Visual Literacy in Mechanical Engineering Design: A Practical Approach to Assessment and Methods to Enhance Instruction by Caitlin A. Keller, Laura A. Robinson, and Holly K. Ault
This work-in-progress seeks to benchmark the visual literacy skills of undergraduate mechanical engineering students at a small technical university, as well as the faculty’s current efforts to develop students’ visual literacy skills. Visual literacy is accepted as a crucial 21st century for students, professionals, and citizens, yet its definition varies greatly across the literature. In addition, existing assessment tools are too general and are insufficient for measuring visual literacy as it applies to engineering design. Our work seeks to establish a simplified method for assessing the visual literacy skills of graduating seniors in a mechanical engineering program. This work will inform the practical next steps in improving visual literacy pedagogy within the program in ways that are sustainable and effective for both faculty and students. We report on the methods of reviewing student visual literacy skills through an examination of a sample of capstone reports completed by the undergraduate mechanical engineering students in the class of 2017 in order to provide a baseline assessment of visual literacy skills. In addition, we report on survey results from faculty respondents regarding the importance they place on visual literacy within their instruction and in assessing students, what tools and methodologies faculty are currently employing, and explore what resources faculty would be most likely to utilize for enhancing instruction within this area. It is expected that strategies and tools will be identified that could be adapted for use at other institutions and programs for assessing visual literacy in STEM fields. Future expansion of this work will include assessment of a larger sample of mechanical engineering student work, as well as other STEM programs in order to measure student growth in visual literacy skills over the duration of their undergraduate experiences. Pilot studies involving faculty training in enhanced pedagogical strategies will also be developed based on the outcomes of our research.