Visual Teaching or Visual Learning?

Filed Under (NLP learning difficulties) on 01-08-2013

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One of the challenges of teaching is that when the teacher can’t see what a learner is visualizing, there’s nothing for the teacher to mark / evaluate.  

When visualization skills surpass a learner’s writing or artistic abilities, your only way to find out what a learner is seeing in his/her imagination is to ask.  You may be amazed at how immensely creative the person’s mind is and how very different his/her creation is from yours!  You can gain some information from watching the position and focus of the person’s eyes.  If the person is looking up, s/he will be accessing his/her pictures.  The eye movements may even tell you whether the person is seeing still or moving pictures.  Take time to observe.  If the person seems tranced out, s/he may be enjoying a movie in which s/he may be starring.

You may have noticed people smiling in a way which seems random, but it is not random to them.  They’re fully engaging in their stories.  Albeit this state of trance may be frustrating to people who are trying to make us focus, exactly in this state a person may be processing important thoughts, fully concentrating, and may dislike being interrupted.  You won’t know what’s going on for the person unless you ask.  And when you ask, make it a visual question so as not to disturb his/her train of thought.

Ask and you’ll be wiser.

Are your imagined pictures still or moving?  Having control over and choice in this is very important.  If you can’t hold them still when it would be appropriate, you’re very likely ungrounded.

For how long can you hold an imagined picture still [=not moving]?  Some people can hold a picture for a fraction of a second, others for 5 seconds, others for longer.  If your picture appears for a fraction of a second, you can train yourself to hold it for longer.  If you need to see a still picture and can’t stop it from moving / fading, ground yourself and imagine that you’re taking a photograph.  Compose it, frame it, freeze it, and take it with your photographic memory.  If you’re used to playing computer games or watching fast-paced action movies, you can train your brain to slow the pace down in mental replay.  Practise grounding in combination with familiar metaphors such as cars stopping at red traffic lights.

Visual teaching vs. visual learning

Showing someone a picture is visual teaching.  If you tell a tale about a fairy, every person listening to the tale will make different pictures of the fairy.  That is visual learning.  When you’re teaching a fact, such as the shape of Canada, your learners need to see it.  If you tell them exactly what their fairy should look like, you’re stifling their creativity.

The difference between visual teaching and visual learningVisual learning is a skill essential for many things in life.  A major challenge of any person who teaches anything is that s/he has no idea of what picture a learner’s mind creates.  The learner will most likely look as if s/he is in a trance while imagining the fairy and thus seem not to pay attention to the teaching person. Do you know people who were reprimanded for daydreaming in class at school?  Ask them what they’re imagining and you’ll find something highly creative.  You may have heard a teacher say to a learner “the answer is not on the ceiling!”.  But for the visual learner the answer is EXACTLY on the ceiling! Another reason why the answer is exactly on the ceiling is that the ceiling is often the only blank piece of wall in a classroom! And visualizing pictures against a blank background is so much easier!

To understand visual learning we have to put ourselves into the learner’s perspective.

  • Where does s/he hold his/her pictures?
  • Are the pictures in color or black and white?
  • How bright are they?
  • How far are they from his/her face?
  • Is the person looking through his/her eyes or from an outsider’s perspective?
  • How large / small are the pictures?
  • Do the pictures move or are they still?
  • How fast do they move?

Once a person understands his/her style of visualization, s/he will have much more control over his/her pictures.  Visualizing is fun, effective, and invaluable for anyone!  These exercises for sharpening your visual skills will also help improve visual learning.

If you’re in the teaching profession or a family member or friend teaching someone who would like more NLP help with visualization, visual teaching, and visual learning, let’s talk about it.

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