Art, Education

The Science of Doodling

Hello, everyone! :)

Today, I’m going to write about doodling and why it’s important – and how you can use it to maximize your learning, information retention all while having fun! (Yes, doodling can be fun, and no, you are not a terrible doodler if you can draw basic shapes like these.)

Continuing from my previous post about sketchnoting, I’m going to show what science has to say about doodling. I did some research for scientific journal articles about doodling, what it can be used for, and how it helps your brain. Two articles in particular caught my eye, and I’m going to summarize them here!

First up is “Drawing to Learn in Science,” by Ainsworth, Prain, and Tytler (Science, 2011).

  • Scientists use visual representations in order to make new discoveries, explain their findings, and gain public interest in their work. (Ever heard of the Feynman diagram?)
  • For students, drawing in the science classroom is rare; instead, students are focused on the interpretation of visualizations that they did not draw themselves (i.e. graphs).
  • The authors propose 5 reasons why drawing should be included in the list of reading, writing, and talking as key elements in scientific education.
        1. Drawing enhances engagement with material and encourages motivation to learn. Drawing is an individualized tool that is based on each student’s experiences, current knowledge or understanding, and learning style(s).
        2. Drawing facilitates learning how to represent information in science (i.e. “This is how a line graph works and why it’s useful to show quantitative information.”)
        3. Drawing promotes development of reasoning skills, because a conceptual understanding of something in science (i.e. sound waves) requires multiple different visuals (i.e. wave diagrams combined with a timeline). This encourages the development and refinement of understanding in a creative way.
        4. Drawing can be an effective learning strategy that helps students overcome difficulties in learning challenging material, organize what they know, synthesize new information with what they already understand, and develop new inferences and conclusions.
        5. Drawing allows students to make their ideas and “thought train” more explicit and specific. This is not only a great way to ensure that students understand what they’re learning, but also a way to encourage discussion of ideas between students.

Next up is “What does doodling do?” by Jackie Andrade (Applied Cognitive Psychology, 2009). (This one was cited in everything I came across about doodling to learn, so I thought it would be a great article to talk about here too!)

  • Andrade conducted an experiment where 40 people were asked to listen to a mock phone call about the names of party guests (along with irrelevant details). Half of the people were asked to shade in print-outs of shapes while listening to the phone call (the “doodling” group) and half of the people were the control group (no doodling). After the phone call, the participants were asked to recall the names in a memory test.
  • Findings: The “doodling” group showed a 29% increase in memory in comparison to the control group.
  • Possible explanations for the improved information recall:
        • Doodling keeps you from getting bored.
        • Doodling reduces daydreaming and thus facilitates deeper processing of information.

Here are some more resources about the importance of doodling and how it can be used to facilitate learning:

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more cool things! :)


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