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“In Other Words” – What are Students’ Preferred Methods for Learning?

Over a period of five days, I plan to blog about the research and history behind the idea of teaching with pictures. It’s actually quite fascinating, and sets up our release of three Habitudes® resources this month. First, we took a brief look at history and how the human race engaged their culture with images. In the next two posts, we examined a list of how much visuals stimulate learning. Below I give Part Four.

What Do Students Say?

epic-students

I decided to take this hypothesis on the relevance and impact of teaching with images to the college campus. Over the course of two years, we asked more than 3,000 undergraduate students on 32 university campuses what enables them to learn and to remember. I recognized that effective educators and communicators use a handful of instruments to help listeners remember information. I wanted, however, to test their work, and see if their “end user” agreed. After assessing the results, three instruments emerged as most popular:

1. Music

The use of song and lyric to connect and remember information.

2. Experiences

The use of hands-on activity and participation for learning purposes.

3. Images

The use of visuals and metaphors to engage and retain content.

I was then faced with a paramount question: why is it that so many faculty members refrain from using music or images? If it’s true that students retain information and test better when instructors include one or more of the instruments above in their pedagogy, it would make sense that educators would employ them. So why don’t professors use a learning process that actually works?

My primary conclusion is simple: The use of images (or the other items on the list above) simply seems anecdotal. They don’t feel scholarly. Over time, as higher education has become more sophisticated and rigorous, we have felt that anything which simplifies learning lacks rigor or depth. Images, for instance, don’t appear academic. They’re far too elementary. So many shun them.

But I would argue that images are not elementary at all. In fact, they prompt both thought and emotion. And they certainly don’t lack rigor—in fact, they stimulate an entirely different hemisphere of the brain, often left untouched by educators. If the purpose of education is to help students learn, remember and apply truth, then it seems we have left out a very useful tool in the process. Images have been proven to stimulate creativity, retention and passion, all of which employers who receive graduates are begging for. I do not know of any employer who still asks about the GPA of a young prospect, but I do know they are asking about creativity, soft skills, and executive functioning. And I believe images help foster those needed skill sets.

Our Dilemma: Right-brained Students

Must Attend Left-brained Schools

The columns below summarize how education has primarily taken place and why it fails to be effective. I recognize many schools have made an important shift from this traditional model, and perhaps this is over-simplified. But I believe these columns summarize why many students drop out of the educational process too soon:

STUDENTS TODAY SCHOOLS TODAY
1. Right-brained thinkers 1. Left-brained delivery
2. Learn by uploading, expressing themselves 2. Teach by downloading lectures
3. Experiential in nature 3. Passive in nature
4. Music and art enables them to retain information 4. Music and art classes are the first ones cut
5. Desire to learn what is relevant to life 5. Teach for the next test and to simply raise scores
6. Creativity drives them 6. Curriculum drives them

Maya Angelou wrote, “We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”

So—my big question for you is this: how can you adjust your teaching methods (or parenting methods) to better connect with the young people around you?

Instagram contest

2 Comments

  1. Kurt Earl on January 11, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I’m on board. I want to teach using songs and images in my classroom, but I have one giant problem: finding these resources. I’m not skilled in these areas so I have to find these things rather than create them. When I do find a great image it often poorly communicates one or more aspects of the topic and I fear it will be more harm than good. Google is a great resource, but I often worry about copyright infringement and the like.
    Any thoughts or ideas?
    Is “Song and Image Creator” a future position in schools? LOL

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“In Other Words” – What are Students’ Preferred Methods for Learning?