ByÂ Tanima Tandon:
How many times have we wished that we didn’t have bulky text books to study from? How many times have we felt that we’d love to go back to kindergarten and study from those beautifully illustrated books with the larger font? How many of us have noticed that we get higher grades in lower classes as opposed to lower grades in higher classes when our courses get cluttered with clusters of words? The easiest explanation may be that the course content gets tougher as we grow up and hence the difference in grades. However, a viable explanation may be this explicitly visible trend of reducing visual content and increasing textual content.
The myth that needs to be debunked is that visual aids work best only in the primary stages of education where the visual retention power of children helps them relate and learn better through visual props rather than static texts. Thus the need for multiple illustrations on every page to support the mundane looking text and enhance overall learning is felt. However, this practice gets lost as education progresses to a senior secondary level. The fallacy implicit herein is that of assuming that visual retention is exclusive to children belonging to a particular age bracket and not for adults. The truth is that visual aids work rather efficiently across all age brackets. They get under-rated as text, numbers and advanced concepts make their way into the curriculum. What gets conveniently overlooked is the fact that visual supplements can complement all calculations and concepts to render them more cogent than before. This can be done through a myriad of ways but the first step is the acceptance of this premise and the inculcation of the same in the educational curriculum.
The point gets proven by a very recent study that was conducted by researchers on the employees of the Australian Taxation Office. The employees were divided into groups of two and were observed as subjects of an ongoing test for 16 weeks. With one group being given brain training sessions using Happy Neuron software and the other being provided with short nature documentaries to watch, the outcome was anything but surprising. When the two groups were subjected to a common test, the latter group outperformed the former one. To quote the exact findings of the test, “…the group that watched the documentaries left the study with statistically significant benefits”.
The significance of such a phenomenon was recognised even as far back as 1986, when a study at the University of Minnesota School of Management found that presenters who use visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don’t use visuals.
The exigency that faces us then is to devise methods that would ensure the incorporation of these visual aids into educational curriculum. They need to be made as mainstream as the text itself instead of being present as illustrations along the margins. The human brain has a tendency to grasp facts, figures and concepts faster and with greater clarity when they see it as real, moving images. This part of the brain that is known as the ‘camera/photographic memory’ in a layman’s terms and is the most actively functioning part that has the longest retention capacity too. The more we exploit this part of the brain, the greater are the possibilities of getting tangible outcomes.
This brings us to the very easily derivable solution of inculcation of visual aids in the academic curriculum in order to improve the education system in India but also brings along with it the not so easy task of implementation.