Lifelong Learning for Visual/Spatial Learners

Lisa M. Clark The Lifelong Learner 1 Comment

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It’s time again to learn more about how we learn differently. Have you been learning more about your spouse? kids? students? yourself? All of the above, I hope. And more than that, I hope you’ve been finding practical ways to encourage lifelong learning for yourself as well as for others.

This time: visual/spatial learners.

Let me draw you a picture. You’re sitting across the table from a friend who is giving detailed descriptions of a recent wedding. The bride. The groom. The aunt’s best friend who knows the ring bearer’s first-grade teacher. You’re doing your best not to glaze over. You care. You’re interested. But you can practically visualize the information flowing in one ear and out the other.

But wait! Your friend pulls out her smartphone full of pictures. And a bulletin with a list of names. She even sketches a few genealogy lines to make connections. You’ll never forget how Aunt Lydia is related to Cousin Chad now. If you can relate to this situation, you may be a visual learner.

A visual/spatial learner can rearrange living-room furniture in his or her head, pick out the perfect curtains online, and draw a floor plan for the delivery crew. These learners “get it” when they can see it—whether in their minds, on paper, or with the aid of a screen.

How do you know if you are a visual learner? Think of the ways you like to learn: Do graphs and charts make you happy? Do you doodle or take notes while listening to others? Do you get excited when you hear the word diorama? You’re probably gifted with visual/spatial intelligence.

Gifts of a visual/spatial learner:

In the classroom, these students love graphic organizers, often creating their own. They’ll be the first to create a scale model of the lesson you’re learning. And their daydreams are three-dimensional. When teachers provide visuals in class, these students thrive.

Visual/spatial learners are often creative. They won’t hesitate to grab some materials and get a little dirty for the sake of some learning. This might be seen through art as well as through engineering tasks.

Myths of a visual/spatial learner:

These doodlers often get reprimanded for “not listening” during lecture time. On the contrary, these students often have difficulty focusing unless they’re taking notes or at least drawing designs. As long as the art isn’t disruptive, it’s helpful for these learners to have a pen and paper close at hand.

Another myth stems from traditional assessment. If a test, for example, only uses words and only seeks words as a response, a visual learner is unable to show his or her best skills. There have been studies of brilliant students who were not recognized as such due to tests that lacked a focus on this intelligence. (If you have time, do a web search of Luis Alvarez or William Shockley, for example.)

Equipping a visual/spatial learner:

In the classroom, let quiet doodlers quietly doodle. If they’re able to respond and contribute as needed, encourage this learning strategy for visual learners.

In the workplace, graphs, images, and videos are all great ways to give information to these learners. In fact, engage employees with these skills to use their creativity to teach others through these means.

At home, encourage their attempts at decorating their space in fruitful ways. In the family, but away from home, a notepad and pen can go a looong way to keep your visual learner occupied.

In the classroom, provide options for creative projects. They’ll often inspire other students with great displays. In an essay test, let a student map out their ideas in the margin before writing it all down. One of my high school teachers allowed us to write our short essay answers in outline format: he was more concerned at that part of the test with information than transitional sentences.

In the workplace, use a slide show or graphic organizer web tool to display information in aesthetically pleasing ways.

At home, provide opportunity for creativity. Or allow these learners to draw a picture about their days or as they listen during family devotions. My daughter and I both have visual learning characteristics, and we sometimes color together as we talk about “life.”

Are you a visual/spatial learner? What ways do you love to learn? What tips can you offer those who want to learn more about this learning style? What strategies do you use?

I’d love to hear from you as we continue this learning community!


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About the Author

Lisa M. Clark


Lisa M. Clark spends her days reading and writing about God’s love for all people through Jesus Christ. She is a former high school teacher and a current editor for Concordia Publishing House. Her degrees from Concordia University, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri--St. Louis focus on Lutheran doctrine, education, and writing. You can read her latest posts here.

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Elizabeth Knaus
5 years ago

Yes, I’m a visual learner! During Bible studies you will see me doodling and mixing in a few notes. I’m not a teacher. I like when the instructor draws pictures on a white board while explaining things.