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A content analysis of visual aesthetics' occurrences in instructional design textbooks DISSERTATION

, University of Northern Colorado, United States

University of Northern Colorado . Awarded


Visual aesthetics in instructional design was defined for the purposes of this dissertation by the design actions of contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity (CARP), insofar as they contribute to learning experience. Occurrences of visual aesthetics were identified and analyzed in three frequently required, graduate-level textbooks in instructional design in North America: Designing Effective Instruction (Morrison, Ross, & Kemp, 2007), The Systematic Design of Instruction (Dick, Carey, & Carey, 2009), and Instructional Design (Smith & Ragan, 2005). The categories of visual aesthetics were represented by keyword lists and composed of synonyms and associated terms to capture the most accurate and broad uses of visual aesthetics. Keyword lists were transformed into a categorization dictionary and imported into WordStat, a computerized content analysis software program.

Theoretical foundations of visual aesthetics were explored through analyses of the origins and current demands of the field and justified consideration of visual aesthetics through the design actions of CARP and their impact on learning experience. The literature review, also, provided the rationalization for exploring visual aesthetics beyond existing pedagogical biases and/or technological constraints to engage the learner to the greatest extent.

Chi-square analyses indicated a significant difference in the proportions of the occurrence of keywords in the keyword list categories of CARP and learning experience. Post-hoc comparisons (z-tests) demonstrated significant differences of proportions in frequency of keywords, comprising the definition of visual aesthetics among all combinations of textbooks. All z-tests resulted in scores beyond the critical z-score of +/- 1.96, the greatest difference having occurred between the textbooks of Dick, Carey, and Carey (2009) and Smith and Ragan (2005).

Ultimately, the content analysis revealed relatively infrequent occurrences of visual aesthetics through often conflicting and negative expressions. The results of this study may be viewed as a starting point for future exploration and understanding of visual aesthetics in instructional design by providing an empirical basis for analyzing its manifestation in the literature of the field.


Brown, L.A. A content analysis of visual aesthetics' occurrences in instructional design textbooks. Ph.D. thesis, University of Northern Colorado. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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