Visual Learning Style: Traits and Study Strategies

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Do you find yourself drawing pictures of a biology process as you study for an exam? Are you occasionally distracted during lectures, but extra-attentive when watching a video? If so, you may be a visual learner.

Visual learners are those who process and retain information best when they can see it. Visual learners often prefer to sit in the front of the class and "watch" the lecture closely. Often, these students will find that information makes more sense when it is explained with the aid of a chart or illustration.

Strengths of Visual Learners

Visual learners have many strengths that will help them succeed in the classroom:

  • Good at spelling and grammar
  • Comprehends charts and graphs quickly
  • Able to convey complex ideas visually
  • Good at sign language and other visual communication
  • Creative; may enjoy art or writing

Visual Learning Strategies

If you're a visual learner, try these techniques to improve your comprehension, retention, and concentration while studying:

  1. Ask for a demonstration. Visual learners need to see how something is done. Whenever possible, ask your teacher for a visual demonstration. Once you see the concept or principle in action, you'll have an easier time understanding it and recalling it later.
  2. Request handouts. Before class begins, ask the teacher if there is a handout you can review during the lecture. Handouts will help you keep track of the information being presented in the lecture.
  3. Incorporate white space in your notes. White space is important for visual learners. When too much information is crammed together, it becomes difficult to read. Think of white space as an organizational tool like any other and use it to separate information in your notes.
  4. Draw symbols and pictures. Use symbols like exclamation points (for important information), question marks (for information that's confusing or that you need to study further) and stars (for information you understand fully). In addition, consider illustrating complex concepts or processes.
  1. Use flashcards. Flashcards can help you remember key terms and vocabulary words. Create a set of flashcards and illustrate them with relevant pictures and symbols to boost your retention.
  2. Create graphs and charts. If you are learning information that can be organized as a graph or chart, take the time to make one. No need to be fancy—just scribble it in the margins of your notebook). Seeing information in this structured format will help you remember it.
  3. Make outlines. Outlines are an excellent organizational tool for the visual learner. In an outline, you can structure a large amount of information using headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Outline textbook chapters as you read, then review your outlines when preparing for exams.
  4. Write your own practice test. When you make your own practice test, you get to see the relevant test information right in front of you, which is a big help for visual learners. Use study guides, chapter notes, and relevant class assignments to put your original practice test together.

    Visual Learning Tips for Teachers

    Visual learners need to see information in order to learn. These students may struggle to pay attention to a conventional lecture, but they process visual information like charts and graphs with ease. Try these strategies to support the visual learners in your classroom:

    • Give visual learners quiet study time to review their notes, outline chapters, or draw diagrams.
    • Play short video clips during class to reinforce concepts discussed during lecture.
    • Avoid "cold-calling" on visual learners after a lecture presentation, as they need a few minutes to process the information they've just heard. Instead, give your students a moment to think after the lecture ends, then allow them to provide written answers to questions.
    • Create opportunities for students to express their creativity in class (e.g. poster projects and short skits).