Lindamood-Bell and the Dual Coding Theory

dual coding quote

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Paivio’s theory of dual coding is used extensively at Lindamood-Bell, and the practices of Lindamood-Bell — primarily the benefits to the students — have been published in various peer-reviewed journals.

For students first learning words, or even letters, a clinician will show a letter, tell what the letter is and what sound it makes. The clinician then asks the student to repeat the name of the letter and the sound it makes. And as a final step, the clinician will ask the student to draw the letter in the air right in front of his eyes. So, here we have the combination of visual and auditory learning. The goal is for students to first see words and then concepts in their minds. English, of course, doesn’t play fair, so while the program might start very similar to “Hooked on Phonics”, it progresses to teach students common endings, the schwa, flexing vowels, and other instances when words don’t follow the general rules.

Lindamood-Bell, along with many respected psychologists and educators, recognizes that even when students can recognize words and pronounce them correctly, they still might not be able to comprehend what they’re reading. It could be something simple like the particular text has a lot of vocabulary with which the student is not familiar. The simple solution, then, is to increase his vocabulary. Or, it could be a more complicated issue, such as a learning disorder known as hyperlexia, where students can read, but they can’t form concepts in their mind about what they’re reading. Using the dual coding theory, once again, Lindamood-Bell will either instruct the clinician or the student to read a story out loud (auditory). Then, the clinician will ask the students to act as though they are the directors and what they have just read is a script (visual). “What kind of setting do you see?” “What do the people look like?” “What is the mood of the people in the scene?” Lindamood-Bell wants the students to have such a solid movie in their brains so that when the reading is taken away from them, they can easily recall the facts of the story and be prepared for higher order thinking questions. Depending on the age or grade level, Lindamood-Bell has seen students’ reading levels increased by at least two levels, and at most (from my experience as a clinician), five levels. I am always amazed to see the progress students have made as they near the end of their program.

So, great! I’ve told you how using both auditory cues and visual cues can increase learning when it comes to the basics of word recognition and reading comprehension – speaking, drawing letters, creating images in your mind. How does the dual coding theory work with music education or music cognition?

You’ll have to read my next blog to find out!

Paivio and the Dual Coding Theory

There must be something about McGill University. Daniel Levitin, who I’ve referenced several times in my blogs, is a professor there, and the next cognitive psychologist I’m about to introduce is an alum of the school!

Dr. Allan Urho Paivio
Dr. Allan Urho Paivio

I’d like you all to meet Dr Allan Urho Paivio, at least on paper. He was born in 1925 and passed last year in Ontario, Canada. He earned his PhD in Psychology from McGill University in 1959. Before delving into psychology, his passion was exercise. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, also at McGill, and went so far as wining the bodybuilding title, “Mr. Canada”. While McGill University conferred Dr. Paivio’s degrees, it wasn’t the school where he would teach. Instead, Dr. Paivio, found his place at the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario. I regret not learning about him while he was still alive. I’m sure he would have responded to at least one of my emails about his dual coding theory!

Ok, so dual coding theory. Where did I first hear about it? And, what is it?

I’ve been a clinician at Lindamood-Bell for over a year now. In our intensive training on teaching literacy and reading comprehension, Dr. Paivio’s name comes up quite a bit. Daily, we use both visual and auditory teaching methods to help our students recognize and spell words and later to create an image of something they have read which helps them to better comprehend what they have read.

If you’re familiar with the terms “learning styles”, “cognitive overload”, “AVK”, “TIPP”, or “Learning-Character Profile”, you have a good foundation to understand the dual coding theory.

While Dr. Paivio asserts that such a concept was known as early as 500BC, the term did not exist as a psychological or learning construct until the late 1950s when Dr. Paivio began to deconstruct its ideas. To put it plainly, the dual coding theory explains that learning happens best in the presence of both auditory and visual cues.

Continue reading about the dual code theory in my next blog.