Visual Learning and Study Skills Ideas

Have you ever had the experience where you can recall an idea or concept by remembering where on the page you first saw it? Or that you remember a sequence by visualizing the flow chart you made?

Think of that logo game that was popular a couple of years ago. You see some logo, like

Starbucks 2011 Logo

Starbucks 2011 Logo

and you think,


A picture is worth a thousand words.  I think we can use visual imagery to help our students learn complex concepts like natural selection or gene regulation.

Have them do a minute sketch. This is a cool idea I learned about from Paul Heideman at the College of William and Mary. Here’s link to the materials he has made available on the internet:

I’m planning on incorporating a little bit of quick concept sketching into my introductory biology course, as a study tool. Concept maps, flow charts, schematic diagrams…these can all be helpful visual tools that assist recall and memory of sequences, steps, processes. A key element is to make explicit the goals of the sketches. Tell your students that, if they are visual learners, using quick sketches and diagrams will help them study for tests.

An added benefit is that these types of activities also really emphasize integration and synthesis of lots of information. The acts of placing things in order or sequence is a great way to work differently with information. Or, taking things out of order or combining them in new ways. Mix it up!

You can also work with figures and diagrams from the course readings. Try this at the beginning of class. If you assigned a reading that has a figure or diagram, begin class with the diagram. Ask your students to convert the diagram into a paragraph that describes it. Then, at the end of class, have them take the paragraph and convert it back into a different pictorial form, using the new information acquired in class.

Here are some helpful websites:


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