My research about Visual facilitation in Education

Kati Orav
6 min readSep 13, 2021


This summer started differently than the other 2 summers :) It started with a celebration and of course- big relief of having finished my Master's studies. Now I can officially call myself a master of social sciences and an educational innovator. Although I didn’t go to study for this title or degree, I still feel proud. In particular, I went to study to learn more about the processes of learning and teaching, the directions of education. I went to find out where my great love- the visual facilitation was fitting in and my research was all about it. My paper is in Estonian but here I give a short overview of my thesis in English.

“Using Visual Methods and the Potential of Visual Facilitation in General Education”

Research shows that support is needed in developing students’ learning, self-management, and collaboration skills. Visual facilitation (VF) is a growing method that can be implemented in education. However, no studies have been found to show how VF could help deal with the aforementioned challenges, and how teachers use visual methods. The aim of this thesis was to find out about the current situation of applying visual methods and the potential of using VF in general education in Estonia. To achieve this aim a questionnaire was carried out among teachers and interviews were made with the headmasters. The results show that VF has a great potential in education but it hasn’t been fully acknowledged. Therefore introducing VF needs to be approached methodically.

Keywords: visual facilitation, modern approach to learning, educational innovation

Theoretical background.
Visual thinking is a very powerful way to solve problems (Roam, 2013). According to Baughcum (2019), the brain works visually because the eyes process images faster than text, the images are more language-free, they strengthen memory and they help to recall information. When a teacher supports students’ thinking skills with visual methods, students find their way to effective reviews, sketching notes, and self-study (Margulies and Valenza, 2005). According to Frank and Madsen (2020), visual facilitation is the organization, simplification, and support of learning and collaboration through text, images, and symbols. One of the characteristic features of this method is the creation of holistic images (Sibbet, 2001), which can be used to create connections in the material being studied, to create the surrounding context, to see the future and one’s role in shaping it. Creating a big picture also invites you to write down ideas together, create together and discover them together through connections (Sibbet 2010).

Problem setting and aim of the research:
Research in the field of education shows that we need support in developing learning, self-management and cooperation skills. Visual facilitation is a growing and evolving method with many applications in education to support diverse and meaningful learning and teaching. In particular, the impact of visual facilitation on self-directed and collaborative learning has been highlighted. However, there are no studies showing the potential for visual facilitation to address these bottlenecks. There is also a lack of mapping that would provide information on whether and how visual facilitation in Estonian educational institutions is used. Mapping the current situation is important to understand the existing problems and challenges, but also the strengths in order to build steps towards the goal based on them (Whitmore, Kauffman, & David, 2013). This raises the question of what is the practice and potential of visual facilitation in Estonian education, on the basis of which to plan the application of the method to solve the bottlenecks of the learning process? With such a mapping, it would be possible to plan for the application of the potential of visual facilitation in education much more widely and to make proposals for the design of the necessary research.

Therefore, the aim of the master’s thesis is to find out the current situation of the use of visual methods and their potential and potential of visual facilitation in the context of the bottlenecks of modern learning approach in the Estonian general education.

In order to achieve the aim of the research, I was looking for answers to the following research questions:
- Are visual methods used in Estonian general education and how?
- According to teachers, what are the encouraging and hindering conditions for using visual methods?
- What is the potential of visual methods to support the learning process?
- What is the potential for visual facilitation in education in the context of bottlenecks in the application of modern learning approaches?

For the purpose of this work, a combined research method was used, which is the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods in one study (Lagerspetz, 2017).

According to Flyvbjerg (2006), good social science is problem-based, not method-based, ie methods are used that best help to answer the research questions. The data collected and analyzed by different methods complement each other, and using the obtained results it is possible to get a more complete overview of the phenomenon (Harrison, Birks, Franklin and Mills, 2017). Solving this research problem required both a comprehensive mapping and a deeper view.

Study 1–3. the research questions were aimed at mapping the situation, which required reaching as many respondents as possible. Therefore, a quantitative research method would be chosen, which is suitable if the aim is to create general knowledge that does not depend on the combination of individual subjects (Õunapuu, 2014). The mapping was not intended to provide an overview of the implementation of visual simplification and respondents were not expected to have prior knowledge of this method. For the above reason, a focus group was also included, which included participants who have learned visual simplification and are familiar with the application of a modern approach to learning. The implementation of the focus group provided an answer to research question 4, ie an in-depth understanding of the potential of visual simplification in education in the context of the bottlenecks in the application of a modern approach to learning. Therefore, the method is a qualitative research method, which is introduced when the aim is to get a thorough description of the phenomenon under study and it is not numerical data (Õunapuu, 2014).

To summarize the survey, it can be pointed out that teachers use visual methods mainly to convey the content of their subject. Symbols and images as well as diagrams and concept maps are mainly used for this purpose. Route maps and templates are used the least. Visual methods are used the least in collaboration with colleagues. Visual methods are used to support and develop specific skills, least of all for entrepreneurship and collaboration. In addition, the methods are also used on whiteboards and slides. The use of visual methods is facilitated by the ability to create diagrams, concept and idea maps, the courage to draw and personal experience of its effects. At the same time, ignorance of the various visual methods is hampered by the lack of examples and supporting materials.

In conclusion, teachers see the potential of visual methods in all important factors of the learning process.

In the interview, respondents highlighted several strengths of visual facilitation, which lies in the potential of this method in education. The main emphasis was on visualizing change, creating a big picture and the possibility of co-creation. The benefits of visual facilitation as a goal-setting and learning skill for the student also came to the fore, and in order for it to reach the student, the teacher must experience and use it himself.

In the light of the bottlenecks of the modern approach to learning, the potential for visual facilitation is seen most in the possibility of creating roadmaps for setting goals. At the same time, the possibility of this method in developing learning skills and as a tool supporting cooperation was also considered important.

The future potential of visual facilitation is mainly seen in a conscious, more systematic and methodical approach to this method. Visual facilitation is seen as a possible method of developing goal-setting skills and should be a recognized method in our educational landscape, systematically learned, taught and based on supportive materials.

Another important aspect of the work is the creation of preconditions for further research on visual facilitation, and this is conveyed by the following visual.

The whole paper is in Estonian language and you can find it with all the references and visuals from here:

The summary in Estonian is in my Estonian blog.



Kati Orav

I encourage people to dream bigger and be more creative and entrepreneurial. For that, I teach them how to use the Magic of an Imperfect Line.