‘Learning styles’ are a myth — but all students can benefit from the characteristics of a visual learner.

Although no studies link these popular labels to academic achievement, here’s how visual learning helps everyone.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 24, 2022

We give students countless labels. Among the most popular are the three different learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners. It’s so ingrained in our understanding of education that people regularly refer to these categories in describing themselves — usually to explain why they did something well, or failed to.

The basics of these learning styles are straightforward:

  • Those who identify as having auditory learning intelligence believe they need to hear information to absorb it, through lectures, podcasts or other spoken material.
  • People who think they are kinesthetic learners believe they need to learn through hands-on lessons, that might include using manipulatives for math or learning to spell by crafting the alphabet with playdough.
  • Students who associate with the visual learning style tend to gravitate towards visual aids, like powerpoint presentations, graphs, and flashcards.

On the flip side, people who strongly associate with one learning style may think that they cannot benefit from the others  — or that they cannot be successful if information is being conveyed in an “incompatible” way.

The truth is, however, there are as many types of learners as there are students. What’s more — argue researchers from the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale University — when we reduce our educational experience to simple labels, we miss valuable opportunities to use all the modalities — which may be the best approach of all.  

While no studies show students who learn according to their “style” achieve better academic results, they do show that diverse teaching methods improve learning outcomes.

That’s why, the Yale researchers assert, these myths do more harm than good: If we enter a classroom with a belief that we are a visual-spatial learner and therefore require visual cues and color coding for our notes, but have no need for listening to podcasts, we’re cutting ourselves off from learning strategies that could make a difference.

Part of a series of three, this post will explore the traditional characteristics of visual learners that can be applied to any classroom or homeschool situation. (Stay tuned for posts on incorporating auditory and kinesthetic learning.)


How visual learning can benefit all students

1. It supports communication and collaboration

Visual learning lends itself to communication and collaboration, one of the Prisma Powers. While a back-and-forth debate can be stimulating, its helpful to balance these real-time, high-speed activities with techniques like mindmapping that encourage revision and reflection.

With tools like Jamboard and Miro — online, dynamic whiteboards — learners at Prisma collect, organize and reorganize their ideas, allowing them to see what their classmates think, and how everyone’s contributions overlap or diverge.

2. It helps strengthen executive function

Visual aids are a great way to build study skills, and help students learn to stay on top of their assignments. Kids can create to-do lists and then experience a sense of mastery as they cross off each individual item. When you can see all the things you have to do, it can help with planning and prioritization. (Psychological research backs this up!)

3. It serves as a gateway to build core skills and foster interests

When students get excited about the medium in which they are working, it can make them more engaged with a topic or skill that might not be their number one favorite, for example, using Minecraft to create 3d models of historical buildings.

Students who enjoy visual learning might get excited about designing their own handouts in Canva to teach themselves a concept. The opportunity to make something beautiful or cool could be the thing that helps break the ice, allowing them to get into “flow” and put in the necessary work to learn something deeply — not just memorize facts.

That’s why we always offer a range of different project options for every theme at Prisma, including digital or physical art projects, as well as web design. While some students will tend to want to specialize and return to the same media regularly, others will take the opportunity to sample each one as they figure out what excites them. We support either approach. The crucial piece is that the reflect on why they’re doing what they’re doing, as we discuss below.


Beyond learning labels: metacognition

Everyone has their preferences, but learning labels can flatten our ability to think about how we learn. This activity — also known as metacognition — is one of the most powerful ways to develop the growth mindset that serves students in the long run.

Essentially, metacognition puts the learner in the driver’s seat, rather than allowing them to be conditioned by a label that dictates why they’re a good speller, have trouble reading flowcharts or can’t get a good grade unless they use flash cards.

So, for example, if you start to use diagrams for math and the concept ‘clicks’, you might consider incorporating that approach regularly; if you find yourself daydreaming during a lecture, you might consider trying a strategy to more actively process information, like note-taking.

But taking notes only matters if you learn from them. That might require an additional “visual” step like reviewing the notes, inserting headings and highlighting the most important parts — but you might also benefit from explaining what you’ve learned to someone else or even reading your notes out loud to yourself.

More to the point, the strategy that helped you grasp geometry might not be the same one that helps you master calculus: countless other factors come into play, like the material itself, the learning environment, your state of mind and your mindset. That’s why it’s important to build a diverse toolkit of strategies to draw from in different situations.

Before engaging in any project, kids reflect on the Prisma Powers and how they plan to engage them. That means before deciding what approach to take, learners are thinking about the outcomes they hope to achieve and the reverse engineering — ensuring they’ve bought into their solution. Then, at the end of each project, they reflect on what they learned, what was hard, what they’re proud of, and how their thinking changed.

Coaches also have the kids reflect on the Prisma Powers every other week in their 1:1 meetings. Another powerful thing we do is ask for peer and family feedback which forces the kids to explain their thought process to someone else and decide which feedback to incorporate in the iteration phase of the project.

With this kind of metacognition, kids go into their next project knowing what works for them and what they might want to try differently.


Not learning style, learner choice

We believe in learner choice. Whether a student gravitates to 3d models, creating their own podcast or conducting hands-on experiments — or whether they want to take a different approach each time — we believe that learning happens when kids are deeply motivated and invested.

But we also think that no one should pigeon-hole themselves into a specific “style” of learning at the expense of other techniques: In real life, information is presented to us in a variety of ways, outside of our control; we can’t simply “choose” not to engage with it because it doesn’t match our preference.

As long as kids engage in thoughtful consideration of how they’re learning, where they excel and how they plan to grow, they’ll know best how to learn.

More from our blog

Is Discord Safe for Kids?

Here’s what parents need to know about the free, popular chat app.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 22, 2022

Reading is the Gateway to Learning: Here’s how to get your child interested in reading.

Incorporate these reading tips into your routine, and you’ll be on your way to fostering a love of reading in your child.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 18, 2022

Holiday, winter and Christmas art projects for kids

Ready to Deck the Halls? Here are projects to engage kids of all ages—and tackle your seasonal shopping with DIY keepsakes.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 16, 2022

What is the Socratic Method for Kids?

More than just asking questions in the classroom, the Socratic Method helps learners test their own ideas in a real-life context.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 10, 2022

What is the best homeschool curriculum?

Here are some guidelines to help sift through the infinite options.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 8, 2022

What is self-directed learning — and what are the benefits?

When students set the conditions of their learning experience, they show more creativity, passion and sticktuitiveness.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 3, 2022

How is Minecraft Educational?

With built-in lesson plans, educational tools, and endless problem-solving opportunities, Minecraft: Education Edition can help motivate kids in coding, science, language arts, and more.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 1, 2022

Stuffed with stuffing? Step away from the casserole and try these Thanksgiving art projects for kids of all ages.

Get into the spirit of gratitude with these easy Thanksgiving crafts for kids.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 27, 2022

Gratitude is one of the prime ingredients of happiness. Here’s how to teach kids to be grateful.

Teach children gratitude and they’ll experience better mental health, well being and social connection.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 25, 2022

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can make reading comprehension a struggle. Here’s how to help a child with ADHD learn to read.

8 tips to ensure learning disabilities don’t get in the way of building reading skills.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 20, 2022

Bored Students Don’t Thrive. Here’s How to Get Your Child Interested in School.

Why does your child dread Mondays? Once you know, take these steps to help them (re)discover their spark.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 18, 2022

Here’s how to prevent bullying in school - and what to do if it happens.

To stop bullying behavior, educate yourselves and your children.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 13, 2022

Why do kids get bullied at school — and why do kids bully others?

Bullying is about a power dynamic between peers. To interrupt it, first understand why it happens.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 11, 2022

How to build confidence in kids

Children’s Mental Health is in Crisis. Here’s How to Help Develop Your Child’s Self-Esteem.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 6, 2022

What is twice exceptional - and how can homeschooling help?

To reach their high potential, twice-exceptional children benefit from a flexible learning environment.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 4, 2022

Halloween art projects for kids

The holiday season is the time to get your hands dirty with these Halloween craft ideas - candy corn optional.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 29, 2022

How to help a child with dyslexia at home

Dyslexic kids often lose their love of learning. Here’s how parents can help them rediscover it.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 27, 2022

How to support your LGBTQ child

The challenges of adolescence can be magnified for LGBTQ kids. Here’s how to help them thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 22, 2022

What challenges do LGBTQ students face?

From bullying to finding a safe bathroom, LGBTQ students navigate a tough landscape at school.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 20, 2022

How to Make Learning Fun

What we know about the relationship between ‘hard fun’ and learning. (Hint: It’s not about playing games in between worksheets.)

Prisma Staff
• 
September 15, 2022

Want to raise successful kids?

Here’s what we mean by ‘success’ at Prisma - and how we use it to help kids thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 13, 2022

Homeschooling Socialization Guide

What parents need to know about socialization in—and out of—the classroom to help your homeschooler thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
August 16, 2022

How to start your own business as a kid

Child entrepreneurship is trending. Here are three steps to developing an innovative business that stands out from the crowd.

Prisma staff
• 
August 4, 2022

What is project based learning?

A hands-on approach to develop real-world skills, resiliency and a love of learning — here’s how we practice it at Prisma.

Prisma Staff
• 
August 2, 2022

Writer + Programmer = Calliope Ghostwriting

A Shared Name and Diverse Strengths Led Two Bens to Build an AI Writing Business.

Prisma staff
• 
July 7, 2022

Alternatives to School

When traditional public school isn’t the best option, consider these alternatives.

Prisma Staff
• 
July 1, 2022

How to Develop a Growth Mindset for Kids

Five ways parents can help their kids see themselves as a work in progress.

• 
June 22, 2022

Top 7 tips how to recover from gifted kid burnout

Gifted kids face unique challenges when it comes to burnout. Here’s how parents can help.

Prisma staff
• 
June 21, 2022

What is worldschooling?

For travel-hungry families dreaming of school vacation, there’s much to celebrate about shifts in the way we live, work and educate our children.

Prisma staff
• 
June 16, 2022

How to start homeschooling

To create a customized education for your child takes more than a checklist. This three-stage framework can help you get started.

• 
June 14, 2022

Pros and cons of homeschooling

If you’re homeschool-curious, here’s what 100 families have to say about the biggest advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling.

Prisma staff
• 
June 10, 2022

How does Homeschooling Work in the Modern Era?

With homeschooling, the sky’s the limit – and there’s a lot on your plate. Learn about how to make this growing trend work for your family.

Prisma Staff
• 
June 9, 2022

Building Healthy Screen Time Habits: What Prisma Kids Say

Learning how to use the internet safely, smartly, and creatively is one of the most essential skills for success in our hyper-connected world. Prisma learners just wrapped up their Cyber Citizens learning

• 
April 2, 2021

Introducing Prisma LIVE

A live learning platform purpose-built for kids. It's a new, fun and engaging way for kids to learn and collaborate together virtually.

• 
March 19, 2021

Connected learning for a connected age

Technology has completely revolutionized how we shop, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even how we work, but no such revolution has happened in education.

• 
March 5, 2021

Prisma: a first retrospective

We’ve officially wrapped up our first ever fall session at Prisma and are excited to share our learnings and observations with you.

Victoria Ransom
• 
December 17, 2020

Meet Claire Cummings

Claire Cummings is one of our new Learning Coaches joining us for Winter Session starting in January 2021. Claire is based in Detroit, Michigan!

• 
December 7, 2020

Meet Leena Williams

In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma.Next up is Leena Williams, the Founding Learning Coach for Prisma based in Tampa, Florida.

• 
July 28, 2020

Join Prisma from anywhere in the USA this fall

Starting today, families can apply to join Prisma from anywhere in the USA. Here’s how it will work. You can still apply to any of our five founding cohort hubs (Chicago, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Tampa) if you live nearby.

• 
July 27, 2020

Meet Emily Veno

In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Emily Veno, one of two founding learning experience designers for Prisma.

• 
July 23, 2020

A Stress-free switch to learning from home this fall

Over the past week, as millions of parents have realized that traditional in-person schooling may not be safe or available come September, a new twist on an old phenomenon has emerged.

• 
July 22, 2020

Meet Kristen Shroff

We're kicking off a "Meet the team" blog series. First up is Kristen Shroff, one of two Founding Learning Experience Designers at Prisma. As a Learning Experience Designer, Kristen has been working on dreaming up the Prisma calendar and schedule, developing the curriculum for Knowledge and Worldview Badges, and hiring our first group of learning coaches.

• 
July 22, 2020

Be a founding family!

We're excited to announce the rollout of Prisma cohorts in 5 US cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Salt Lake City.

• 
July 17, 2020

Introducing Prisma

We’re Prisma, and today we’re announcing the world’s first Connected Learning Network, a whole new category in education. We’re not a school in the conventional sense; we’re a locally-rooted, globally connected at-home learning network that gives kids the tools to live their optimal life, starting today.

Victoria Ransom & Alain Chuard
• 
June 24, 2020

Prismarian Asher Nelson Rhymes His Way to Victory

First-time Poet Wins “Games for Change Student Challenge” with “Poem of PvZ”.

•