Your Career• 3 Min read

1st October 2020

Visual learning styles: characteristics of a visual learner

How can you tailor teaching to suit visual learners? Research into the process of learning has shown there are three main ways in which people learn. These ‘learning styles’ can be used to create lessons that benefit pupils by playing to their strengths. Recognising that your pupils learn in different ways will enable you to modify the way you impart knowledge to different students a tailored approach takes more energy, but the payoff is higher engagement from pupils who might otherwise struggle if they are forced to learn in the same way as pupils with completely different learning styles.

What Are The Three Main Learning Styles?

Most individuals fit into one of the three main categories – there are lots of great online resources suitable for adults and children to determine which learning style suits you best – we like this one!

  • Visual Learners – learn best with imagery and visual aids
  • Kinesthetic Learners – learn through movement and tactility – read our post about Kinesthetic Learning here
  • Auditory Learners – learnt through listening and speaking

What are visual learners?

In 1987, Neil Fleming designed the VARK model to help students learn more about their learning preferences. This model highlighted the VARK learning styles: visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic.

Visual learners need to see information in order to understand it and they’ll remember things by sight. So they’ll learn by seeing pictures or reading. 

What strengths do visual learners have?

Visual learners’ strengths include:

  • Imaginative design skills
  • Creativity (for example: art, fashion, performing arts)
  • Good attention to detail
  • Proficiency at following instructions
  • Being organised
  • Efficient note-taking
  • Remembering the location of a passage within a text
  • Understanding maps
  • A good sense of direction

What teaching strategies can I use to support visual learners?

Using these teaching strategies can help visual learners to process new information:

  • Encourage them to sit at the front
  • Write down new vocabulary on the whiteboard
  • Use charts and graphs
  • Ask them to make notes on the lesson
  • Write down the plan for the lesson so they can see it, visually, in advance
  • Play flashcard games
  • Use realia to help teach the lesson (real-life objects) 

 How can I support visual learners to study for a test?

As a teacher, you can help to guide your visual learners through some revision techniques before a test. There are a number of ways in which a visual learner might revise for a test more effectively: 

Teach them to create and learn mind maps for each topic / possible essay. Then before they start writing an essay, they can re-draw the mind map and refer back to it as they write their essay. This helps them to write concisely and ensures that they don’t forget any information.

Help them to create a system. Visual learners can become anxious if their study notes are disorganised. Encourage them to use organisation tools such as binders with tabs or note cards they can colour code.

Encourage drawing. Get them to draw visuals for information they need to remember.

Encourage them to colour code common themes. For example, a set period or battle in history, to differentiate nouns and verbs in grammar, or colour coding an essay.

Use a screen. Watch documentaries and films on topics they need to remember for the test. 

How can I adapt my classroom to support visual learners?

Adapting your classroom to suit visual learners is vital because they (and the other students in your classroom) can draw inspiration from it. 

Ensure that the classroom is well lit (preferably by natural light). Then make sure that all students have a clear view of the whiteboard and screens for visual thinking. It’s important that technology is ever-present, but blends seamlessly into the classroom.

Rotate different colours and maps on the walls in relation to current topics and themes, without creating so much visual stimulation that your learners are distracted! It’s a fine balance.

How Can Teachers Recognise Visual Learners?

Recognising the individual learning styles of a classroom of 30 pupils can be a challenge, but taking the time to observe how your pupils flourish whilst taking part in different learning activities will have a huge payoff, allowing you to tailor support and allow individuals to shine and succeed!

  1. Visual learners work better in a quiet room without distractions
  2. They can take longer to recall information as they replay scenarios in their head
  3. Visual learners see better than they hear – their attention span for listening to speakers or auditory stimuli might be shorter than watching a film, for example
  4. Younger Visual Learners may struggle to translate images into words
  5. Visual Learners may find explaining the process of how they got a result more difficult!


We hope this article has given you some fun ideas to try in your lessons – we’d love to hear your experiences of managing different learning styles over on our twitter – come and join the conversation!

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