Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Association for Research in Education


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education




This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of: Morris, J. , Lummis, G. W., & Lock, G. J. (2014). Diagnostically assessing Western Australian Year 11 students' engagement with theory in Visual Arts. Proceedings of International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education. (pp. 1-14). Brisbane, Australia. Australian Association for Research in Education. Available here


Theory linked to visual arts’ responding outcomes, is fundamental to the visual arts curriculum in facilitating visual literacy, or students’ ability to assemble meaning from, and construct new imagery. Without visual literacy, year 11 students are limited in understanding and fully participating in our technological, image-based society. Subsequently, a mixed methods doctoral study was undertaken to investigate students’ engagement in visual arts theory tasks, as increased engagement in theory was anticipated to improve students’ visual literacy outcomes. A diagnostic instrument was created to measure year 11 students’ prior learning in visual arts theory, as well as their cognitive and psychological engagement. Interviews with year 11 students, visual arts teachers, and some principals or representatives, supported the development of the instrument and contextualised the findings. Whilst the research is ongoing, findings suggest measuring students’ engagement facilitates the diagnosis of key issues and knowledge gaps affecting students’ learning. Initial findings also confirm limited psychological engagement acts as a barrier to learning in visual arts’ theory.

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