Weekly Digest #45: Dual Coding, Sketchnoting, and Aphantasia
According to the dual coding theory (1), we process verbal and visual information through separate channels. We’ve written about how to study using dual coding (and the article was recently picked up by Digital Promise); we also had a student write about how she uses dual coding to study. On the other hand, we’ve also considered whether an overuse of dual coding could result in too much of a good thing. In this digest, we provide two resources that delve deeper into the theory behind dual coding, one resource on how to take notes that include visuals, and two interesting articles that discuss what happens when people are unable to form mental images.
In this blog post, Further Education teacher Dan describes 6 ways in which using visuals can help learning, as explained in the book “Graphics for Learning” (2). One of these ways is that visuals help to direct attention to what’s important – but in order for this to be effective, the visuals need to be relevant to what’s being studied. For example, in the two images below for understanding photosynthesis, the image on the left is helpful, whereas the image on the right is cute but might just be distracting.
2) The Dual-Coding Hypothesis in Education, Unknown author
This intriguing blog appears to have been written by a student for a “Science of Education” class. It contains weekly blog posts for the duration of a semester, but no name. The posts, however, are of very high quality. This particular blog post summarizes two studies on dual coding, but it also goes into potential criticisms and limitations such as the samples that were tested and the time of the final recall test. Then the article addresses these limitations by citing additional research.
One good way to benefit from dual coding is to take notes that include not only words, but also visuals. A perfect example of that is this sketchnote by Oliver Cavilgioli about dual coding! However, for those who don’t have Oliver’s skills and experience, sketchnoting can seem a bit intimidating. In this guide, Kathy lays out the basics – how and why to do it, and further step-by-step resources. In a later blog post, Kathy revisits sketchnoting with lots of further ideas and concrete examples of sketchnotes.
The next two sources are reactions to an autobiographical piece by someone who does not see mental images (a condition known as aphantasia). The author of this first piece comes up with an intriguing experiment idea that combines dual coding theory with aphantasia; according to a Google Scholar search, this experiment has never been done.
This Guardian article discusses the implication of aphantasia for learning. How can we help children (and adults) who are not able to use mental imagery? Are there scaffolds or alternatives they might be able to leverage? These research questions also appear to be up for grabs.
(1) Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York: Oxford University Press.
(2) Clark, R. C., & Lyons, C. (2010). Graphics for learning: Proven guidelines for planning, designing, and evaluating visuals in training materials. John Wiley & Sons.
Every Sunday, we pick a theme and provide a curated list of links. If you have a theme suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our 5 most recent digests can be found here: