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An introduction to Dual Coding as a studying strategy

An introduction to Dual Coding as a studying strategy

2 min read
  • Study skills & exam prep
  • The science of learning

Do you want to help your students revise better? Have you heard about Dual Coding but aren’t sure what it is? This blog explores some of the research on a very promising revision strategy.

What is Dual Coding?

Dual Coding theory is the process of blending both words and pictures whilst learning. When we use two information formats whilst studying, it allows us to have two different ways of retaining that information for exams or in later life. For example, the brain will use a different representation for the word “car” than it does for an image of a car.  By having two representations of the same information, it cements it deeper into our long term memory. 

The research on Dual Coding

Research into Dual Coding has found that:

  • Students who revised with words and pictures performed twice as well in a problem solving test compared to those who had just revised with just words.
  • Students who learn with both words and pictures remember around 50% more than those who revised by seeing words and then separately later seeing pictures.

These results do not suggest that all students will make the same amount of gains using Dual Coding (as things like previous knowledge and the topic being covered will probably make a difference). Rather, that revising with both words and pictures offers a good boost to memory retention and recall.

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How to study using Dual Coding

Students can start to use Dual Coding by asking themselves “How are the words describing what is in the visuals?” and “How do these visual representations help describe the text?” Some types of visual information work extremely well with certain subjects. For example, a timeline is suitable for history, a diagram can be effective when studying biology of physical education, whilst a mind-maps are great when trying to remember different theories in psychology.

For more tips on the best ways to revise, visit our Best Ways to Revise where you will also find links to free resources and other informative blogs.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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