It’s common knowledge by now that we all have different learning styles. Some of us are visual learners, some auditory, some kinaesthetic and so on. What’s not so commonly known is that cognitive scientists and neuroscientists seem to unanimously agree that the multiple intelligence learning style theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Apparently research consistently shows that the learning effect of matching learning styles to presentation methods is insignificant. Even people who consider themselves to be auditory learners recall information that is presented visually than information that they hear. For optimum learning, a combination of hearing and listening works best of all.
The old maxim of a picture being worth a thousand words rings true for two reasons – it’s not just that we are better at processing visual information, but our ability to recall visual information is over five times better than our ability to recall textual and auditory information. Not only do we recall visual information better, but we are able to recall it for longer. A combination of visual and auditory information is even better than either used in isolation. No wonder blackboards were such a big hit when they were first introduced to the classroom – it was a big improvement on just talk.
Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham covers the topic in depth in the article Do Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners Need Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Instruction He also has a somewhat dry but logical presentation on the same topic (for the visual/auditory learners).
Brenda Keogh and Stuart Taylor at Manchester University found that teaching science by using cartoons was a very effective method of engaging students.(pdf article). The cartoons presenting a scenario and cartoon characters with varying viewpoints about the scenario, encouraging students to examine the validity of each viewpoint. They found that students found the system engaging, made it was easy to provide differentiated learning, and it was also easy for teachers to assess the understanding of the students.
Great but not all of us can come up with suitable cartoons. Dan Meyer’s suggestion is to always have a camera with you, so that you can take photos whenever you see something that might have teaching value in the classroom. He finds that it makes it easier to develop lessons that students can relate to. Check his 3 minute video on why he finds it so effective.
I highly recommend Daniel Willingham’s book, Why Don’t students like School. Donna Bills has neatly summarized nine principles found in this 9 chapter book . More in depth articles about learning are at Daniel Willingham’s website.