It is estimated that 65% of students are visual learners. Though over half of students qualify as visual learners, lectures often cater toward auditory learners. In this case, it may be up to the learner to use visual techniques to properly learn the information. Do you tend to think in images and need to see information to learn it? Are you easily distracted by sounds or have difficulty following spoken directions? If these things sound familiar, you might be a visual learner. Here are a few techniques and resources that might help you make your learning more visual:
Flashcards are one of the most effective learning tools, and they can be especially helpful for visual learners. Flashcards are a form of self testing which hundreds of studies dating backing to the early 1900’s have shown to enhance learning and retention. Testing yourself on material can help show you what you actually know and what you don’t, and can help focus your studying to only the concepts you need the most practice on.
You can either make flashcards out of physical note cards, or you can create them online. If you choose to do it pen and paper style, try to use varied colors and even draw small illustrations or diagrams on the cards. This can help you associate the correct answer with something visual. If you choose to go the technology route, this website is free and simple, and the best part is that you can easily add pictures to your note cards to strengthen the visual association with the correct answer.
Whether you’re taking lecture notes or outlining information, diagrams can help the visual learner to clearly encode information for later use. Some may prefer flowcharts, some may prefer mind maps. Flowcharts are diagrams that show step by step progression through a procedure or a system of ideas. They can help to get a more holistic idea of a set of concepts, and show how concepts logically connect together. Mind maps are along the same lines, but they don’t necessarily “flow” logically. They still show how ideas connect. The basic idea of a mind map is this: start with one overarching concept in the middle of the page, and draw off shooting concepts around the central concept. Continue to draw connections between ideas and make notes about definitions or other things you need to remember about each concept. These types of diagrams may help the visual learner make sense of information and tie many ideas together. Clearly seeing how the many different pieces of lecture material fit together into a larger framework can help when you are asked to apply the concepts on exams later.
Beyond making your own diagrams, it is also helpful to seek out diagrams that others have created to help solidify the information. When reading a textbook, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with any diagrams or charts on the page first, and then read the accompanying descriptions to solidify the ideas that the diagrams display. Additionally, if you’re reading about a concept that seems fuzzy, try searching google for visual displays of the concept.
When writing a paper, it can be helpful to write points you want to include on notecards and lay them out in front of you, then move them around until you find a way to organize them that makes sense. This can be an effective way for the visual learner to keep concepts organized and create a paper that flows well. The technique I personally use is to write the main idea on the front of the card, and then a quote from one of my citations that illustrates that idea on the back of the card. This way I can move around the ideas as I wish, and then when I go to actually write the paper, I have my citation right there to copy down into my document. This technique can also be done using a word processing program on a computer, but I personally like having the physical cards in front of me to move around.
Visual Search Engine
When you begin researching a topic, do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by the mass of text-based results that are produced by your favorite search engine? If so, you might want to try a search engine like this one that displays results in a visual format. Though you may need to use a more sensitive search engine later in your research, this can be a good place to start, especially for the visual learner.
Visual learners tend to get easily distracted by the sound. It can be helpful to find yourself a study space that is quiet. Most universities have quiet study rooms for rent, or quiet floors in some buildings, like the library. If you cannot access a quiet place to study, try listening to neutral sounds on headphones like ocean waves or rain sounds. For some, quiet music without lyrics can do the trick as well. Quiet meditation tracks can be a good place to look for calming, neutral sounds to drown out any distracting noise.
If you think you might be a visual learner, try some of these tips and resources to help you better remember information, write papers, and study for exams. If you need some more help, check out this article or take advantage of our tutoring services designed specifically for law school students.
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