Table with a lot of studying material - crayons, papers, post it notes and someone highlighting their notes.

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

 

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