Research Bites: Dual Coding

9 March 2018

research bitesDual Coding

What is it?

Dual coding is the idea of combining verbal input with visual resources, when presenting new information to students. This doesn’t have to be a diagram.  It could be a flow chart, an info-graphic, a timeline, a mind-map etc. This is because it’s not about drawing as such, but the spatial qualities of the notes and diagrams that allow meaning to be created from them. Photos and videos are to be avoided as they can cause too much distraction.

What does the evidence say?

The idea was developed by Allan Paivio in the early 1970s.  Essentially it is a theory of cognition that says humans process and represent verbal and non-verbal information in separate, related systems.  For example, the brain uses a  different kind of representation for the word ‘dog’ than it does for the image of a dog.  Something verbal can trigger a thought of something non-verbal and vice versa.  The mental codes corresponding to these verbal and non-verbal representations are used to organise incoming information that can be acted upon, stored and retrieved for subsequent use.  The ability to code a stimulus two different ways increases the chances of remembering the item compared to if the stimulus was only coded one way.

How can teachers mobilise this evidence?

  • When explaining a new idea verbally to the class, draw a simple diagram on the board at the same time you are explaining it e.g. when discussing the structure of cells in science, draw a cell as you are describing it.
  • When discussing a sequence of events e.g. in history or in a piece of literature, space the events out as notes on the board, bullet point and draw simple diagrams that relate to each section e.g. when talking about the implications of global warming for agriculture, draw a dried up plant and a farmer!
  • Use flow diagrams to explain key processes.
  • Summarise key ideas as a diagram, whilst they are being taught.  Our geography department do this brilliantly through their ‘case study diagrams.  More here.

Further Reading

Dual coding theory and education – Clark and Paivio

The instructive animation: Helping students build connections between words and pictures in multimedia learning – Mayer & Anderson

Double barrelled learning for young and old – Paul Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Learn how to study using…Dual Coding – The Learning Scientists

Dual Coding in the classroom – Effortful Educator

We need to talk about dual coding – Greg Ashman

Posted on 9 March 2018
Posted in: Blog, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Comments are closed.