Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

The Impact of Active Visualisation of High School Students on the Ability to Memorise Verbal Definitions

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

The Impact of Active Visualisation of High School Students on the Ability to Memorise Verbal Definitions

Article excerpt

"Neither feelings nor concepts, but images are the fundament of human cognition."

(Muhovic, 1998, p. 43)

Introduction: Teaching about, within and with visuality

The era of visual communication affects the cognitive strategies of the individual. People are able to process visual data up to 60,000 times faster than text data (Burmark, 2002), and visual literacy is gaining in force and influence more than ever (Rutar Ilc, 2013). Nowadays, technology enables anyone to access images and image information, to process images, to recycle images and to produce their own images. Education must adapt to these changes, which raises questions regarding the cultivation of visual literacy and visuality in general.

We distinguish between teaching about visuality, teaching within visuality and teaching through visuality. Teaching about visuality includes learning (knowledge, understanding, analysis and evaluation) the concepts and content of visual perception theories, art theories, art history, fine art technology and other theoretical knowledge related to visuality. Teaching within visuality includes the systematic and continuous acquisition of visual expression knowledge, abilities and skills, and therefore the development of visual thinking, of the imagination and of the handling of artistic materials and tools in different fields of visual art (painting, drawing, photography, design, sculpture, etc.). Finally, teaching through visuality refers to how strategies of visualisation are used as a tool to teach other subjects: music, mathematics, language, history, etc. In this case, visuality becomes a mode to deepen understanding in other subject areas. In teaching through visuality, the methods and strategies of visual art are used to promote cognitive, emotional, experiential and motivational gain in other subject areas (Tomsic Cerkez et al., 2011, p. 221).

Given that, nowadays, the student's active role in education and constructive learning is emphasised, recognising the significance of visuality is even more important. The contemporary teacher is no longer treated just as a source of knowledge, but as a planner and designer of the learning environment, learning situations and learning processes, thus providing students with a suitable environment for personal development (Biesta, 2008). Hence, the modern teacher should be aware of the visuality of our era and should provide students with visualisation strategies.

In the present study, we therefore sought to evaluate the influence of visualisation, which is stimulated by the teacher, on the students' ability to acquire, understand and memorise knowledge.

Theoretical background

Active visualisation as a means of acquiring and conveying knowledge

Visualisation is the process of shaping thoughts into visual images or pictures, which can also include a physical form of encoding messages into material spatial relations.

For the purposes of the study, we distinguish between two modes of visualisation: passive and active. Generally speaking, all visualisation is active; however, there are two reasons why we find it useful to introduce the dualism of active/passive visualisation.

The first reason is cognitive. The spontaneous process of visualisation whereby images appear in thinking without the person him/herself being particularly aware of this should be distinguished from the active approach whereby the thinker actively involves him/herself in the process of visualisation, thus requiring his/her reflective engagement. Therefore, passive visualisation remains only at the level of spontaneous imagination, while active visualisation requires the visual articulation of the imagined in some material form and physical spatial relations (such as a drawing, a plan, a spatial model, etc.). Poet Paul Valéry described this critical role of active visualisation for cognition a century ago: "There is a big difference between observing an object without a pencil in the hand and seeing it whilst drawing. …

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