The Visual Learning Style

Teacher using a projection screen in the classroom.

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Are you one of those people who closes your eyes to envision the exact location of where you left your car keys? Do you bring up mental imagery when you're trying to remember what you did last Tuesday afternoon? Do you remember the cover of every book you've ever read? Do you have a photographic or near-photographic memory? Perhaps you are one of those people with the visual learning style.

What is Visual Learning Style?

Visual Learning is one of the three different learning styles popularized by Neil D. Fleming in his VAK model of learning. The visual learning style means that people need to see information to learn it, and this "seeing" takes many forms from spatial awareness, photographic memory, color/tone, brightness/contrast, and other visual information. Naturally, a classroom is a very good place for a visual learner to learn. Teachers use overheads, the chalkboard, pictures, graphs, maps, and many other visual items to entice a visual learner into knowledge.

Strengths of Visual Learners

Visual learners typically do well in a modern classroom setting. After all, there are just so many visuals in classrooms — whiteboards, handouts, photos, and so on. These students have many strengths that can boost their performances in school. Here are just a few of the strengths of this learning type:

  • Instinctively follows directions
  • Easily visualizes objects
  • Has a great sense of balance and alignment
  • Is an excellent organizer
  • Has a strong sense of color, and is very color-oriented
  • Can see the passage from a page in a book in his or her mind
  • Notices minute similarities and differences between objects and people easily
  • Can envision imagery easily

Visual Learning Strategies for Students

If you are a visual learner, you may find these things helpful when sitting in class or studying for a test. Visual learners need things in front of them to help solidify them in their brains, so don't try to go it alone when listening to lectures or studying for your next midterm. Be sure to integrate these tips into your study routine:

  • Color-code your notes, vocabulary words, and textbook
  • Be sure to read the diagrams, maps, and other visuals that go along with text to help you remember it
  • Make to-do lists in an agenda
  • Study in solitude. You need to see things to remember them and often, any noise will distract you.
  • Take notes during lectures to capitalize on your learning style
  • Sit near the front so you're better able to see everything
  • Use outlines and concept maps to organize your notes

Visual Learning Strategies for Teachers

Students with the visual learning style make up about 65 percent of your class. These students are the ones traditional classrooms are designed to teach. They will pay attention to your overhead slides, whiteboard, Smartboard, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, graphs, and charts. They will usually take good notes and will appear to be paying attention during class. If you use a lot of verbal directions without visual cues, visual learners may get confused, as they prefer to have something in writing to refer to.

Try these strategies for reaching those students with the visual learning type:

  • Supplement verbal lectures with a handout, diagram, or other visuals
  • Incorporate color into your presentations, the classroom, and handouts
  • Give written instructions and expectations
  • Vary your reading in class with solitary reading time so visual learners will take in the information better.
  • Vary your instructional methods (lectures, group work, solitary work, pairs, circles) and assignments so every learner is challenged
  • Show your students how to complete a task instead of just telling your students how to complete a task.
  • Show students how to make great vocabulary flashcards
  • Use video and still images to enhance your presentations
  • Provide written feedback on assignments