Tip #54: Visual Engagement: Pictures and Photographs

Pictures, whether on the wall, in handout materials, or created by the participants during the session, can add immediacy, color, and vibrancy to concepts. Also, along with photographs, they provide a visual image that makes concepts more personal and tangible. Because they are open to interpretation, they can stimulate thought, creativity, and introspection. They also evoke emotional reactions, which will ensure better retention of the learning concepts they represent.

We have discussed the use of an agenda process map to keep the participants and the trainer on track and aware of how each section of the training relates to the others. When color, symbols, and pictures are added to the agenda process map, it can be a decorative reinforcement of the key concepts in each training segment.

Pictures can be used to establish a theme for the training, either in specific terms (such as pictures of fish for FISH training) or in symbolic terms (such as white water rafting as a metaphor for managing change). Pictures and photographs can depict the different stages in a procedure or process that will be taught, or the desired results from the training.

Participants may draw mind maps, either as part of an exercise or as their own way of processing information.

Pictures can also be used to help participants get a different perspective on themselves, their organization, or specific issues. For example, you can ask participants to describe themselves as a vehicle, a food, or an animal, and then examine the significance of the examples and characteristics they chose. Since many people do not think of themselves as artistic, it is important to lessen their anxiety by emphasizing that they should not worry about accuracy. What is more important is what they choose to draw and what words they use to describe what they have drawn.

Another alternative is to provide magazines, poster paper, scissors, and glue- and have the participants cut out pictures and words to create a collage that represents how they view their organization, an issue, or the topic at hand.

Pictures or photographs can be excellent job aids for participants who must follow specific steps in a process. In instances where the participants lack literacy, pictures or photographs can facilitate and ease the learning process by taking the emphasis off of reading material.

Digital photographs can be used to capture participant work that has been posted on flipcharts, for later distribution via email. This is a quick and convenient alternative to transcribing the flipchart information.

In summary, pictures and photographs have a wide range of applications with which to satisfy the visual learners and enhance the learning environment and process for everyone.

Next week, we will discuss the use of tables, charts, and diagrams.

Tip #55: Visual Engagement: Tables, Charts, and Diagrams

Tables, charts and diagrams can help to make ideas and relationships more tangible.

Tables can be a much easier way to present information than paragraphs or lists. Each column and row of a table provides a better snap shot of the information. In essence, it reduces the content into smaller, more manageable focal points.

Relative ratings can be illustrated more effectively if you use a pareto chart. A pareto chart is a series of bars whose heights reflect the frequency or impact of problems. The bars are arranged in descending order of height from left to right. This means the categories represented by the tall bars on the left are relatively more important than those on the right.

Pareto charts help to identify which problem should be studied and then to narrow down which cause of the problem to address first. They are a much more useful guide than simply ranking items, which can be misleading. For example, a ranked list gives the sense that the first two items may be of equal significance- and, therefore, worth equal time and attention. In contrast, a pareto chart of the same items may reflect that the first item was selected by 50 people as important, while the second item was only selected by 20. This weighted graphic representation underscores the difference in significance between the two items.

A complex, multi-stage process can be presented in a more simplified and accessible form in a diagram. For example, I use a diagram to show each of the steps involved in lesson design.

The quality improvement movement introduced the use of a variety of problem finding methods, including the: cause and effect diagram, top down flow chart, and is/is not matrix table. Just as a mind map can show relationships between items more effectively than a linear outline, so do these diagrams, tables, and charts.

If you would like participants to be able to easily access, review, and see the relationships between items, then tables, charts, and diagrams can be very useful visuals.

This concludes our discussion of methods to ensure visual engagement. Next week, we will begin a new focus on methods to ensure aural engagement. We will start the discussion with the first of several tips on the use of music.

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