It’s common to hear people say, “I’m a visual learner,” but research doesn’t support the idea that learning styles like visual or auditory learning are inherent traits. That doesn’t mean learners don’t have preferences, but only one flawed study found that people actually learned better when information was presented in their preferred style. Instead, it seems that most people learn the best when information is presented in multiple ways, especially when one of them is visual.

“We are essentially walking talking vision-processing machines,” writes Dan Roam, author of Back of the Napkin, a bestselling book on how visual language affects business. “Our brain does a lot of stuff, but close to half of what we’re doing is seeing the world, all the time.”

So it’s really no surprise that a lot of people say they need to see something to remember it, a fact teachers should keep in mind when trying to reach students.

Hank Green lays it all out in this short SciShow episode.


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  • George Napier

    This information does not surprise me. I teach adults and I have seen little to no evidence of just “visual” or “auditory” learners. It is a combination that encourages reliable learning. The best learning styles that I have come across have been Kolb’s experiential learning styles. These being assimilation, divergent, accommodation, and convergent. These do require many sensory inputs and my studies have shown them to be pretty useful.

  • Deb Chickadel

    Something I’ve always heard as an educator is that what works for kids with learning challenges works for all. Use visual cues as well as auditory, break down multi-faceted tasks into smaller manageable steps, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Give kids an entry point where they are confident and stretch them to go past that as well. In our work with mathematics and young kids we present open ended mathematical challenges and have students work 3 dimensionally with manipulatives, write equations and numbers to match their work, and draw pictures or visual representations. It’s good to hear from you that most all people do best when material is presented in multiple formats. The greatest learning occurs when students can hear and see and do their work. Thanks for breaking down the idea that learning styles are multi-faceted, just like the students we teach!

    Deb Chickadel
    Teacher
    UCDS
    Seattle

  • matturn

    Low information density communications are bad no matter how they’re delivered. People seem to find it most acceptable to do it with video. Like this one. It ads only a paragraph or two of additional detail to the text above, and no diagrams or other pictures to assist understanding.

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