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Dual Coding in the Classroom

Why Dual Code?

Allan Paivio’s theory from the 1970s is that people process visual and verbal information separately and at the same time therefore providing both together can boost learning and retention. Oliver Caviglioli’s very clear visual representation of the theory below shows how the two inputs trigger different parts of the brain meaning that, “people learn better from graphics and words than from words alone.” (Richard Mayer)

What is Dual Coding?

In the classroom, dual coding is using images and graphical representation alongside text or verbal instruction to make information clearer. For example, a photograph or drawing is easier to remember than a written description; a timeline is easier to understand than a paragraph of text explaining the order of things; a hierarchical representation is clearer than an extensive explanation.

Linking images to key theories, concepts and ideas enables students to quickly recognise and connect material. Using dual coding theory to create and design the layout of worksheets, powerpoints and displays makes them easier to read, understand and learn from. Caviglioli again offers a beautifully clear way of understanding the benefits of dual coding:

Three Ideas to try in your Classroom

1. Use the website to find black and white, clear, free icons to use on worksheets, powerpoints, knowledge organisers and learning maps.

a. Reuse the same icons each time you revisit the material to help students to make direct associations.

b. Place icons near large paragraphs of text to help students to focus on the main point.

c. Add icons to powerpoints, worksheets and displays to reduce the ‘clutter’ and enable students to quickly understand the focus and find information.

2. Use graphic organisers to reduce chunks of text and make material easier to understand and /or to create revision summaries:

a. Fishbone

b. Flow spray

c. Flow Chart

d. Tree diagram

e. Concept map

3. Use graphics as retrieval activities for students to retrieve what they know. For example:

Three Resources to Learn More

Web: masses of explanation, resources and ideas.

Book: Dual Coding with Teachers / Oliver Caviglioli – an amazing introduction with visual instructions for displays, powerpoints, worksheets and more.

Twitter: @olicav – the oracle for dual coding

Sharon Leftwich-Lloyd

Lead Practitioner

The Polesworth School


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