Dual Coding

What is Dual Coding?

Dual Coding theory is the process of blending both words and pictures whilst learning. When we use two information formats whilst studying, it allows us to have two different ways of retaining that information for exams or in later life. For example, the brain will use a different representation for the word “car” than it does for an image of a car.  By having two representations of the same information, it cements it deeper into our long term memory.

What does the research tell us?

Research into dual-coding has found that:

  • Students who revised with words and pictures performed twice as well in a problem solving test compared to those who had just revised with just words
  • Students who learn with both words and pictures remember around 50% more than those who revised by seeing words and then separately later seeing pictures

These results do not suggest that all students will make the same amount of gains using dual coding (as things like previous knowledge and the topic being covered will probably make a difference). Rather, that revising with both words and pictures offers a good boost to memory retention and recall.

Revising using Dual Coding

You can start to use Dual Coding by asking yourself: “how are the words describing what is in the visuals?” and “how do these visual representations help describe the text?”.  Some types of visual information work extremely well with certain subjects. For example, a timeline is suitable for history, a diagram can be effective when studying biology of physical education, whilst a mind-maps are great when trying to remember different theories in psychology.

Try to come up with different ways to represent the information visually, for example an infographic, a timeline, a cartoon strip, or a diagram of parts that work together.

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