Lesson 10: Visuals and Learning

Using visuals to support psychological learning processes

In the previous section, you learned about different types of visuals and how you can use them to visualize different types of lesson content (such as facts, concepts, or procedures). In this section, you will learn how you your visuals can support psychological learning processes. Clark and Lyons (2011) state that for learning to occur, visuals and any other instructional materials must support several psychological events. These events are:

  • Directing learner attention to important information in the lesson
  • Activating prior knowledge in memory
  • Managing mental load to free resources for learning
  • Building new or expanded mental models in memory
  • Supporting transfer of learning after the training event
  • Motivating learners to initiate and complete learning goals (Clark & Lyons, 2011, p. 20)

In Chapter 4: Visuals and Learning of their book Graphics for Learning, Clark and Lyons (2011) explain how visuals can support these critical psychological events. Please read chapter 4 to learn more about visuals psychological learning processes. You can access this book online through the Virginia Tech University Libraries (make sure you open and read the 2011 edition).

Assignment 10.1: Visuals and Learning


In Chapter 4, Clark and Lyons (2011) provided an overview of the major psychological that need to be supported in order for learning to occur. In the chapters following chapter 4, these authors describe in greater detail how you can use visuals to promote each of the six psychological events

  1. Describe a specific instructional objective that you would like to teach others. This can relate to anything in your personal or professional life (e.g. identify the main processes of the water cycle, repair a flat bike tire, compare and contrast geometrical shapes, etc.).
  2. Choose and describe an audience (age group, level of expertise) and context for this lesson (such as type of learning environment (classroom/distance) and delivery medium (paper-based job aid, instructional video etc.).
  3. According to Clark and Lyons (2011), visuals can improve learning if they support one or more of the six psychological processes described in chapter 4. They can also hinder learning if they disrupt one or more of the six processes. While generally all of these processes are important, choose two psychological functions that particularly align well with your learning objective and target audience. Next, read about these two psychological functions in more depth by reading their corresponding chapters. For example, if you would like to create a job-aid to improve safety in a work environment with indifferent employees, you may want to read chapter five (about directing attention) and chapter 10 (about motivation).
    • Chapter 5: Plan Graphics That Direct Attention (pp. 65-83)
    • Chapter 6: Plan Graphics That Leverage Prior Knowledge (pp. 85-95)
    • Chapter 7: Plan Graphics That Minimize Irrelevant Mental Load (pp. 97-113)
    • Chapter 8: Plan Graphics to Help Learners Build Mental Models (pp. 115-133)
    • Chapter 9: Plan Graphics That Support Transfer of Learning (pp. 135-150)
    • Chapter 10: Plan Graphics for Motivation and Learning (pp. 153-166)
    Each chapter contains multiple guidelines. For each chapter that you read, summarize the guidelines that are provided in that chapter (approximately 2 sentences per guideline).
  4. Create a mini-lesson to teach your objective to your target audience. This can be a short video, animation, sequence of visuals combined with text, etc. Apply the guidelines you read about wherever you think it is appropriate.
  5. Explain how and to what extent you applied each of the guidelines mentioned in the chapters that you read in approximately 2 sentences per guideline.

Submitting Your Assignment

You will submit this assignment together with assignment 10.2 at the end of this lesson. Prepare both assignments for this lesson (10.1 and 10.2) into a single Word file. Make sure the file is named “Assignment10.” At the top of this document you should have the lesson name, and underneath that should be your name, email address, and the date. Below, write “Assignment 10.1”, and type out your responses. Add your mini-lesson either in the Word file or as an external link. Do not submit this assignment until you have also completed assignment 10.2.

Grading Criteria

  • Described your instructional objective. (2.5)
  • Described your target audience and learners’ context. (2.5)
  • Summarized the guidelines provided in the two chapters you chose (chapters 5-10) in approximately two sentences per guideline. (5)
  • Created a visual mini-lesson that aligns well with the instructional objective, target audience, and learners’ context. (10)
  • Explained to what extent each of the guidelines was applied. (10)

Points: 30