By Megan Sumeracki
Dual coding and learning styles sound similar, but are not quite the same thing. While dual coding has scientific evidence backing its use, learning styles has been repeatedly tested and shown not to improve learning.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post (see here), I have been working with a team of learning scientists and teachers throughout the country to apply key evidence-based learning strategies in the classroom. Along with two high school teachers from Memphis Tennessee teaching Biology and English, we have been implementing dual coding.
Dual coding is combining words and visuals such as pictures, diagrams, graphic organizers, and so on. The idea is to provide two different representations of the information, both visual and verbal, to help students understand the information better. Adding visuals to a verbal description can make the presented ideas more concrete, and provides two ways of understanding the presented ideas. Dual coding is about more than just adding pictures. Instead, the visuals should be meaningful, and students should have enough time to integrate the two representations (otherwise, cognitive overload could occur, see this blog). There is scientific evidence backing dual coding, showing that …
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I’m making a simple modification to some of my formative assessment this semester. I’m incorporating the goal free effect. The concept behind this effect isn’t very tricky at all. Basically, instead of asking questions this way:
1. List and describe the function(s) of the following parts of the eye:
I’ll simply ask this in this manner:
2. Tell me everything you can about vision.
This may seem like a somewhat negligible change, but the second option really provides a better opportunity for more working with the material to be retrieved from memory. With option 1, students have 4 very specific goals. Hopefully, students will know those four structures of the eye and their function(s). This is somewhat limiting. They will perform this task and nothing more. Don’t get me wrong, if they can do this, that’s fantastic…much better than not asking them to retrieve any information. But, with option 2, students may include the four structures and functions from option 1 and then also include more information; perhaps they also state the functions of the pupil, rods, …
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