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Pedagogical Development Office

Teaching Tip: Visualize Learning

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Image courtesy of arztsamui / Freedigitalphotos.net

Typically, when we ask our students to express what they know or what they have learned, this is done through the written word: penned on an exam or typed into a report or essay. By offering an opportunity for the visual expression of knowledge, your students gain a more creative means of showing what they have learned in your course. Below are some ideas and strategies that students can use to visualize their learning.


Posters are a visual method that most students will already be familiar with. These can be done on Bristol boards, regular sized paper, or electronically, depending on the nature of the activity. You may ask students to explain a concept or idea using drawings or images that they find online or in magazines. Although you may treat the poster as an assessment for marks, here are some ideas that may increase student creativity and offer different uses for the visual tool:

  • When introducing a new topic to students, have them create a poster expressing their existing or prior knowledge linked to this subject.
  • Use posters as one of the first steps in a multi-step assignment. Students can then display their work visually, and peers can offer constructive feedback using post-it notes.
  • Students can anonymously vote on the “best” poster (based on criteria you determine and perhaps provide in a rubric).
  • Have students create posters either individually or in groups as a review activity before an exam, and then compare posters and determine whether any information is missing.


You may, however, want your students to express knowledge visually, but also to include facts and figures, or important dates. In this case, you may find infographics to be more useful. These are fact sheets that are typically created with images to help provide information in a visually pleasing and informative way. Two free options for creating infographics are Piktochart and Infogr.am.

Concept Maps

As a means of helping students express and track what they have learned in a course where there are many broad topics that are inter-connected, concept maps may be of use. Whether this is done using pen and paper, post-it notes, or on computer programs specifically designed for concept maps, developing a concept map can help to verify knowledge and to potentially reveal some misconceptions your students may have that you may not have otherwise noticed. Consult our Concept Maps Teaching Tip for a more thorough explanation.

If you choose to treat the above visual strategies as summative assessments of learning, then it is important that your students know how you are assessing their creativity and expression. For a sample rubric on assessing creativity, please consult this link.

For more information about how to visualise learning, please contact us at the PDO!