What Is the Visual-Spatial Learning Style?

Learning Through Visual Information

Child looking at picture book with mom
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The visual-spatial learning style is one of eight types of learning styles defined in Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences. Visual-spatial learning style, or visual-spatial intelligence, refers to a person's ability to perceive, analyze, and understand visual information in the world around them. They can picture concepts with their mind's eye.

Characteristics of a Strong Visual-Spatial Learning Style

Linda Kreger Silverman Ph.D., the author of several books on visual-spatial learning, describes children with this learning style as thinking in pictures rather than in words.

They learn easier when presented with visual rather than auditory information. They are whole-picture thinkers who grasp a concept all at once and see the whole first before learning the details. She believes they don't learn in the step-by-step fashion that is common in the classroom and don't do learn well from drill and repetition. When the teacher asks them to show their work, they can't easily do that because they grasped concepts all at once rather than deducing them logically. Despite this, they are able to work on complex tasks and may be classified as systems thinkers. However, they often seem less organized. Silverman's research points to 30 percent of students being strong visual-spatially and another significant percentage leaning towards it.

How Visual-Spatial Learning Styled People Learn Best

People with visual-spatial intelligence learn best when taught using written, modeled, or diagrammed instruction, and visual media.

Visually and spatially talented students have a good visual memory for details. They do less well with auditory-sequential teaching methods such as lecture, recitation, drill, and repetition.

Children with this style may do better with whole word recognition rather than phonics. They may not perform well with spelling and handwriting.

When learning math, they benefit from using manipulatives and story problems. They are likely to do better at geometry. They enjoy puzzles, mazes, maps, and building materials such as Legos.

Grade schools have traditionally focused on auditory-sequential learning methods that may not have served visual spatial learners well. These children may begin to perform better in higher grades and college where their gifts at grasping whole concepts and the big picture become more important. These individuals are often thought of as late-bloomers because of this.

Favorite School Activities for Visual-Spatial Learners

Students who are strong in the visual-spatial learning style enjoy school activities such as art, drafting, shop, geometry, computer graphics, and computer-assisted design. They often have an excellent visual memory for details in print and in the environment. People with visual-spatial learning styles are good at visual problem-solving and visual estimation.

Popular Career Choices for People with High Visual-Spatial Learning Styles

Students strong in visual-spatial intelligence may be drawn to careers such as working in video, television, drafting, architecture, photography, artistry, airline piloting, air traffic control, construction, counseling, fashion design, fashion merchandising, visual advertising, and interior design.

In STEM careers, they may be drawn to physics, engineering, astronomy, or surgery.

Other Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

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