This qualitative research project sought to explore the recent advances in policy and curricular change as part of the new Junior Cycle Visual Art Curriculum; more specifically, a deliberate address of the development of students’ visual culture literacies. In a media-saturated age, where young audiences are bombarded with images, the media plays a vital role in communicating highly-mediated content. Young people participating in second-level education are at a pivotal stage of their lives, when, how they interpret and interact with visual media can have significant implications for their cognitive and emotional development.
The aims of the study focused on (i) the extent that students can confront media representations of the local community through painting practices and (ii) the degree to which painting can foster and support the development of students’ visual culture literacies.
Action research was the theoretical framework used to underpin data gathered throughout the project. Within the context of this methodology, a variety of research methods were used in the collection of data: unstructured observation, focus group discussion, semi- structured interviews, student surveys, and students’ artwork.
The findings of this study promote the inclusion of visual culture literacies in second- level education. The simultaneous and cyclical development of students’ skills and knowledge was significant in terms of their holistic development; learning to interpret the implicit and explicit visual messages of the mass media (visual analysis) in tandem with learning how to respond and confront such representations through their own artistic production (painting).