Enhancing visual literacy in the mathematics classroom: the case of Dar es Salaam
Visual literacy is defined as competencies that enable an individual to understand, interpret, use, generate, and evaluate visual images or messages. The role of visual literacy in teaching mathematics is to enhance learners’ understanding of complex concepts, accommodate their needs, promote their logical and critical thinking, and develop their communication skills. To develop learners’ visual literacy, teachers need to use meaningful teaching styles and strategies in mentoring and guiding their learners, giving them sufficient opportunities to engage in meaningful tasks. This study therefore aimed to answer the research questions regarding what mathematics teachers’ understanding of the role of visual literacy in mathematics teaching is; and how their instruction in terms of teaching styles and strategies facilitated the development of visual literacy. A two-part conceptual framework was used: the first part focuses on teachers’ styles and strategies and the second part on the integration of different visual media with text during instruction. This article reports on an explorative case study conducted with three Form 2 (second year of secondary school) mathematics teachers who were required to facilitate visual literacy in their classrooms. The data were collected through classroom observations and semi-structured interviews and a deductive analysis approach was implemented. The study revealed that a teacher-centred teaching style and direct instruction as teaching strategy dominated all three teachers’ instruction. Information was provided to the learners in the form of demonstrations through the use of still media, and oral explanations, with inadequate opportunities for learners to engage in encoding and decoding visual information. We make the recommendation that teacher training programmes should focus on how teachers can use various teaching strategies in a learner- and teacher-centred style, but also how visual media can be made and effectively used by both the teacher and learners to develop their visual literacy.