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What is Visual Learning?

Discover the Educational Benefits of Visual Learning and its Value to Students in Education

Visual learning engages the use of visual aids like video to deliver educational content even more effectively. It greatly benefits and enhances the learning process as interactive effects are used to reinforce the material being studied. Visual learning is a great way of learning as it aids to increase a learner’s interest in a certain subject, makes the learning process more enjoyable, and retains the student’s interest for longer periods.

By using visual learning, an audience is better served when they are provided certain elements that classroom notes or text cannot fully convey. These visual elements include video, graphs, images and charts. The audience is therefore capable of retaining more information through visual learning.

While some people may attempt to deny the essential value of visual learning, the fact that the pro-inclination of the vast majority of adults when seeking more information about a hobby, or subject of interest, turn immediately to video, television and computers, demonstrates the value of compelling nature of visual learning as an enjoyable and very effective learning tool.

Relying on text, written material and the use of textbooks, for many children, is similar to expecting them to learn another language before being able to engage in the learning process. The Language of Text. All children have different learning styles and their own preferred ways of processing information, so if they are forced to use only text as the way to learn, it is hardly surprising that so many children fail to achieve what is often expected of them. Visual learning is the single most effective way to overcome this problem.

Visual learning can also provide significant cost-savings in education. This is because a topic can be taught effectively to large numbers of people without the need of buying expensive equipment. Using video for example, a topic can be broken down into manageable pieces, enabling students to better absorb the information.

Learning, for visual learners, takes place all at once, with large chunks of information grasped in intuitive leaps, rather than in the gradual accretion of isolated facts, small steps or habit patterns gained through practice. For example, they can learn all of the multiplication facts as a related set in a chart much easier and faster than memorizing each fact independently.

Research to support the use of specific teaching and learning techniques has long been a key part of every educator's decision-making process. Now, with the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, and its new requirements for research-based curriculum and products, research support is more critical than ever.

Visual learning techniques are used widely in schools across the country to accomplish curriculum goals and improve student performance. The Institute for the Advancement of Research in Education (IARE) at AEL has completed a research study entitled Graphic Organizers: A Review of Scientifically Based Research. In the report, twenty-nine studies were identified and evaluated as scientifically based research (SBR). The studies provided evidence in support of the instructional effectiveness of the use of visual learning techniques.

Scientifically based research cited in the literature review demonstrates that a research base exists to support the use of visual learning techniques for improving student learning and performance in the following areas:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Student achievement across grade levels, diverse student populations and content areas
  • Thinking and learning skills such as organizing and communicating ideas, seeing patterns and relationships, and categorizing ideas
  • Retention
  • The study also describes how visual learning supports implementation of cognitive learning theories: Dual coding theory, schema theory and cognitive load theory.

Research indicates that more 40% of students are visual learners, preferring to be taught through video, pictures, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, films, and demonstrations. Yet so much of teaching remains heavily reliant on presenting content primarily through verbal cues such as written or spoken words.

Without greater use of visual learning in schools and other places of learning, many students are under-performing because of the inconsistency between teachers’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles. There is every reason to believe therefore that because such a large proportion of students learn better from visual learning, an improved balance between verbal and visual techniques would produce significantly improved learning outcomes and benefits for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of children and students.

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