June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Engineering Design Graphics
This evidence-based practice presentation discusses the teaching of an infographics assignment to first-year technology majors at a large research institution. With a goal of improving our instruction and assessment of visual communication skills, we compare infographics designed and produced by freshman students during Fall 2015 with those produced by Fall 2016 freshman students in the same introductory design course, and investigate whether freshman students’ abilities to communicate graphically change or improve significantly with more in-depth instruction and guidance. Collecting, comparing, and analyzing student-produced infographics over multiple semesters will help us measure the effects and value of our course development in this important area of design communication.
As part of the final group project in their introductory design course, students developed infographics to visualize and promote the solutions they design in response to a chosen global grand challenge (NAE, 2016). Each group then incorporated their infographic into a presentation about their solution. Students during the Fall 2015 semester were provided with a selection of web-based infographic templates and 50 minutes of class time in which they brainstormed and developed their own infographics. They worked in groups of 4-6 students each, with supervision and assistance from their instructor and 1 undergraduate TA. Preliminary analysis of student submitted infographics from Fall 2015 showed that students interpreted the assignment and the purpose of their infographics in a wide variety of ways. Most students relied heavily on limited, pre-made templates for generating their infographics, worked with only minimal guidance and a very simple rubric provided by instructors, and may have seen this project as a very minor segment of their overall final project. Student groups did create visually interesting products, but the infographics’ content, sequencing, and overall storytelling was more erratic and not always effective.
The importance of visual communication is well documented; infographics in particular are lauded as powerful and successful (when done well) methods of presenting complex and large data sets to general audiences (Tufte, 1997; Smiciklas, 2012; Mendenhall & Summers, 2015). Knowing the great value of visual communication skills, administrators and instructors have made modifications and additions to how infographic production is taught to freshman students in this introductory design course. Based on Kathy Shrock’s (2012) rubric for information visualization in combination with what we learned from analyzing student-produced infographics from 2015, we developed further instructional materials for Fall 2016 students. In addition to a full 50-minute class period in which to develop infographics with their group, students in the Fall 2016 version of the course were given a concise 12-point tip sheet on creating successful infographics, a take-home quiz about these design principles, and a more detailed rubric to guide their design process. This rubric covers 6 important categories of information design, including considerations of audience, structure and size, topic and coherence, storytelling and flow, research credibility, and formatting. All students were asked to create individual infographic drafts at home before coming to class to work with their group members.
To evaluate and continue improving the way we teach visualization and infographics in this course, we compared Fall 2015 students’ infographics to those collected from Fall 2016 and use them to examine the effectiveness of the rubric and develop additional teaching materials. Two research assistants, using the new rubric, evaluated and analyzed approximately 90 student infographics from both Fall 2015 and Fall 2016 semesters This presentation will provide audience members with an overview of this data and analysis, an example of the detailed rubric, 12 research-vetted tips for students on generating effective infographics, and the accompanying take-home quiz. The goal of this project is to develop and improve the way our introductory design thinking course teaches visualization, and to push students toward more sophisticated visualization skills. We hypothesize that when students learn to use the proposed rubric as a learning tool and evaluation measure, students’ abilities to creatively conceptualize and produce relevant infographics, without copying existing templates, will improve significantly.
Mendenhall, S., & Summers, S. (2015). Designing Research: Using Infographics to Teach Design Thinking. Composition. Journal of Global Literacies. Technologies and Emerging Pedagogies, 3(1), 359-371.
NAE. (2016). National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering. Retrieved from http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/challenges.aspx
Schrock, Kathleen. (2012). Infographic rubric. Retrieved from: http://kathyschrock.net/pdf/Schrock_infographic_rubric.pdf
Smiciklas, M. (2012). The Power of Infographics: Using Pictures to Communicate and Connect with your Audiences. Indianapolis, IN: Que Publishing.
Tufte, E. R. (1997). Visual Explanations: Images and Quantitites, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
Kardgar, A., & Mentzer, N., & Laux, D., & Chesley, A., & Whittinghill, D. M. (2017, June), Developing Strategies for Instruction and Assessment of Infographics for First-Year Technology Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28150
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