Is it sometimes hard for you take in the information you read? Or do you find pictures and diagrams to be too vague for your comprehension? Do you need steps clearly mapped out for you to get a grip on an idea? None of these drawbacks mean there is anything wrong with your studying – you’re just not customizing it to your learning style.
Everyone has a different learning style, and if you don’t know yours, we have a short quiz you can complete on our website, adapted from the Felder-Soloman Index of Learning Styles. These learning styles are visual global and verbal sequential.
So what do these mean and how should you take advantage of them?
Visual Global Learner
Visual global meaning: Now, as you might imagine, a visual learner feeds off images and visuals rather than the written word, but what does global mean? Well, you may find that you can swallow huge concepts with ease, then struggle to grasp the picky details at later stages, gradually comprehending something whole in smaller steps. As a visual global learner, you may find it difficult to explain the nitty-gritty, but easy to get across a large concept, especially when images are involved.
If you’ve ever been a student, you will be all-too-familiar with that panicked, blank mind feeling when you have to begin a project. Suddenly, everything you have ever learned is wiped from your mind, or in a complete jumble, so how do you choose where to start?
When we conducted a study on students from Canada, the US, and New Zealand, the highest-ranking points of frustration where finding information, knowing where to start, and refining the research topic.
Sound familiar? If so, here is how to get over that initial hurdle.
Step 1: Lay out what you know
Before you start worrying about the details of your methodology and thesis statement, start with the very basics of what you already know. Using nouns and simple sentences, lay out a huge blank canvas (e.g. piece of paper or mind mapping software are great for this) and get your thoughts down. Be as creative as you like here, using diagrams and images if it helps you to remember or express your thoughts.
One of the biggest jolts you will experience as you make your way from a high school to a college education and beyond is how you are expected to think. While thousands of teenagers are currently spending their last summer at home, counting down the hours until they can leave the nest and make it on their own, few realize the work involved at college and then in the big world. No longer spoon-fed information and sources, you and you alone will be expected to collect and analyze information from your lectures, study them, evaluate them, then create links and form ideas from this. This is called critical thinking.
So how do you think like this?
Question things – everything! Don’t just accept what you are told as truth, and don’t be satiated with basic information. If you read or hear something, ask why. How was this information found? Who found it? Is it a fact? Are they biased? What does it prove? You will find yourself starting to think outside the box.
Tools for using this technique: Pick up a few tabloid newspapers and go through them. Tabloid papers are renowned for half-truths and fake sources, so it is a good way of putting your skills to work. Read a story and looks for parts you could question. Phrases like “Sources reveal”, “It seems that,” or “Rumor has it” are classic holes in storytelling.
What sources? Are they reliable? How does it seem, and to who? Where are these rumors coming from and is there any truth to them? After you have read the story, write down as many solid facts as you can glean, as well as your questions. What conclusions have you drawn?
We live in an age where we have access to more information than ever before. This, however, comes with its own problems, as our ability to remember, organize, and connect these masses of information is dwindling. Visual thinking is not a new process, but with today’s hectic lifestyle it is certainly becoming clear how efficient it can be. You may not be a visual learner or artist, but you certainly don’t need to be either to reap the benefits of visual thinking.
Generating and linking ideas
Visual thinking can help you discover links between your ideas, and even generate new ones with ease and speed. When there is too much information inside your head, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on just one at a time. Being able to map out and see your ideas in front of you means you can see each piece of information separately and together at the same time like you can on an actual map. You can then begin to bridge the gaps and connect ideas, as well as generate new ones with ease and speed.