Being able to access and use our visual capabilities are central to an imaginative mind.
(Reading time: 2 mins)
A growing body of evidence shows that mental imagery can accelerate learning and improve the performance of all sorts of skills.
For most of us, visual imagery is essential for memory, daydreaming and imagination. But some people apparently lack a mind’s eye altogether, and find it impossible to conjure up such visual images – therefore affecting their educational performance. This applies to both teachers and students.
Studies show visual thinking is especially important for reading, comprehension and learning word meanings. According to at least one theory, it is a cornerstone for literacy.
Dual-coding theory, put forward by Allan Paivio of the University of Western Ontario in 1971, distinguishes between verbal and non-verbal thought processes. The research cements mental imagery as the primary form of non-verbal representation. Essentially, information is stored in two different ways – verbally and visually.
The work shows, for example, that mental imagery helps eight-year-olds remember what they read and that students who are asked to create mental images during word memory tasks learn two and a half times more. Imagine the possibilities!
Verbal recall and visual images do appear to be separate but related, and while the ability to use imagery is not directly related to measures of intelligence, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, the spontaneous use of imagery helps children to learn and understand prose.
Indirect evidence for this proposition comes from the work of Paivio (1971), who has demonstrated repeatedly that materials which are image-evoking (as determined from subject ratings) are better learned than materials which are not.
More recently, other studies have shown that mental imagery can help students grasp abstract concepts, and that encouraging students to use imagery greatly improves their understanding of complex ideas.
Another study shows that using mental imagery helps primary school pupils learn and understand new scientific words. Visualisation techniques are also helpful for the teaching and learning of mathematics and computer science.
A fundmental understanding of the neuroscience of imagination and visual capabilities is so critical to lead school students through the potentiality of the future that awaits them, one we cannot define from our vantage point in the present. The rate of change is so fast – those students and teachers that are able to use their imaginations will be those that can adapt and re-imagine possibilities as they arise.
Do your teachers have the professional development they require in visual thinking and imagination in order to meet the needs of your students? Have you engaged effective curricula for developing the imagination in your students?
Visual learning is the skill of the future. Why not invite this capability into your school and watch it thrive.