Introduction to Visual Teaching

It is estimated that 80% of learning in the first 12 years of life comes from visual stimulation. Visual Learning as a theory takes full advantage of this natural propensity. To address the effective use of visual skills in the pursuit of learning, visual learning theory has evolved into four key elements: full spectrum visual learning. Active and performance-based learning, dynamic translation, and a multidisciplinary approach.

Full Spectrum Visual Learning

Full spectrum visual literacy is defined as the ability to understand non-linguistic communication made with visual imagery and the ability to use visual imagery to communicate. Individuals become visually literate by the practice of visual encoding (expressing thoughts and ideas in visual form) and visual decoding (translating the content and meaning of visual imagery).

Active and Performance-based Learning

Here is an active approach to engaging the world. Photography is an ideal medium for experiencing and encountering. People must constantly be challenged to apply knowledge to new and authentic situations as they use the tool of photography as an interface with the real world.

Dynamic Translation

This is the process of expressing ideas in new forms. When people take thought and express it as an image or object or text presentation, they understand that thought in a deeper sense. Real learning has occurred when individuals can express ideas not simply in the form in which they were originally delivered, but in new and varied forms.

Multidisciplinary Approach

These activities are, by nature, multidisciplinary, encouraging both writing and connecting, clustering and creative expression, imaging and visual thinking. This approach also reflects an awareness of the dynamics of various styles and modalities of learning and experience.

The Six Methods of Visual Learning

Whether we pick up a camera or pen, we are probably going to use the tool we choose in one of six ways to: investigate, chronicle, express, communicate, inspire, or envision. Each of these methods of activity, whether we are writing or making photographs, has its own set of expectations and criteria for evaluation. Understanding these methods will help you think about the types of assignments you give and the best way to understand the results.


Seeing through the eye of a viewfinder can often help focus attention and clarify thought. Investigating assignments ask participants to use words and images to learn about and better understand the world. Clustering, listing, visual thinking maps, and other pre-writing activities are examples of explorational methods of communication. Use the camera as a tool observe, study, identify and learn.


Chronicling assignments freeze moments in time. Documentary photographs and descriptive writing are examples of working in the chronicle method. We judge images by how honest or accurate they are. Use the camera as a tool to help you document your world.


Expressive works reveal thoughts and feelings and translates the abstract to the concrete. Visual journals and stream of consciousness techniques are expressive exercises. Use the camera to create a visual language and expand your feelings into the world. Expressing activities help us bring our thoughts and emotions into a visual.


Assignments in communication are designed to share information with others. Formal elements such as structure, composition, and organization are essential when communicating. Visual reports and photojournalism are examples of methods of communication. How much information is being communicated? What quality is the information? Is it clearly presented?


Inspirational assignments use the power to express and to communicate in order to change behavior or attitude. Use images to influence others through the persuasive capability of photography.


Envisioning assignments encourage new connections and relationships. This communication helps establish both occupational and personal visual goals. Use the power of your imagination to envision something new.

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