The Language of Learning: The Visual Learner
Note: If you’re unsure as to what a learning language is, make sure to read our introductory blog all about the various styles (or as we like to call them, languages) of learning, and why they’re important!
- Are you easily distracted by the atmosphere and moving environment around you?
- Would you call yourself imaginative?
- Are your workbooks and papers covered in scribbles and small drawings?
If yes, chances are that you are a visual learner.
Visual learners are what we call “spatially aware” – they remember and take in information mainly through their eyes, storing away thoughts based on what it looks like.
This is not to say that a visual learner has a photographic memory, able to simply look at a whiteboard full of information and remember it easily. Visual learners are not cameras.
Their minds are more accurately linked to a paintbrush.
I can imagine you’d think of that as quite an absurd comparison. However, think of the differences between a photograph and a work of art. Photographs are point-blank depictions of what is occurring – accurately detailed, yet taking in the big picture along with it.
Artworks, however, are more often focused on intricate details: slight brushstrokes, small pieces of colour, and specific artistic touches. It’s the most accurate way to think of how a visual learner’s mind works, because it’s imaginative.
That is the strength of a visual learner: their imagination. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to spot a visual learner – by the imaginative mind they possess. That, in and of itself, is the visual part – a visual learner, naturally, would be a visual thinker.
So, what does this look like in a student?
In a typical classroom environment, a visual learner may either be completely comfortable and flourishing, or struggling to focus and consistently falling behind. This is completely dependant on the way that the teacher chooses to deliver content.
A flourishing visual learner would be in an environment where performance is the main method of teaching. By performance, I mean things where they must see what is being worked on, and have a distinct visual connector. They will then use this visual connection to solidify the information in their brains.
Practical examples of teaching methods that use this includes PowerPoints, workbooks, and handouts. PowerPoint presentations are quite successful for exactly the reason you may think – they combine the information with a visual presentation, which often includes images, videos, or different colours.
Handouts are often filled with fun activities, where students need to solve a puzzle or complete a sentence, using the answers they find by doing the work.
I myself am a visual learner, and I still remember doing a specific handout in class where you had to solve different equations. The answers would correspond to a specific letter of the alphabet, which were then used to help solve a word problem.
I can still picture, crystal-clear, that very same handout, years after graduating high school. As much as Mathematics filled me with dread, I would never be more excited than when I was handed one of those sheets, and excitedly got to work, figuring out the puzzle.
Workbooks are a student’s own visual presentation. They take the information presented in class, and write it out in a way that they consider practical, yet imaginative.
Often, visual learners will come to class with a pencil case full of different coloured pencils, pens, and highlighters. They will often use rulers or sticky notes, and are quite pedantic about the set up of their workbooks.
They may put titles in bigger letters than the rest of the work, or put formulas or key words in different colours. They’ll also have plenty of small drawings in the margins of their workbooks, or scribbles of lines across the top of the page.
Visual learners will also connect really well with making graphs, diagrams, or flow charts, and will often use mind maps for planning. When studying, they’ll often draw up posters, make illustrated flash cards, or construct a ginormous cheat sheet with all the formulas and different worked examples (often in different colours).
I myself did all of the above, all throughout high school.
Whether they realise it or not, a flourishing visual learner uses their imagination (within the boundaries of the classroom rules) to modify their work, and optimise it for themselves. They do so not only in visual-centric classes such as Mathematics or Art, but they also focus on converting their strictly non-visual content (from classes like English or History, for example) into incredibly striking and attractive work.
A struggling visual learner therefore is someone who never quite learned or realised how to do this productively.
You can most likely find them in a class where the teacher mainly speaks to the class with no presentations, asks students to read by themselves, or simply gives them a certain list of questions to work through.
Such a student will struggle to keep their attention focused on class, and will be easily distracted. This can be by anything moving either inside or outside the classroom, any posters on the walls, or electronic devices (either their laptops or phones).
Because of this, they struggle to listen in class, and will often leave things to the last minute as they don’t quite understand what to do or how to do it. Depending on how much information they’re given, they may feel overwhelmed, or struggle to see how each detail fits together.
In the case of a struggling visual learner, they need someone who appreciates them and values the way they learn to come alongside them and help.
Visual learners are the most dominant type of learner – yet all too often, they are not aware of what they need, or how to optimise things for themselves. If they are, it’s most often by accident, or by someone specifically helping them along the journey.
It’s for this reason that we so highly value training our A Team tutors to assess a student’s learning language, and to adapt their way of tutoring to best fit this. Visual learners often need someone fun and exciting to help spark their imagination, and create understanding from what they see.
That is our goal, our aim: to fan the spark of imagination in visual learners to a flame.