Visual learning style – definition, techniques and activities

What is a visual learning style?

Students with a visual learning style learn best by seeing – for example, they are likely to understand something best when it is explained using a diagram, film, picture or chart.

Alternatively, if there isn’t something physical to view, then visualising the information in their mind helps them to remember it.

A visual learner might:

  1. Have to see things to remember them
  2. Need to pay close attention to body language
  3. Find that art and aesthetics are important to them
  4. Find it hard to remember people’s names if they don’t see them often
  5. Have to spend some time thinking about a lesson to understand it fully
  6. Be able to easily master sign language
  7. Be imaginative and creative, enjoying artwork or writing stories
  8. Prefer to read or write than listen
  9. Have trouble remembering verbal instructions
  10. Need to take copious notes
  11. Notice details
  12. Be an excellent speller
  13. Love to draw and doodle

What are the advantages of a visual learning style?

There are many benefits to being a visual learner, including:

  1. Excellent memory skills and observation. Sometimes visual learners are able to picture where certain information is within a textbook, more example
  2. Visual learners are often strong readers as they can easily visualise what is described on the page
  3. Recollection can be easier for visual learners as they can simply see a similar picture and instantly recall the lesson
  4. A great memory
  5. Visual learners can easily see the bigger picture as they have a wider perspective as to how things look. This skill can be encouraged in the classroom with goal-setting
  6. A strong imagination – they can imagine scenarios and plan actions
  7. Visual learners can read maps and graphs quickly and easily, connecting visual information
  8. Visual learners can easily engage with computers and the internet as they are very visual. Creating graphs, maps and diagrams are easy on a computer. Taking virtual tours online of places like museums and art galleries will allow them to memorise paintings and artefacts

What are the disadvantage of a visual learning style?

The visual learning style does have its downsides, including:

  1. Visual learners learn through seeing, so visual distractions can be common and it can be difficult to concentrate. Sitting by a window can be very visually distracting
  2. Visual learning on a computer can also be visually distracting with notifications interrupting a train of thought
  3. The visual learning style is harder to incorporate into small group discussion and group learning when everyone is sharing ideas vocally
  4. Visual learners are limited to scenarios they can imagine, when in fact the reality might be different

Visual learning techniques

Visual learners learn better with visual information so there are numerous things you can do to help students with this learning style to excel:

  1. Draw a map or diagram of a historic event or scientific method
  2. Create timelines
  3. Encourage them to copy things out, take notes or make lists
  4. Incorporate videos into lessons
  5. Use different coloured text with a colour code
  6. Use flashcards
  7. Circle words, underline them or highlight them to emphasise their meaning
  8. Demonstrate any process or new idea where you can
  9. Use models to explain something
  10. Set open ended tasks and assignments – this allows them to problem solve while developing their creativity

A good example of using a visual learning technique in the classroom is to think about how you would teach the human anatomy. Students can label pictures of each of the individual organs, then videos can show them how each of the organs work. Finally, you can show how all the organs work together in a visual presentation.

It’s also advisable to give students regular breaks where they can process the things they have learnt.

Tips for visual learners

  1. Write in different colours where possible for different concepts. If the student is consistent in doing this they will associate certain colours with certain information and will learn the concepts better
  2. Rewrite notes over and over again using pictures and drawings. This will help to visualise the information
  3. Use Google Images instead of the normal web search
  4. Watch films about everything you can learn – YouTube is a huge help. If you are studying Austen, watch the film adaptations
  5. Use a whiteboard to draw and doodle

Visual learning style activities

Try these visual learning activities:

  • Mind maps

Visual learners can use mind maps at the beginning of writing an essay to collect their thoughts, or they can use them to remember information in exams. The mind map starts with a word or image in the centre and then lines are drawn that branch out from that centre point.

  • Photo essays

Photo essays are simply sequences of photos that tell a story. Photos are a dominant aspect of our image-filled world. Photo essays can include feature text through articles and descriptions, or students can add some captions

  • Flowcharts

A flowchart is a type of diagram that visually displays a process or workflow. The flowchart is made up with a series of boxes and connecting arrows

  • Combining visual and kinesthetic learning

Another way of helping visual learners is to combine the visual learning style with kinesthetic learning, for example, applying what the student has learnt visually through physical activities and interactions or model building. By allowing the body and mind to work together a student can find a solution from all angles.