Highly visual or tactile-kinesthetic learners typically have
difficulty with lectures, and may avoid them altogether. Such avoidance
or aversive behavior can create deficits that seriously hamper learning
in traditional educational settings.
These learners can be assisted to make good use of the lecture
method. They may be taught to apply to their note-taking the techniques
of "clustering," developed by Gabriel Rico, and mind-mapping, created by
Tony Buzan. Like brain-storming and often used with it, these techniques
employ free-association of ideas, creating a "structure" quite unlike the
traditional outline method, but equally effective. They represent one
way that visual and tactile-kinesthetic learners may adapt their learning
needs to fit the given situation.
These strategies are useful not only for organizing information, but
for generating ideas. They are used to create patterns, build
connections, and establish associations between the student's own
experience and new information, between known facts and new concepts,
between parts of a concept or problem and its whole.
Random, non-sequential, and non-linear methods like these are ideal
for the visual, tactile-kinesthetic, Type 1 and Type 4 learners.
Furthermore, by utilizing skills inherent to both sides of the brain,
they become very valuable techniques for the more sequential learner to
employ. Finally, they are compatible with "schema" theories of cognitive
processing advanced by Costa, Ausubel, Neisser and others.
In both techniques, the learner begins with a center or nucleus. The
general idea of the lecture, book, or movie, the topic for creative
writing, or the central issue in a problem-solving exercise, is placed in
the center of the page. Main ideas are connected to the central topic by
drawing lines from the center. Supporting ideas become "branches" off
main ideas. Working outward from the center in all directions, the
learner produces a growing, organized structure composed of key words,
phrases, and images.
Mindmaps are useful for chapter reviews, test preparation, planning,
organizing, report-writing, note-taking, and generating ideas for
creative writing or research. They are an invaluable technique for
introducing a new lesson geared to Quadrant 1 of the 4MAT cycle (See also
Learning Styles and the 4MAT System.)
In this curriculum, for example, students being introduced to study
of Mount St. Helens are asked to mind-map everything they already know
about the volcano. (See Eruption
Simulation.) The map becomes a graphic representation of the
knowledge level of the students, allowing the teacher to easily identify
the gaps in their information. From this visual display, students can
draw conclusions and pose questions for further exploration. The process
serves as both a motivational technique and as a way of establishing the
students' baseline knowledge. Instruction can be modified and adapted,
made more basic or more elaborate, based on this information about
students' level of readiness.
In A LIVING LABORATORY: VOLCANOES, mindmaps are also used to
review information or synthesize new learning. It is helpful and
enjoyable to create color mindmaps. We tend to remember better when
ideas are presented in color, and the use of colored chalk to highlight
main ideas in a lecture has been shown to enhance learning.
Finally, clustering is an especially effective tool for the
prewriting stage of the writing process (See Peer
Editing.) The following, excerpted and adapted from Writing the
Natural Way by Gabriele Rico, may help you introduce clustering to
What is it?
Clustering is a generative, open-ended, non-linear, visual
structuring of ideas, events, feelings. It is a way of mapping an
interior landscape as it begins to emerge.
What is it based on?
It is based on a beginning knowledge of how the two sides of our
brain process what we know. They process information in radically
different ways. This difference is most easily explained by a look at
two words often thought to be a synonymous: order and structure.
Order, on the one hand, comes from the Latin ordo, ordini. It means
"in a straight row," "in a regular series." Order implies linear,
rule-governed activity. Order is imposed from without. Structure, on
the other hand, comes from the Latin struere. It means "to heap
together." Structure emerges from within.
What will clustering do?
Clustering should help you find and generate ideas and, having found
them, to structure and restructure them long before any ordering actually
Clustering is a technique for collecting thoughts around some
stimulus, for finding a focus, and for allowing a sense of the whole
configuration to emerge even though all the details are not yet apparent.
Clustering is a technique for engaging and utilizing the raw
materials of one's experience and giving them a tentative shape. In
short, it is a discovery process.
How does clustering work?
For brief journal entries, clustering is a simple process taking
thirty seconds to two minutes, just long enough to let ideas spill out
onto a page until an idea presents itself that you can develop into a
For longer, more formal papers clustering may be divided into two