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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

People learn in different ways; and out of the 6 types of learning, one is particularly interesting — that is those who partake in visual learning.

These are the people who envision precise locations, have a near-photographic memory or can remember covers of books or specific details vividly.

These people possess truly unique abilities, however, one of the problems visual learners face is their uphill battle with learning. Ever since elementary school, our education system is a system that benefits primarily one form of learning over others.

And while our education system isn’t good in accommodating visual learning, the learning community at large has uncovered a wide variety of information.

In fact, there are some highly effective learning techniques that visual learners can use to learn effectively now and for the future.

The Characteristics of a Visual Learner

To determine whether visual learning is best for you, it’s worth looking at characteristics. In school settings, study.com uncovered the following traits:[1]

  • Remember what they read over what they hear.
  • Prefer reading stories over listening.
  • Learn through sight.
  • Use diagrams, charts, and drawings to understand ideas and concepts.
  • They will take notes during classes and presentations.
  • They study by reviewing things.
  • Have good spelling.
  • Requires them to have a quiet space and time to study.
  • Prefer working alone rather than in groups.
  • Will ask questions to clarify.

Visual learners also portray the following characteristics:

  • Can recall faces, but not names.
  • Have a good sense of direction and are good with maps.
  • Make to-do lists.
  • Will notice changes in appearance in both physical space and in people.
  • Often are quiet and shy.
  • Have a good sense of fashion.
  • Make plans for the future.

The Perks of Visual Learning

While visual learners can benefit from this unique way of learning, those who aren’t visual learners can still reap benefits from it.

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While everyone has their own preference for learning, studies show that a predominant amount of us are visually inclined. Consider the work of Silverman L.K. who in 2002 did a study of 750 students in two schools.[2]

From the study, Silverman discovered 63% of students surveyed were visual-spatial learners. The problem is that those talents couldn’t be seen well seeing as the education system lacked support in that area.

By including more visual learning in the classroom, those individuals will reap the benefits. Even the auditory learners can get benefits as well. This is based on Richard Mayer’s work who, in 2009, found that when using texts and graphics, retention increased by 42%.[3]

Here’s what visual learning can do in terms of effective learning:

Help Store Info Longer

Our brains process pictures faster than they do words. Whenever we see pictures, they are etched in our long-term memory, allowing us to recall concepts and ideas.

Make Communication Quicker And Simpler

Do you know why so many blog posts are listed in bullets? Do you know why people get headaches or confused when they see massive walls of text and no paragraphs?

It’s because we’ve learned that breaking information into smaller sections – and using bullet points – can help in processing information better. It’s the same idea as using an image or video for learning. This was uncovered by the Visual Teaching Alliance which has listed all kinds of facts on visual learning.[4]

What all this means is that, since we have a bias towards images, videos, and bullet points for learning, the best way for us to convey ideas is to use these methods in future teaching methods. These mediums can help us convey ideas in many ways compared to walls of text.

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Serve as a Stimulus for Emotions

Emotions and visual information are processed in the exact same spot in our brain. Because of this connection, if we use plenty of visuals to stir emotions, people will be able to form links easier. All because they got an emotional response from something.

This idea is similar to why we consume content in general, the headline pulls us in because it stirs an emotion within us.

Inspire People

We all have subjects that we’re not that excited for or that we struggle to grasp. Whatever the case is, visual has a way of sparking motivation and interest.

There is that emotional aspect I mentioned, but the idea of putting in videos, images, and graphics break up the boredom of information and motivate and excite people.

When we are engaged with what we’re learning -even if it’s something we’re not remotely keen on – it can still benefit us.

How a Visual Learner Learns Best

Visual learners need to embrace visual learning techniques and strategies to learn effectively. Like with any other learning style, there are a number of ways for you to gain benefits. Broadly speaking, some strategies that ThoughtCo [5] have brought up come to mind:

  • Taking notes as you learn.
  • Studying by yourself.
  • Sitting closer to the instructor in classroom settings.

But there are other techniques that can be considered as well. Here are four other highly regarded techniques:

1. Use To-Do Lists

With so many things on the go, it makes sense for people to start organizing duties once more in to-do lists. Even if you’re not a visual learner, a to-do list can let you order tasks based on importance and boost your productivity.

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In learning settings, this also adds structure. People can understand and process what is being covered over the course of the class or lecture. In a sense, it outlines the person’s goals and intentions.

What’s also nice about to-do lists is their flexibility. For example, some people have decided to color-code tasks or use various shapes and symbols. These pull the attention of the individual and can serve as a guiding post for them.

2. Add Graphs And Charts

Adding in graphs and charts to convey ideas is another way to learn effectively. It’s along the same lines as using to-do lists, though this is more time-consuming.

Using graphs and charts can help in a wide variety of areas for personal life, and for learning. Graphs and charts can help you keep an eye on finances and budgeting for example. In learning, they can be used to convey ideas and enhance your learning.

Further exploring this, graphs can help us develop data literacy.[6] Since graphs and charts can be used in all manner of things, we can use data literacy to ask meaningful questions which can deepen our learning experience.

3. Use Mind-Mapping

Mind-mapping is a form of note-taking that specifically benefits visual learning. The idea with mind-mapping is to display relationships and connections to people, places, events and more.

This technique helps with broad learning of particular concepts, but it has other applications as well. You can use this to break down tasks – similar to to-do lists – and it can measure your productivity as well.

Learn more about mind-mapping in this article: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

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4. Use Videos

As mentioned above, videos have a way of gripping people’s attention, so why not incorporate it into your learning?

We all have a little bit of visual learning in us, so videos greatly benefit everyone in the room. It allows us to recreate those stories into clear pictures in our minds.

I would encourage you to be creative with videos. While you can try to record the lecturer or their words can help you, it might also benefit you to record yourself and make videos explaining certain concepts. This helps with the learning process because we often use hand gestures and other techniques instinctively to say what we mean; even outside of learning atmospheres.

Final Thoughts

While visual learning has a lot of benefits, it’s not the only learning style that helps with your learning. Each learning style has its benefits and everyone has their own preferences.

The key to visual learning is that since so many of us have some visual learning aspect, we should use it to complement our learning experience. And based on the various techniques and effects, visual learning can definitely help you learn faster.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Chang Duong via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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