Please feel free to contact me at jewalt1 (at) udayton (dot) edu.

Jillian Ewalt
Librarian for Visual Resources
University of Dayton

Resources

  • Accardi, Maria T. (2013). Feminist pedagogy for library instruction. Sacramento, California : Library Juice Press.
  • Bahde, A., Smedberg, H., & Taormina, M. (2014). Using primary sources : hands-on instructional exercises. Santa Barbara, California : Libraries Unlimited. Adapted Postcards and Visual Literacy activity by Joanne Archer
  • Blandy, D., & Bolin, P. E. (2018). Learning Things: Material Culture in Art Education. Teachers College Press. Used Personal Ethnography activity
  • Grimm, S., & Meeks, A. (2017). Break the Stereotype! Critical Visual Literacy in Art and Design Librarianship. Art Documentation: Bulletin of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 36(2), 173–190.
  • This is UD: Archival and Primary Source Research — Visual and Material Culture Lesson Plan

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