Picturing Success: Study Tips for Visual Learners

by Rosemarie Hardison
study tips for visual learners

According to the VARK model, an influential system for understanding various learning needs, students fall into one or more of the following categories: auditory learners, reading/writing learners, kinesthetic learners and visual learners. These learning styles indicate how students feel most advantaged and comfortable in their learning. For instance, an auditory learner gets the most out of hearing a lecture or listening to books on tape, etc.

Most students are “multi-modal,” preferring a hybrid of the four styles listed above (while leaning slightly toward one of them). But according to peer-reviewed research, a significant share of students consider themselves visual learners.

Visual learners, as you might assume, like to picture their education. They learn best when they can see information in front of them. If you count yourself among the many students who prefer visual learning, use these four straightforward study tips.

Consider Online Courses

Online courses are wonderful for several reasons. These self-paced, flexible, and individualized learning environments allow a diverse spectrum of learners to flourish. And the multimedia approaches employed by quality online schools ensure that each learning style is accommodated.

Online courses are especially beneficial for visual learners. For instance, when you take an MHF4U course online (Grade 12 Advanced Functions), you have access to simulation labs, video-making software, digital whiteboard activities, and interactive content – essentially, a visual learner’s dream. These engaging visual tools help make sense of the more lofty and theoretical math concepts.

Try Alternative Note-Taking Methods

Note-taking is widely effective for several types of learners. Naturally, reading/writing learners get a lot out of note-taking because they can produce and absorb information in the written word. Visual learners can get just as much value from their notes, but they need to “zhuzh” things up a bit!

Rather than haphazardly jotting down fleeting bits of information, consider giving your notes a visual structure with these alternative methods:

  • Cornell Notes: Developed at the titular university, these notes divide the page into three parts, allowing visual learners to create an “information hierarchy.”
  • Mind Maps: These branching, sprawling notes allow the brain to make visual connections between concepts.
  • Concept Maps: While mind maps typically follow a “tree-like” structure, concept maps are more free-form, allowing you to make visual links across the page.

Try a combination of the note-taking methods above to determine what works best for you. And break out the colored pens and highlighters to add another visual dimension!

Create a Quiet, Purposeful Study Space

This study tip applies broadly to various learners but has special significance to visual learners. Take a crowded café as an example. The chatter of the patrons, the hissing of the espresso machines, and the smell of coffee create “sensory clutter.” Sensory clutter is all of that background stimulus that have nothing to do with your studies, and it causes your brain to work overtime to interpret the task at hand.

Instead of posting up in a crowded place, consider creating a quiet, purposeful study space. Remove all those auditory and sensory distractions so you can focus on the visual elements of your studies. Wear noise-canceling headphones if necessary, clear the area of any physical clutter, and organize your visual learning tools neatly. This will help direct and manage your concentration.

If you’re a visual learner who wants to picture your success, try the tips above. Get creative with your notes, craft a serene study environment, and consider taking online courses.

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