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Abstract: The aim of this research was to contribute to the discussion on the role of visual methods in improving student learning. Visual methods provide means to understand the practices of representations as cultural texts, to develop interpretations of meanings in socio-cultural context, to decode images of social relations and individual experience. Visual sources play a growing role in social studies as well as in teaching as they offer new routes to understanding the past and the present. It was anticipated that when students learn to interpret visual images of social issues as constructs and metaphors in addition to reading relevant literature they might develop critical and contextual imagination, namely connect individual incidences to historical conditions and social institutions, to link seemingly impersonal and remote forces with the lives of real people in concrete institutional and symbolic environments. The main data set included anonymous student journals and portfolio with assignments. The study documented student discourse around visual methods implementation and examined student identities as sociologists, their perceptions of academic expectations at universities, their views of the curriculum, and their identity claims. The results are concerned with the outcomes of teaching and learning considered not only in relation to visual methods but also to the public sphere and sociology. The more and less desirable identity for a sociologist was articulated, some tensions and biases were discovered but more research is needed in order to see more explicitly the role of visual methods and other pedagogical tools in overcoming these barriers.
Keywords: visual methods; scholarship of teaching and learning; public sphere; sociology; university; Russia