Visionary Learning is a Community of Practice (CoP) based in the UK and with members in the US and Europe. We’re interested in matching teaching practices with learning processes. We started with Multimedia Learning (MML) research which reminds us we are ‘dual processors’ of knowledge: our minds engage the world through both our visual and auditory-textual cortices. We use our eyes to understand the world around us long before we use language; and visual processing skills stay with us into later life as a norm.
We’re concerned, though, that we mostly teach with text, ignoring a key means by which we learn and understand. It also ignores the increasingly visual culture afforded by digitization inhabited by our students long before they reach us. This is the case in most disciplines, in all universities, in every country. Whether we use PowerPoint or Prezi, Keynote or Slide Rocket, we tend to flood slides with words and bullet points and expose audiences to ‘Death by PowerPoint’.
Importantly, MML scholarship tells us this can be harmful pedagogically. This is because, in delivering text only, we overload the auditory-textual channel and underuse our visual channel. Whilst we’re doing this, the literature suggests, we also overload short-term memory which harms wider cognitive processes, further marginalizing learning and understanding. In other words, how we presently teach is not how we best learn; yet it’s the main way we teach large groups. And large groups are here to stay, if only for cost-effectiveness rationales. How we lecture doesn’t relate well to how we learn.
This CoP wants to better match the way we teach to the way we learn. We have been experimenting with rebalancing lecture delivery so it nourishes both visual processing as well as supporting audio-textual abilities. We’ve had promising – sometimes startling – results that show substantially increased academic engagement and the presence of key characteristics of active learning, including problem solving processes and the use of prior knowledge as a foundation for new learning. We’ve also tested the method with dyslexic learners, who describe the method as being well-suited to visual processing preferences.
But we also want to see if it works at postgraduate level, if it can be used in seminars, whether it can be tied to assessment – and any other direction our members want to take it in. If you’re interested in such endeavours, we’d love to hear from you.