Using Visual Displays to Teach Academic Skills

What is the evidence base? A strong level of evidence based on a high quality meta-analysis of 10 studies including 5 multiple-group designs and 5 single subject designs.

With whom was it implemented?

  • A total of 318 participants were included
  • Students with
    • learning disabilities (7 studies)
    • prelingually deaf (2 study)
    • educable mentally handicapped (2 studies)
  • Ages ranged from 13 – 16 years old (4 studies), average age of 15
  • Grade level range reported 6 - 10th grade (6 studies)
  • Five studies included samples that were predominately male, while 1 study had samples of equally represented gender, and 4 studies did not report gender percentages
  • Ethnicity/race information were not reported for all participants

What is the practice and where is the best place to find out how to do this practice:

Visual displays are tools used to represent the complexity of the mental and physical world in which we live (Hyerle, 1996, 2000). Visual displays have been used in several ways including: graphic organizers, cognitive organizers, cognitive maps, structured overviews, tree diagrams, concept maps, and Thinking Maps (Boyle, 2000; Horton, Lovitt, & Bergerud, 1990; Hyerle, 1996, 2000)

For Visual Display Research to Practice Lesson Plan Starters, see:

Where has it been implemented?

  • Regular education classroom (middle and high school)
  • Special education classroom (resource, self-contained)

References used to establish this evidence base:

Wolgemuth, J. R., Trujillo, E., Cobb, R. B., & Alwell, M. (2008). The effects of visual display interventions on academic outcomes for youth with disabilities: A systematic review. What Works in Transition: Systematic Review Project. Colorado: Colorado State University.

Additional References:

Anders, P. L., Bos, C. S., & Filip, C. (November, 1984). The effect of semantic feature analysis on reading comprehension of learning disabled students. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Reading Association. Austin, TX.

Boyle, J. R. (1996). The effects of a cognitive mapping strategy on the literal and inferential comprehension of students with mild disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 19, 86-98.

Boyle, J. R. (2000). The effects of a Venn diagram strategy on the literal, inferential, and relational comprehension of students with mild disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 10, 5-13.

Bulgren, J., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1988). Effectiveness of a concept teaching routine in enhancing the performance of LD students in secondary-level mainstream classes. Learning Disability Quarterly, 11, 3-17.

Darch, C., & Eaves, R. C. (1986). Visual displays to increase comprehension of high school learning-disabled students. Journal of Special Education, 20, 309-318.

Diebold, T., & Waldron, M. (1988). Designing instructional formats: The effects of verbal and pictorial components on hearing-impaired students' comprehension of science concepts. American Annals of the Deaf, 133, 30-35.

Grossen, B., & Carnine, D. (1990). Diagramming a logic strategy: Effects on difficult problem types and transfer. Learning Disability Quarterly, 13, 168-182.

Hollingsworth, M. & Woodward, J. (1993). Integrated learning: Explicit strategies and their role in problem-solving instruction for students with learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 59, 444-455.

Lovett, M. W., Borden, S. L., Warren-Chaplin, P. M., Lacerenza, L., DeLuca, T., & Giovinazzo, R. (1996). Text comprehension training for disabled readers: An evaluation of reciprocal teaching and text analysis training programs. Brain and Language, 54, 447-480.

Lovitt, T., Rudsit, J., Jenkins, J., Pious, C., & Benedetti, D. (1986). Adapting science materials for regular and learning disabled seventh graders. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 31-39. 

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