There Is No Thicker Skin, But It Does Sometimes Come In Spades
Poor visual learning has been viewed as a handicap on campuses across the globe. Coupled with poor verbal skills, visual learners have historically been considered the Achilles Heel of educators across the country. Well, according to a new study in Pediatrics by researchers from Western University in London, Ontario, this perception may actually be false. They claim that visual learners’ perceptions of the role of visual learning are out of line with their actual ability to learn.
The study was co-authored by the psychology department’s Rachel Stratton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, and Dr. Martina Berendt of the Department of Health Sciences. It focuses on eight specific conditions within primary and secondary schools in Spain. The setup is pretty simple. First, researchers sought to understand whether visual learners feel superior to those who experience verbal learning. When children are prompted to develop an engagement with a particular issue, they are asked whether they perceive themselves as better or worse at learning this issue.
So, not surprisingly, more visual learners score higher on this question when compared to their counterparts.
But, when a student’s background was accounted for and various issues were given a sample size, such as standardized testing results and even control factors like family income, cognitive deficits, early onset of childhood cognitive deficits, and age of knowledge-based education, researchers also noticed that visual learners were consistently perceived as needing more time for implementation, and were not often provided with the resources required to utilize visual techniques.
Instead, visual learners were much more likely to engage with issues less frequently.
This trend in visual learners’ perception had implications that had far-reaching consequences. Previous research has shown that the convergence of visual and verbal learning will trigger brain circuits in regions such as the precuneus which are directly connected to perceptual vision. But, as was seen in the Spanish study, those brain circuits weren’t connected when visual learners were asked this question. Thus, there wasn’t enough of a motivation to actively embrace these aspects of learning.
This idea is supported by methods such as perceptual creativity testing which concluded that there is minimal neural processing performed by visual learners in their visualization of any object of interest.
So, is there anything in common between visual learners and visual learners of other ages?
When given the task of solving a financial problem, for example, it can be observed that many visual learners underestimate the complexity of the solution and compare what they see to what they know about the subject.
They frequently even struggle to fully comprehend how the solution is likely to impact others, which is a common problem in younger people. Yet, those with more vivid vision skills continue to serve as model problem solvers when working with this set of information.
Finally, researchers on the Spanish study noticed that when explaining information to visually impaired students who had limited visual processing, even these students needed more time to make sense of complex information than their visually challenged peers. Again, this suggests that the majority of visual learners aren’t using these skills correctly.
So, the takeaway from this latest study is not that visual learners need to be given more time to think through the problems at hand. Instead, they just need the tools to enhance their skills. If left unchecked, visual learners will often find themselves stuck in a rut and unwilling to budge.
MindShift Media was founded on the knowledge that there are no shortcuts to learning, and that no matter what time or environment you’re placed in, your learnability will always depend on how you approach the challenge. No two of us are created equal, and each of us learns at different rates and in our own ways. To learn something new, to grow personally, or to thrive professionally, we need to find ways to engage with the new information with a commitment to learn. Learning shouldn’t be an afterthought or a part of an add-on, it should be the center of your day.