Reclaiming the right to look: making the case for critical visual literacy and data science education

Peter J. Woods, Camillia Matuk, Kayla DesPortes, Ralph Vacca, Marian Tes, Veena Vasudevan, Anna Amato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As visual cultures scholars have argued, visual expression and aesthetic artifacts largely comprise the modern world. This includes the production of the school as an institution. A critical approach to education therefore must reinscribe students with the ability to see what educational processes attempt to hide and to construct an understanding of the real for themselves. To illustrate this argument, we explore the production of visuality within data science education as one example of how the visual manifests within schools. In response, we propose a visual literacy informed approach to engaging students with data, one that expands beyond contemporary forms of critical data literacy by involving an ontological critique of educational aestheticization. To ground this work, we examine the role of visuality and aesthetics within the implementation of co-designed arts-infused data science projects in four US middle schools. In analyzing interviews with teachers and students, we uncover a series of tensions that reveal the ongoing influence of school visualities alongside the potential for student generated images to amplify their right to look. We therefore argue that critical pedagogies must not only involve reading and critiquing aesthetic artifacts but also engage students in a critique of visuality itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCritical Studies in Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Visual cultures
  • aesthetics
  • data literacy
  • data science education
  • right to look
  • visual literacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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