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Visualising Knowledge

Visualising Knowledge An Article summarising different ways in which knowledge can be organised as images and why this can improve teaching and learning.

Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.
Orson Welles

I'm a visual thinker, not a language-based thinker. My brain is like Google Images.
Temple Grandin

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Learning Styles, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Visual Learning Infographic Learning Styles
It's a bit like...
The task is difficult, the problem seems insoluble; a real challenge. What do you do:
  1. Shut your eyes, frown?
  2. Go for a walk?
  3. Say, "It's a bit like....." or "It's the same as when...."?
  4. Use you hands, body, move around?
  5. Pick up a pen and draw/doodle
These responses are typical and expected when more effort's needed. And they are all linked to visual processing:
  1. Shutting your eyes; trying to imagine or recall a solution
  2. Walking away from the problem to get a different perspective, looking for inspiration
  3. Using simile and metaphor in the search for similarities to other challenges
  4. Externalising the problem/thinking in gesture and movement so you can see what it looks like 
  5. Externaising the problem/thinking as a diagram or image
Why Visual?
The Dual-Coding theory (Paivio, 1990) tells us that knowledge is stored linguistically and as images. This imagery includes mental pictures but also physical sensations. Hyerle (2008) states that 80-90% of information coming to our brain arrives visually. He concludes from this that although individuals may have non-visual learning preferences, it makes sense to develop the visual learning capacity of all students.

Marzano's meta-analysis (2001) identifies 5 general strategies that aim to produce visual representations in the minds of students:
  1. Creating graphic representations
  2. Making physical models
  3. Generating mental pictures
  4. Drawing pictures or pictographs
  5. Engaging in kinesthetic activity
Notice how these ideas match well to the instinctive, problem solving behaviors above.

In practice there are hundreds of classroom activities that support these strategies - anything from concept mapping to diorama building to time-lining and infographics.

Principles & Practice
In class, curriculum knowledge can be simplified to concepts and their connections. Visual representations of this knowledge should make it more memorable and meaningful. So we need to think about how the concepts and connections are presented. 

If we first define what kind of information we have, we can then choose a suitable graphic method:

 Key feature of the information

 Example of visual representation

 Facts related to a theme  Concept Map
 A process  Flowchart
 Causes and effects  Pattern Organiser
 Sequence in time  Timeline
 Hierarchy  Tree Diagram
 Comparison  Venn Diagram
 Facts  Infographic

If the information has multiple key features, then new combined visual representations can be created. For example, a hierarchy changing over time could be shown by synthesising a timeline and a tree diagram.

This month's new resources provide ideas and templates for developing visual representations of knowledge in teaching and learning.

Related Resources:

Advance Organisers

Do You Let Your Pupils Doodle?

Soundscape Thinking

Visual Learning


Visualise PowerPoint


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