Tapping Potential with Learning Styles: Visual Learners

by Dahlia Miller
October 2006

We all learn differently. When you are learning something new, how do you like to have the information presented to you? Do you learn best when you watch someone, listen to someone, or try the new thing yourself?

Everyone has a different learning style. More specifically, each person has a preferred means of receiving information. Some people like to see things (Visual Learners), some like to hear things (Auditory Learners), and some like to touch or move things around (Kinesthetic Learners). Actually, most people are a combination of these three with one or more of the styles being dominant.

If you know your learning style, you can tap into your natural potential. You can adjust your study style to maximize your time and efforts. If you know how you learn best, you can also communicate more effectively with teachers - you can ask them to present information to you in ways that suit you best.

Teachers and parents can benefit from knowing their own learning style since most of us tend to present information in the style we are most comfortable learning. Our students and children, however, do not necessarily learn in the same style as we do. Having a greater awareness of our own learning style and how we typically present information can help us to become better teachers.

Most people tend to be stronger in one or two learning styles (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). This doesn’t mean that if you are a strong visual learner you can’t learn by listening. But it does mean that your brain is more easily stimulated by seeing things, and that it’ll be easier for you to remember things you’ve seen than heard.

Some people don’t have one or two strong learning styles, instead they are balanced between all three styles. For this type of learner (and really for all learners), the more you use all the senses in learning, the better. For example, if you read silently, you are stimulating your visual sense. However if you read aloud while running your finger along under the words, you’re speaking, hearing, seeing and moving all at once. This means that you are learning in four ways at once - much more effective than just reading silently, don’t you think?

Some Clues Revealing Visual Learners

Is it easier to understand or remember information if you see it?
Can you picture things in your mind’s eye?
Do you like to have someone show you how to do something?
Do you like to look around or read when waiting in line ups?
Are you disturbed by a messy study environment?
Do you like to refer to written materials?
Do you like to look around the room and gaze at pictures, or other visual stimuli?

About Visual Learners

Visual learners prefer to see information in order to understand and learn. Some Visual learners learn best with pictures, and some with words. “Visual print” learners are especially attracted to words and written descriptions. their reading comprehension tends to be good and they usually prefer to read instructions rather than just listen.

“Visual picture” learners are typically attracted to how things look in relation to each other (shapes, colours). These learners are usually good at understanding graphs or diagrams. Both of these visual learners will be much more likely to retain information if they see it.

When presenting information to a visual learner, be sure to have something written or drawn (like a graph) to back up what you are saying. If you don’t have handouts or other visuals, write key words on the board or a piece of paper, if you can, and draw the person’s attention to your notes.

Study Tips for Visual Learners

  • Take notes in class and review them.
  • Use colours or symbols - anything to make the notes more interesting to look at.
  • Underline or highlight text as you read.
  • Draw diagrams to explain relationships between new and old information.
  • When studying for exams, write out what you know about the topic, then condense these notes to help you memorize.
  • Write out questions that you are working on.
  • Practice reading, writing or drawing at home.
  • Have a written schedule with clearly marked study times, project due dates and exam dates.
  • When beginning a large project, define what each of the steps is. Write these steps out, or draw them on a line showing the progress from start to finish.
  • Write a script for any oral exams or presentations.
  • Make diagrams or visual representations of projects that you need to build. If you are planning a 3-D model for chemistry, you may feel more grounded if you begin with an attempt to draw the model or if you write out words for what you are attempting to represent with the model.
  • When working with an essay brainstorm, colour code the ideas.
  • It can give a new perspective to essay or paragraph writing for the visual student to cut his essay into pieces (i.e. introduction, body 1, body 2, body 3, conclusion, etc.) and arrange the ideas on a table, perhaps even to colour-code them. This can aid the visual learner in conceptualizing the essay as a larger whole rather than focussing on the details of the words and sentences.
  • If you don’t absorb much of what the teacher is saying when there are no visual prompts provided, sit close to the teacher to watch her face as she speaks, and take your own notes as the teacher speaks.
  • Make flashcards for studying (use different colour cards)

“Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.”
H. H. Williams