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TEACHERS: Four Easy Ways to Address Your Students’ Visual and Verbal Learning Styles

Each teacher is unique and has their own particular teaching style. “Teaching style” refers to the way one prefers to teach and is illustrated in instructional behavior from which a teacher will rarely deviate [3]. Despite the fact that teachers seldom, if ever, change their style, they may vary their teaching strategies depending on the nature of the subject, requirements of the course, common learning styles, and other factors.

Understanding one`s teaching style can serve as a foundation for the improvement of instruction and enhancement of the learning experience [2]. How much a given student learns in a class is governed in part by the compatibility of the instructor’s teaching style and the pupil’s learning style [1]. However, although each teacher may consistently embrace one predominant learning style, students will experience various teaching styles as they encounter different teachers. Both students and their teachers can therefore benefit from understanding variations in teaching and learning styles [2]. This awareness can be the means to achieving the highest possible effectiveness.

This article can help you become aware of your teaching style, understand its relationship to learning styles, and how to easily customize it.

Visual and verbal learning styles

Students learn in many ways. There are visual, verbal, and kinesthetic learners. Most children learn most effectively with one of these three modalities and tend to miss or ignore information presented in either of the other two [1]. In current educational practice, we have tended to distinguish principally between visual and verbal learners, although much more attention is now, appropriately, being focused on kinesthetic learning as well.

Visual learners remember best what they see. They prefer using pictures, images, demonstrations, etc. Verbal learners remember best what is explained in words or written and they learn best from books and lectures.  In the article Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner you may find out more about what suits each type of learner best.

Most learning and teaching style components parallel one another [1, 5]. So, for example, the student who favors visual perception would be most comfortable with an instructor who uses charts, pictures, and films.

The mismatch between teaching style and students’ learning styles

The most common learning style is visual while most teaching is verbal [1]. Educators present information predominantly verbally through lecturing or words/symbols written in texts and handouts or on a chalkboard. Accordingly, there can be a mismatch between the preferred presentation mode of educators and the preferred input modality of most students, which may lead to serious consequences.

Students may become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about their courses, lose motivation and the desire for achievement, and in some cases, even drop out of school. Educators are confronted by low test scores, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance, and dropouts. They also often become frustrated, because they realize something is not working [1]. 

Teachers can’t adapt to all the students they teach

In the classroom, there’s usually only one teacher and many students. Do you ask yourself Should I adapt my teaching style to the students’ learning styles or should it be vice versa? There are arguments and evidence in favor of both sides [4]. However, if we think about it, we may conclude that it’s impossible for one teacher to adapt to all the students they teach! But there is something teachers can do.

The adoption of a few teaching techniques may help teachers meet the needs of most or all of their students. They can keep their particular teaching style and at the same time find ways to reach students whose preferences differ from their own.

Four easy ways to address your students’ learning styles  

Motivate learning.

If you motivate your students, they will learn more easily and retain information, regardless of the way it’s presented. For that reason, relate the presented material to what has come before and what is still to come in your course, to material in other courses, and particularly to the students’ personal experience. You can even ask some students to present the same material you’re teaching in a different way to the class, you may be able to learn a new technique while motivating students with different learning strategies to pay attention!

Combine visual and verbal presentations.

Irrespective of the extent of the match or mismatch, presentations that use both visual and auditory modalities reinforce learning for all students. Before, during, or after the presentation of verbal material, you can use pictures, schematics, graphs, or simple sketches. The way to encompass both visual and verbal learners is to show films and provide demonstrations, followed by discussion.

Talk to students.

Try to find out what their academic difficulties and learning preferences are, so you can help them. You can demonstrate various learning styles by using the same content presented in different ways and ask them which one they prefer. Sometimes, explaining the way to learn most efficiently to a student who is struggling is a great help – that way they may reshape their learning experiences and be successful. You can also learn about tips and tricks they use to help themselves, so you could recommend those later to someone who has learning difficulties.

Teach students to help themselves and to seek help.

You don’t have to do all the work! For example, teach students to look for alternative sources of information that suit them better or explain to them the benefits of learning in groups. Check in with them to see if they were able to find something that would benefit the entire class. They may feel like the task is more purposeful if they feel is it able helping others.

Utilize brief formative assessments of your students’ learning by quickly surveying the students about their understanding of the material. This will help you figure out if how your teaching is meeting the needs of your students’ learning styles. If a student continues to struggle, we have Coaches and Tutors who can help them overcome academic and learning difficulties, look us up for ways to refer families to our services.

Resources:

[1] Felder, R. M., & Silverman, L. K. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering education, 78(7), 674-681.

[2] Heimlich, J. E., & Norland, E. (2002). Teaching style: where are we now?  New directions for adult and continuing education, 2002(93), 17-26.

[3] Silver, H. F. (2003). Teaching styles and strategies: Interventions to enrich instructional decision-making. Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ: Thoughtful Education Press.

[4] Thompson, T. C. (1997). Learning Styles and Teaching Styles: Who Should Adapt to Whom? Business Communication Quarterly, 60(2), 125-127. doi:10.1177/108056999706000212

[5] Vaezi, S., & Shahroosvand, H. R. (2015). Iranian EFL Learners and Teachers Sensory Preferences and the Learners Speaking Ability. International Journal of English Language Education, 3(2), 14. doi:10.5296/ijele.v3i2.7627

 

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Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner?

The presentation of information can often be more impactful than the content itself and is directly instrumental in its retention. During instruction and practice, students employ various learning styles. The term “learning styles” refers to the idea that different modes of instruction are more effective for different people. There are several different learning styles. If we take the way people receive information as a criterion, we have three common categories of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. However, the most frequently used distinction is between visual and auditory (verbal), as those are the modes of instruction most commonly employed in schools. We shall address kinesthetic learning in future articles. The goal of this current article is to help you find out if you are a visual or a verbal learner.

What would you say if somebody asked you, Which presentation style do you prefer – pictures or words? By understanding what kind of learner (visual or a verbal learner) you are, you can gain a better perspective on how to implement these learning styles into your study techniques [1, 7].

Visual learners

I often think in mental pictures or images.

My powers of imagination are higher than average.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

If you agree with these statements, there’s a good chance you’re a visual learner [6].

Some students remember best what they see, so they prefer pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations to access and understand new information. Sometimes they have trouble learning information presented through words. It is more effective for everyone to absorb information when it is presented both visually and verbally, but what if the lectures consist of speech only [3]?

Here are a few ways to help yourself if you are a visual learner:

  1. If the course material is predominantly verbal, try to find diagrams, schematics, photographs, flow charts, or any other visual representation. If you can’t find anything, try to make your own.
  2. Find videotapes, CDs, Youtube videos, or video podcasts about course material. You can ask your teacher to help you or consult a reference book.
  3. Make a concept map where you’ll list key points, enclose them in boxes or circles, and draw lines with arrows between concepts to show connections.
  4. Color-code your notes with a highlighter. You can choose different criteria for this – for example, everything related to one topic could be yellow. Stickers in different colors are also a great way to present the material so it suits you better.

Verbal learners

I can`t imagine thinking in terms of mental pictures.

I prefer to read instructions on how to do something rather than have someone show me.

I have better than average fluency in using words.

Do you think like this? Do you consider yourself a verbal learner [6]?

It seems that there are people who study better when the information is presented through words, by reading or listening. They prefer written or spoken explanations [3]. If this describes you and you’re struggling with learning or recalling the material, try these tips to make it easier for yourself:

  1. Write summaries or outlines of course material in your own words. By adapting the material, you will understand it better and could save yourself some time in the long run.
  2. Working in groups can be effective: you gain understanding of material by hearing classmates’ explanations and you learn even more when you do the explaining. Also, you don’t have to choose between friends and studying. You can have both!

If you are interested in knowing more about balancing between these two, read our article Balancing Homework And Friends After School [5].

  1. Use repetition as a study technique. It is most effective when there’s a short time interval between repetitions at the beginning and then you prolong it every time you successfully remember the lesson.
  2. Make associations of words or information that are hard to remember. For example, you can use some song lyrics as a memorization tool and link them with that information. This could be fun!

Why is it important?

Students who recognize their learning strengths (and limitations) have an advantage over those who don’t. They know how to help themselves, and when and how to seek help. Learning styles may affect learning and eventual outcomes [6]. Since teachers can`t take care of every individual’s needs and preferences, it helps if you know your own strengths. For example, although most students are visual learners, students in most college classes mainly listen to lectures and read material written on chalkboards and in textbooks and handouts. In that case, you can study the content using your preferred learning style, so that it is easier for you to understand and remember [3, 4].

Learning styles continuum

People sometimes think that you are either a visual or a verbal learner, but it’s more of a spectrum. The best way to understand this is to imagine it as a continuum, a line where on the left is 100% verbal learner and on the right is 100% visual learner. The trick is that neither one of them exist in real life – everyone is a combination of not only those two but many different learning styles [2].

What characterizes good learners is that they are capable of processing information presented either visually or verbally. This means you can enhance all your skills, not only your strengths!

As already mentioned, visual and verbal are not the only learning modes. People usually think in terms of visual and verbal learning styles only, so kinesthetic learners can be unfairly neglected. If you want to learn about kinesthetic and other types of learning styles, stay tuned – some of the following articles will deal with them.

Actively engaging in your education by understanding your learning preferences and supplementing material not presented in your preferred learning style will help you attain and retain the information you need to remember. If this is difficult for you, we have coaches and tutors who can help you assess and enhance your strengths, so you can be successful in any learning environment.

References:

[1] Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Should we be using learning styles? What research has to say to practice., Learning and Skills Research Centre, London.

[2] Felder, R. (2011, March 25). Richard Felder on learning styles [Audio blog post]. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://onteachingonline.com/oto-4-richard-felder-on-learning-styles/

[3] Felder, R. M., & Soloman, B. A. (n.d.). Learning Styles and Strategies. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm

[4] Franzoni, A. L., Assar, S., Defude, B., & Rojas, J. (2008, July). Student learning styles adaptation method based on teaching strategies and electronic media. In Advanced Learning Technologies, 2008. ICALT’08. Eighth IEEE International Conference on (pp. 778-782). IEEE.

[5] Jegdic, J. (2017, September 25). Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/balance-homework-friends/

[6] Kirby, J. R., Moore, P. J., & Schofield, N. J. (1988). Verbal and visual learning styles. Contemporary Educational Psychology,13(2), 169-184. doi:10.1016/0361-476x(88)90017-3

[7] Pashler, H., Mcdaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles. Psychological Science in the Public Interest,9(3), 105-119. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x

 

If you need any advice on learning styles, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING: