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Who Benefits From Visual Illustrations In Psychology Teaching: A Question of Learning Style or Not?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8026-0050
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

A key question concerning the use of visual illustrations in teaching is whether teaching should be adapted according to students’ preferred learning style (visualiser-verbaliser), whether focus should be on strategies that work well in general (multimedia learning), independent of preference, or whether it is worthwhile to combine the two to further improve learning. Upper secondary school students were given a lecture presented only verbally or with the aid of a visual illustration. Results from a learning test were analysed in relation to the students’ self rated learning style. Visouverbal presentation resulted in better learning than verbal presentation only, independently of learning style. Support was not found for the learning styles hypothesis, since there was no crossover interaction. However, students with mixed or visual learning styles performed generally better on the learning test than students with a verbal learning style. Since the use of visual illustrations seems to have a beneficial effect on learning for all students, this mode of instruction ought to be used in teaching. Rather than being a tool for teachers to adapt their teaching, learning styles diagnoses may be used in order to identify students who need to develop their study strategies towards a more visual preference.

 

Aims

The idea that individuals’ learning styles are important to take into account when adapting classroom methods has reached wide popular acceptance within the educational field and among the general public (Riding & Cheema, 1991). Also, multimedia learning has been proven a robust learning strategy, suggesting that instruction including a visual illustration improves learning more than purely verbal instruction (Paivio, 1986; Mayer, 2010). However, studies focusing on the effects of different presentation formats in teaching often do not take into account the role of individual instructional preference (Kollöffel, 2012). In the present study we investigated the learning styles hypothesis in terms of the verbaliser-visualiser dimension, and the multimedia instruction hypothesis. A key issue is whether teachers should adapt their teaching according to students’ preferred learning style, whether they instead should focus their efforts on strategies that work well in general (multimedia learning) and independent of preference, or whether it is worthwhile to combine the two to further improve student learning. In previous multimedia research there is an overrepresentation of material from the natural sciences and it has been questioned if multimedia learning holds in the social sciences (Mayer, 2011; Westelinck, Valcke, Craene, & Kirschner, 2005). We investigated this further by using materials from a psychology course.

 

Methodology

72 students were recruited from three upper secondary schools in Stockholm, Sweden. Participants were tested in 12 already existing classes, randomly assigned to one of two presentation formats (verbal vs. visuoverbal). A psychology lecture was held in the classroom and the to-be-learned material consisted of a memory model. For one half of the groups, a visual illustration including all different steps in the orally presented process was drawn simultaneously on the white board. The Style of Processing questionnaire (SOP; Childers, Houston, & Heckler, 1985) was used to identify the students’ preferred way of processing new information. The results from the SOP scale place participants in one of three groups: visual, mixed or verbal. The students conducted a learning test, consisting of both recall and transfer questions.

 

Findings

 The multimedia instruction hypothesis was supported in a significant main effect of presentation format F(1, 71) = 27.37, MSE = .55 p < .001. Students who received visuoverbal instruction scored significantly higher on the learning test compared to students who received a verbal presentation only (visuoverbal: M = .58, s = .16; verbal: M = .40, s = .16, d = 1.12). As shown in figure 1, this was the case independently of learning style (visual, d = 2.62; mixed, d = 0.98; verbal, d = 0.61).

A significant main effect of learning style was found F(1, 71) = 5.79, MSE = .12, p = .005. Students with a visual or a mixed learning style performed better on the learning test compared to students with a verbal learning style (visual: M = .53, s = .18; mixed: M = .53, s = .16; verbal: M = .40, s = .19).

A significant interaction between learning style and presentation format was found, F(2,71) = 3.12, MSE = .06, p = .051. As shown in figure 1, this interaction depends on participants with a visual learning style benefitting more from a visuoverbal presentation than participants with a mixed or verbal learning style.

Figure 1. Proportion correct answers across the different learning style groups for the verbal and visuoverbal presentation formats respectively. Error bars represent the standard errors.

 

Theoretical and educational significance

Results from our study show that a visuoverbal presentation results in better learning than verbal presentation only, independently of individual learning style. This suggests that a visuoverbal mode of instruction ought to be used in psychology teaching.

An interaction between learning style and presentation format was found. However, as suggested by Pashler and colleagues (2008), convincing support for the learning styles hypothesis would require a crossover interaction, where visualisers perform better than verbalisers in a visuoverbal condition and verbalisers perform better than visualisers in a verbal condition. This was not the case and accordingly support for the learning styles hypothesis in terms of the verbaliser – imager dimension was not provided, although visualizers benefitted more from the use of visual illustrations than verbalizers and mixed processors. Consequently, based on the results from this study one could not conclude that classroom teaching in general should be adjusted according to individual students’ learning style in order for each student to best learn.

Students with a visual or mixed learning style performed better on the learning test compared to students with a verbal learning style. Since the learning styles diagnosis focuses on preference, these results could imply that it is worthwhile to help students develop a preference for visual aspects of information processing. In line with this argumentation, learning style diagnoses may be used to identify students who could develop their study strategies towards a more visual preference, rather than being a tool for teachers to adapt their teaching according to each student’s individual learning style.

 

References

Childers, T. L., Houston, M. J., & Heckler, S. E. (1985). Measurement of individual differences in visual versus verbal information processing. Journal of Consumer Research, 12, 125-134.

Kollöffel, B. (2012). Exploring the relation between visualizer–verbalizer cognitive styles and performance with visual or verbal learning material. Computers & Education, 58(2), 697-706.

Mayer, R. E. (2010). Introduction to multimedia learning. In R. E. Mayer (Ed). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (1-16). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E., (2011). Instruction based on visualizations. In R. E. Mayer, & P. A. Alexander  (Eds.), Handbook of Research on learning and Instruction. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles, Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119.

Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York: Oxford University Press.

Riding, R. J., & Cheema, I. (1991). Cognitive styles: An overview and integration. Educational Psychology, 11, 193-215.

Westelinck, K., Valcke, M., Craene, B., & Kirschner, P. A. (2005). Multimedia learning in social sciences: Limitations of external representations. Computers in Human Behaviour, 21, 555-573.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
National Category
Educational Sciences Psychology
Research subject
Didactics; Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-155275OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-155275DiVA, id: diva2:1198340
Conference
16th Biennial EARLI Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction: Towards a reflective society - synergies between learning, teaching and research, Limassol, Cyprus, August 25-29, 2015
Available from: 2018-04-17 Created: 2018-04-17 Last updated: 2018-04-25

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