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Carnegie Scholar shares research

October 17, 2000

While university students are expected to become more critical of written texts in their schooling, not as much focus is on visual texts such as illustrations or diagrams.

MSU Professor Colleen Tremonte has been trying to find out why.

The associate professor of writing and American culture at the James Madison College spent two weeks this summer at California’s Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning researching her question.

“The program acts like a center for advanced study in teaching and learning,” Tremonte said.

Tremonte was one of 40 members of Carnegie Scholars selected to participate in the program, which brings together a community of scholars for interdisciplinary conversations about teaching.

While working in project groups and discussing research plans with each other, scholars explored not only teacher practice but also the depth of student learning that results from that practice.

Tremonte’s research focused on how students acquire and use visual literacy and the way a basic knowledge of it is often presumed.

The specific questions she worked on were how different disciplines define and conceptualize the literacy, how those understandings inform discipline-specific discourses and how teachers apply these understandings.

“I’ve reached no conclusions, per se, this past summer, but learned a great deal about the type of qualitative research and assessment tools I might use in my study,” she said.

In the second phase of her project, Tremonte plans to investigate and analyze the ways students acquire visual literacy in three specific MSU courses.

Bob Bain, an assistant professor of history education in the department of educational studies at the University of Michigan, also attended the summer conference and became familiar with Tremonte’s work.

He said the conference was a way for teachers to make their findings on the scholarship of teaching more broadly available.

“One interesting thing about teaching is that it takes place in the confines of the classroom - it’s very private,” he said.

Elaine Yakura, assistant professor of labor and industrial relations at MSU, said the word “fearless” describes Tremonte’s work.

Early this November, MSU’s College of Education Center for the Scholarship of Teaching will be hosting a conference to make Tremonte’s findings public. Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, will attend.


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