The Importance of Using Images in Teaching

There are many learning styles, and while everyone learns a little bit differently, everyone is a visual learner. Leveraging a visual teaching style can be very effective. According to John Medina, “Visual process doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.

We can leverage the brain’s dependence on visual process to help people remember what we teach them. As we increase the level of visual input, we increase the likelihood that information will be retrieved later.

Adding an image to your teaching or presentation can increase information retention from 10% to 65%

How much more will people remember if you include an image?

The chart shows us that, after 72 hours, you can expect people to remember 10% if you just speak. Add supporting images and you can see that number increase up to 65%.

Richard Mayer, author of Multimedia Learning, offers several guiding principles for utilizing multimedia. Here are a few of his principles.

  • Use words and pictures, not just words. (Multimedia principle)
  • Present words and images at the same time, not successively (Temporal contiguity principle)
  • Place words and pictures near each other, not spaced far apart. (Spatial contiguity principle)
  • Simpler is better. Learning increases when we simplify the content, removing all extraneous material (Coherence principle)
“Simple two-dimensional pictures are quite adequate; studies show that if the drawings are too complex or lifelike, they can distract from the transfer of information.”
— John Medin, “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work”
Simpler image on the left, more complex on the right. Simpler is better.

What images and illustrations can you add to your training classes to help your learners?

Further reading

If you want to delve deeper into these concepts, here are some articles that will take you deeper into the subject.