Visual Spatial skills and cross-cultural learning

Why are visual/spatial skills so important for cross-cultural learning?

Kelly-Ann Denton

3/22/20223 min read

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Evolving education for the digital age

Creative thinking is a 21st century skill and a global priority. It is not taught effectively and largely misunderstood.

We default to oscillating between obvious attempts to “teach creativity” via arts, drama and design thinking in an effort to reach higher levels of imagination.

These activities are valuable but they do not arm learners with practical methods to re-imagine complex problems - though they are very enjoyable and rewarding for many. I would know, I am an art teacher. The thing is, imagination is also required for deeper cross-curricula learning in areas such as maths, engineering and of course literature. Is there a framework to help us do it?

We do this by instructing people how to understand their latent visual capabilities but also how to use them. Vision is our dominant sense, it is the major mechanism in the brain for both imagination and comprehension. We are not taught how to harness the potential of this faculty. Being able to see what’s not visible is a definition of imagination, think mind’s eye or insight, foresight, oversight, hindsight. The educators at are instructed to teach “how to learn” not "what to learn", we train people "where to look & how to see". These are obviously visual skills.

Aboriginal Pedagogy

The 8 Ways framework is a NSW Department of Education initiative. The 8ways belong to a place, not a person or organisation. They came from country in Western New South Wales. Baakindji, Ngiyampaa, Yuwaalaraay, Gamilaraay, Wiradjuri, Wangkumarra and other nations own the knowledges this framework came down from.

This Aboriginal pedagogy framework is expressed as eight interconnected pedagogies involving narrative-driven learning, visualised learning processes, hands-on/reflective techniques, use of symbols/metaphors, land-based learning, indirect/synergistic logic, modelled/scaffolded genre mastery, and connectedness to community.



Thoughts and ideas need to be externalised in order to create the neural pathways necessary for innovative, imaginative minds. When we talk and think in words we generate ideas that are sequential and linear.

When we draw our ideas and think in pictures, we generate ideas that are non-sequential, place-based and connected in multiple ways. This is critical for the imagination and a truly excellent way to learn how to think more creatively. It is a method for teaching and Aboriginal people excel with this pedagogical strategy.

Here you can see our resident Aboriginal educator Dorsey Smith working visually, spatially and symbolically. He uses traditional methods of painting when realising ideas but he also enjoys working with the iPad Pro and Pencil to ideate and create.

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By fusing Western learning methods

with Aboriginal pedagogical frameworks that communicate information visually, symbolically, metaphorically & imaginatively we help develop creative thinking.

This is known as “The Cultural Interface”. Follow our journey as we bravely re-imagine creative thinking and teach with visual/spatial methods, metaphors, symbols and Aboriginal frameworks that help us all to see and think laterally.

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