Saturday, January 11, 2014

Visual-Spatial Learners

A mailing list I follow had some recent questions and discussion about visual-spatial learners. I've heard of the term before, though I had never read much about it. The recent discussion seemed to have some relevance to my children, though, so I did a search on the term and found some interesting articles.

This article ( discusses what a visual-spatial learner is, and how they might have difficulties in school - at least traditional school.

This article ( has a wonderful comparison chart showing the typical differences between a visual-spatial learner and an auditory-sequential learner. The article focuses more on gifted visual-spatial children and how they learn best.

You know, I don't think any experts knew stuff like this back when I was growing up. At least, I hadn't heard of learning styles being discussed much, or how to best teach different children. But it is fascinating to read now, and I think I'm learning as much (or maybe more) about myself than about my children.

I remember in college, studying physics, coming to a conclusion around my junior year that I did not learn like most of the others in the class. I thought it was because I was female, and pretty much everyone else was male (there were 2 other women I remember in my classes). But I think now it might have been more this visual-spatial phenomena. I distinctly remember realizing that I needed to learn the big picture first. Learning the details first just didn't make sense to me, because I had to understand how everything was going to fit together first. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the concepts until I understood how they went together. In my year-long electromagnetism class, we studied electricity the first quarter, and then magnetism the second quarter. I was struggling considerably with electricity, but once we started on magnetism, it suddenly all clicked, and my grades shot up. The professor even noticed, and asked me to meet with him to figure out why I had suddenly seemed to understand it all now. He was a wonderful professor, and I think he wanted to know what he had done that made it easier for me, so that he could duplicate that type of teaching in the future. The main reason was that magnetism was the "other half" of the concept that I was missing during the first quarter. It is "electromagnetism" after all, and I couldn't make sense of it all until I could put both halves together.

Anyway, that seems to be a common issue with visual-spatial learners. Also, visual-spatial learners tend to think in pictures, not in words, and to have a hard time putting into words something that they seem to  instinctively understand. That describes me exactly. That is one reason I like writing much better than talking, and why I go over and over what I've written until it is right. It takes me a while to put my thoughts into words.

I am pretty sure my oldest child is also a visual-spatial learner, and probably my youngest too, based on that checklist of traits in the 2nd article I listed. I'm not sure about my middle child. She excels at everything so easily that she can probably learn both ways, so I'm not sure which describes her more. In any case, learning about things like this can help with homeschooling. It can help us pick the best curriculum (or method of teaching for any curriculum) for our particular children, and it can help us not be so frustrated when they don't learn things the way we think they should!