7 Awesome Ideas for Using Pictures & Images to Teach Adults
As a timeless saying tells us, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The human brain doesn’t “think” in words, but rather in images. One way trainers can boost learner engagement and increase learner retention is to use more images and fewer words to teach participants.
Images Trump Words in the Brain
In Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick (2011, Bowperson Publishing), Trainer Sharon Bowman writes about six learning principles that trump traditional teaching.
Learning principle #3 tells us that “Images Trump Words.” In this section of the book, Sharon quotes research that supports how the human brain is wired to remember and store images rather than printed words. Trainers, if you want your audience to remember and use information, concepts and connections, then help them store the information through the use of an image rich training experience.
- Images are a Brain Turn On: Images helps the brain stay engaged and pay attention.
- Images Evoke Emotions: Emotion drives attention, so the brain focuses and stays more engaged when emotions are attached to the learning content.
- Images Trigger Long Term Memory: Because the human brain is wired to remember both images and emotions, images help the brain store new information in a way that is easier to retrieve than using only words.
- Images Create Short-cuts: It takes less time for the brain to “read” an image versus reading words.
An Example in Action of “Images Trumps Words”
Teachers at Trinity School in Atlanta, GA experimented with the concept of using images for note taking. They met together as a group several times and watched TED Talks while drawing images to record their observations and reflections. Read about their results and how it inspired them to make changes in the way they taught in the classroom in Making Learning Visible: Doodling Helps Memories Stick.
7 Awesome Ideas for Using Pictures & Images to Teach Adults
Now that you know how much the brain likes images instead of words, try using some image rich strategies in your training events. Below you’ll find seven useful ways to integrate pictures and images into your training design.
- Use Drawing Activities: To reinforce ideas ask participants to draw a simple sketch. To review diaper changing procedures, maybe the participants are asked to draw a sketch of a changing table that is ready and well equipped to change diapers. This could be done as a pre-test and a post-test and then the learners can compare the two sketches to see what they have learned in the training.
- Immerse Slides with Images: Gone are the days of power point slides with words scattered across the screen. Primarily use images and photographs to support your comments or lecture points. For examples and to learn more, click through Sharon Bowman’s Slideshare called Preventing Death by Powerpoint.
- Use Printed Photographs: Add printed photographs and/or postcards to learning activities. In a training on diaper changing procedures (mentioned above) print out photographs of diaper changing stations and give them to your learners to work together in small groups. For example, after learning about the proper equipment needed for diaper changing, ask learners to look at the pictures and identify the essential supplies in the photograph. Is everything there within reach in the photograph? If not, what is missing?
- Cut Photos from Catalogues: Learning supply catalogues can be a great resource to use in a training. Cut out product photos that relate to your training topic and put a certain grouping in envelopes (one envelope per small group in your training.) Hand out an envelope to each small group in your training and give the groups specific instructions on what you want them to do with the product photos. For example, if you are training about setting up a block center, you might hand out product photos of different types of blocks and other supplies that might support block play. Then in the training, ask the small groups to look through the product photos and choose supplies that they would definitely want to include in a block center. Next, the groups could look back through the product photos and choose items that might be added to a block center throughout the school year.
- Add Graphic Organizers for Note Taking: Have adult learners use visual note taking as part of your training. You can create graphic organizers for the participants to write or draw in. You can even ask learners to fold a blank piece of paper two, three or four times and then unfold it to create boxes to write or draw information. For more about using graphic organizers, check out Sharon Bowman’s article, Nifty Notes, Involving Learners with Graphic Organizers.
- Say It with Symbols: In Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick, Sharon Bowman suggests to create learning activities that “say it with symbols.” Ask your participants to reflect back on what they’ve learned in the past ten minutes about the training topic and create a doodle, squiggle or image that represents it. After participants draw the image, ask them to explain it to another person in the room or to their table group. Read more ideas for using images in your training in Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick.
- Encourage Learners to Create Metaphors as Images: When adult learners create their own metaphors, they build new learning pathways that help them remember what they have learned. After you’ve introduced a topic and your audience has had a chance to explore it, consider using a metaphor activity to help learners reflect on the new topic. Thinking with metaphors creates helpful pictures for the human brain. Read specific ideas for using metaphors in these two articles: Using Metaphor to Build Community and Positive Climate by Jen Stanchfield and The Magic of Metaphors by Sharon Bowman.
Using images and photos will help your adult learners remember your training topics and store them in long term memory. In John Medina’s book, Brain Rules, Rule #10 is “Vision trumps all other senses.” Medina writes, “. . . the more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized – and recalled.” As you experiment with new ways to integrate images and photos into your trainings, we’d love for you to share! Send your training photos to Kelly.Pfeiffer@dss.sc.gov. We might use them in a future blog post.