Role with the Students: A Social Constructivist Decolonising Teaching Strategy for Visual Literacy in Fashion Design Programs



Fashion, Jewellery & Textile Design


  • fashion design education, decolonisation, conceptual framework, visual literacy teaching strategy, social constructivist teaching approach.

Visual literacy is a core competency required to express and reinforce cultural identity through clothing in the realm of fashion, and is therefore important within the context of decolonising fashion design education. Traditionally, curricula focused on the Euro-centric concept of fashion and accordingly, teaching methods and design products expected from students were mostly applicable within this context. Nevertheless, in South Africa, due to political and educational reform, the demographics of students in fashion design programs in Universities have changed radically over the past two decades to include diverse African and South African cultures. This changed situation increasingly challenged the relevance of conventional teacher-centered visual literacy teaching applied in the past.

In this regard, the author of this paper supports the global argument that it is imperative for educators in their fields to transform teaching approaches fundamentally in order to be more inclusive and relevant to a diverse student body, as a critical aspect of decolonising of knowledge in tertiary education.

This paper represents a starting point of a process to address the decolonisation of fashion design teaching approaches, by proposing a conceptual framework for a teaching strategy that aims to facilitate principles that enable students to construct visual literacy competencies that are rooted in the cultural and personal perspective of an individual. Viewing the proposed teaching strategy through the lens of social constructivism acknowledges the context of students, which in this paper relates to respect for the roots for others. To inform the teaching strategy, the discussion reviews pertinent literature that explores the dimensions of a decolonising visual literacy teaching strategy. Guiding principles from a social constructivist teaching perspective, relates to the learning environment that includes the roles of the instructor and students, and assessment of contextual authenticity of students’ visual literacy in their design work. Implementing the proposed teaching strategy is an attempt to work towards an enhanced student-designer with visual literacy knowledge and skills that are rooted in the personal and cultural perspectives of the individual.

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