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Visual Learning Style – How To Use It To Help Learners Process Information

It’s probably more helpful to use the term visual learning style rather than ‘visual learners’ because, although human beings do seem to have different preferences when it comes to learning, all learners can learn to process information in more than one way, or style, and we need to be careful we don’t label students as specific kinds of learners when in reality they can and should learn how to accesss information in different ways.

However, it may well be true that using their particular strengths enables students with a preference for a visual learning style to process any information in particular ways and then use specific strategies to understand and memorise that information that will allow them to recreate the meaning from that information in different formats.

visual learning styl

For example, students with a strong preference for visual learning will still have to take tests and examinations that require written answers, but the way they prepare for such tests could be influenced by drawing on their visual learning preferences.

Characteristics of students who learn successfully using a visual learning style

In fact there is more than one visual learning style. Some learners prefer to organise information through graphic media such as charts, spider diagrams, flow charts, maps, and graphs together with the other graphic devices that often accompany these media, such as arrows, circles, labels and other linking devices, that are much more meaningful than words alone to learners who are comfortable with this type of visual learning. This style of learning is sometimes called non-verbal/visual learning.

It’s useful to remember here is that it’s the content of the information that is important, and this is what our brains are programmed to seek out. A visual learning style can make this content more explicit, but visual media like videos and Powerpoint presentations are sometimes not helpful to ‘visual learners’ because very often these media do not use charts, diagrams and the symbolic ways of representing the meaning of the information that visual learning requires.

We should keep this in mind when devising learning activities in this learning style – the media we use do not determine what the content should be, but rather that the content we want to communicate is presented by means of the appropriate media.

A visual learning style also makes use of ‘visual embroidery’, such as shapes, patterns, different formatting of the information as well as whitespace, leaving plenty of room for the visual impact of the information to come through to the learner.

The other type of visual learning style focuses on processing information visually but with emphasis on information presented in the form of words. This is sometimes called verbal visual learning. With this type of visual learning style the emphasis is very much on text-based input, and the resulting output is also often text-based.

This is often the norm for testing learning in schools and colleges, so learners who are comfortable with verbal visual learning often achieve well in formal mainstream education.So called ‘verbal visual learners’ like to make use of tools such as dictionaries, Powerpoint presentations, lists, printed resources, the Internet…. in short anything that contains lots of words, to help them learn.

Learning activities that help students take in information with a non-verbal visual learning style

Teachers can promote a non-verbal/visual learning style by providing learners with opportunities to:

  • make extensive use of pictures, slides and posters
  • see videos and Powerpoint presentations which use graphical devices to make the learning content explicit, rather than ‘telling a story’
  • use graphic organisers to capture, store and re-use information – a graphic organiser could be something as simple as a spider diagram, but might include mind maps, Venn diagrams and others
  • organise information in graphs and flowcharts – what seems to be important for successful learning in this visual learning style is that learners can see how the same information can fit into and flow through these different graphical devices, and this repetition helps learners to make sense of the information
  • use textbooks that present information ‘sympathetically’, in other words with lots of pictures and diagrams, as well as being ‘learner friendly’ by using white space and generous formatting to make information stand out: teachers often find it’s better if they produce their own resources because they can make sure the visual content is both extensive and appropriate
  • interact with the learning materials – for example learners using this visual learning style need to use highlighter pens and different colored pencils to underline key facts and ideas

Activities that can produce successful output from students using non verbal/visual learning

The learning input is only half of the story – the output also has to be successful. Learners must use effectively the information they have learned. They can do this by transforming all the information into different formats, by reconstructing the information. For example they can:

  • try replacing symbols with words and vice versa
  • rearrange the graphical patterns – for example they can convert a graph into a spider diagram
  • spend time looking through the information and try to rewrite specific pages of information from memory
  • gather up all the information studied and make their own ‘learning package’ or mini text book – the act of reworking all the material in this way effectively allows learners to construct the meaning again for themselves, which is a powerful feature of deep learning

The acid test of course is if the information learned can be recalled at will and written in a test or examination. Non verbal visual learners can prepare for examinations by:

  • visualising the pages they have created
  • by memorising the information in graphical form
  • by ‘retransformation’, in other words by turning the visual imformation into words again
  • by practising writing out the kinds of question they will face in the examination

How to help students use a verbal visual learning style

This type of learning puts the emphasis on making words communicate the necessary information, so students who learn well in this way often:

  • respond well teachers who are at ease using words to create sentences that are packed with information, that in turn give students the opportunity to make notes
  • search through textbooks for relevant information
  • are happy to spend time reading and researching in the library
  • use dictionaries frequently
  • take copious notes, often writing out word for word what they hear
  • appreciate handouts that summarise or develop points covered in a lesson
  • like to understand information through understanding definitions
  • organise information into headings
  • search through glossaries to find exact meanings
  • write out lists

In order to ‘rehearse’ the information they have taken in, students using this verbal visual learning style can do the mirror image of what non verbal visual learners do, in other words, they can transform any graphical devices [diagrams, graphs et] into words. They can also:

  • write out their notes several times, the repetition has the effect of making the information stick in their memory
  • read over their notes several times
  • rewrite key principles and ideas into different words

The final step in this verbal visual learning process is to practise answering the kind of questions learners will face in an examination, and it’s no surprise to learn that learners of this type like to write sample answers, clearly stating the starts and ends of paragraphs and listing in order the points to make in each paragraph.

- See more at: http://www.classroom-management-success.org/visual-learning-style.html#sthash.5NGxxvB9.dpuf

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