Wednesday, February 9, 2005

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

Tables, charts and diagrams can help to make ideas and relationships more tangible. Examples can be found on our website at:

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.

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