Pictures and a Thousand Words Learning Psychology through Visual Illustrations and Testing

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Psychology, Stockholm University

Abstract: For teachers and students to be able to make informed decisions about how to best improve learning, it is important to compare learning strategies that are known to be effective. Both multimedia learning, based on the notion that individuals learn better from words and pictures presented together than from words alone, and retrieval practice, based on the idea that retrieving knowledge from the memory is an active process that has a beneficial impact on learning, have been found robust learning strategies in earlier research. However, the two strategies remain to be investigated in combination. The combination of the two seemingly robust strategies was investigated in Study I and results showed a modest effect of retrieval practice in terms of decreased forgetting and a strong effect of multimedia learning. Retrieval practice did not improve memory performance beyond the beneficial effect of using a visual illustration. Study II investigated the beneficial effects of the use of visual illustrations in more detail in terms of preferred learning style (visual, verbal or mixed), a notion that has reached wide popular ac- ceptance within the educational field. Support was not found for the learning styles hypothesis. Rather, results showed that the positive effects of learning with the aid of a visual illustration holds independently of preferred learning style, which renders strong support for multimedia learning in terms of its generalizability. Most interestingly, students with mixed or visual learning styles performed generally better on the learning test than students with a verbal learning style, which may imply that it is worthwhile to help students develop a preference for visual or multimodal aspects of information pro- cessing in order to further improve learning. The findings presented in this thesis provide new knowledge regarding the combination of learning strate- gies and contribute with important insights into the relation between learning style and the use of visual illustrations in psychology teaching. The findings also pose challenges for students and teachers, as well as people designing learning materials, concerning how to approach the use of visual illustrations and retrieval practice in teaching and learning. 

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