When I was in high school, I used a visual imaging strategy to help me get better grades in every subject except one.

Geometry was my downfall to get better grades in every subject.

In geometry I suddenly experienced trouble with the concepts. Unfortunately, I had so much trouble that my teacher declared aloud one day that I was “stupid and would never understand geometry.”  He said this in front of the class, just before handing me a test with a grade of D on it.

As you can imagine, I felt embarrassed that all my classmates thought I was stupid.

From that point on, I stopped using  the visual picture learning style strategy that always helped me understand how to get better grades in every subject.

I switched, only in geometry and other math classes that followed, to using a kinesthetic, “feeling” learning style strategy that did not help me on my report card.

Today, I know that what happened to me was that I switched learning styles because I had bad feelings about geometry and math.

If a teacher had explained to me that adding a visual strategy in math would have been a better fit for math help me get better grades in every subject, I would have gladly done it.

The mis-match in learning and testing styles can easily be likened to school sports.

get better grades in every subject Imagine the frustration of a ninth-grader trying out for the school baseball team.  As he steps up to the plate, bat in hand, he takes his stance, pulls back the bat and at that moment the coach yells, “Wait!  Put the bat down, come over here and write down for me how you would hit the ball and answer these questions about the game.  Based on what you write, I will let you know whether you make the team or not.”

The mis-match between the learning and testing here is obvious.

Even though this child knew (how to hit a ball) and how he was being tested on it (in writing) may seem absurd), but it actually happens in a similar way in classrooms every day.

Children may use one set of brain pathways to learn and store information yet a written test requires them to retrieve and write the information using additional, different pathways. Because of this, it is hard for them to understand how to get better grades in every subject.

According to recent brain research, “there appears to be separate brain areas that specialize in subtasks such as hearing words, seeing words, speaking words and generalizing words.”  (National Research Council, 1999).

As you probably already know, students who know how to get better grades in every subject, perform well in math use a very visual style, creating and retrieving images of the material which is very efficient when taking a written test.

Additional brain research tells us which parts of the brain are activated during encoding (input) and which parts are activated during successful retrieval of both visual and semantic (word) memory. Imagery associated with words is more efficiently recalled with less effort.

Brain imaging pictures have shown that “comparisons of people’s memories for words with their memories of pictures of the same objects, show a superiority effect for pictures.  The superiority effect of pictures is also true if words and pictures are combined during learning”.

This is the secret to get better grades in every subject.

Children learning new information in a physical or auditory style may not be able to show what they know simply because their choice of strategies during learning and recall are not the most effective for achieving excellence on a written test.

These children are simply not trained in how to use pictures with associated words in order to maximize their performance when tested in writing.  If they were tested orally or using physical demonstrations to match their preferred learning style, there would be a perfect match and they would succeed.

This information has great implications for teachers and parents.  Teaching different types of learning and test taking strategies to your students will empower the to get better grades in every subject.

When students have a broader range of learning and testing strategies from which to select they can “shape their approaches to the demands of particular circumstances.”  (National Research Council, 1999).  Research by Marian Diamond and others strongly support the concept that innate characteristics are less important in performance than the training and encouragement they receive.

While there is much brain and learning research to be done and many questions remain unanswered, I believe one of the issues most relevant to students is the use of strategy.  According to the research evaluation by the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences in their publication, In the Mind’s Eye, Enhancing Human Performance, “studies are unequivocal in their suggestion that, given the proper conditions, most individuals are capable of remarkable performance excellence.” (National Research Council, 1991).

This article is a modified excerpt from the book, Instant Learning For Amazing Grades . This 210 page digital book shows how to change from using the kinesthetic learning style into the visual learning styles and how to get better grades in every subject.

Pat Wyman Pat Wyman is America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert, best selling author, university instructor and founder of HowToLearn.com.  She specializes in learning styles and learning strategies to help every child get better grades in every subject.


Posted by +Pat Wyman, author and founder of HowToLearn.com