Drawing research with learning benefits

Drawing research with learning benefits

There have been many studies on the impact of drawing and the brain, but several papers, and at least one thesis in recent years have again ignited interest in the use of drawing to support teaching and learning. One such paper ;

The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory“, gained alot of media attention, notably on the CBC and in the Edutopia website which indicated;

There are several ways that teachers can incorporate drawing to enrich learning.

  • Student-created learning aids: Instead of buying or printing posters that reinforce learning—maps, anchor charts, or diagrams—have students create them.
  • Interactive notebooks: Don’t let students take notes verbatim—push them to be creative. One side of their notebooks can be used for written notes, the other for drawings, diagrams, and charts.
  • Data visualization: Asking students to collect, analyze, and present data in visual form can deepen their understanding of a topic. Examples include visualizing concepts in math, analyzing classical literature, and exploring fractals.
  • Bookmaking: Blending academics and art, students at Symonds Elementary create their own books to visually represent topics in subjects ranging from science to English language arts. Students can also create comics books to tell stories or describe events.
  • Assessing learning through art: Jill Fletcher, a middle school teacher in Hawaii, uses “one-pagers” to challenge students to show their understanding about a topic through art, making it less about finding the “single correct answer” and more about crafting a response they can stand behind. And students at Normal Park Museum Magnet School create travel journals as a visible record of their learning.

The takeaway: Encourage students to draw. Doing so is a powerful tool to boost student learning because it improves recall by challenging students to explore an idea in different ways.

The Drawing Effect: How Doodling Can Improve Your Thinking and Memory by Steven Handel

A supporting study “The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall“, was cited in on The Emotion Machine, noting even more general benefits to drawing including;

  • Taking notes and studying – One great application of drawing is to doodle more when you’re taking notes in class or during a business meeting. This will help you engage with the material more and absorb it better in the moment. It’ll also help when you go back to your notes to study for an exam or prepare for the next business meeting.

  • Making “to do” lists – Another benefit to drawing is to integrate it into your list-making, whether it’s a shopping list, grocery list, or a “to do” list for home or work. This will improve the power of your checklists, by making it easier for you to scan the list and retain all of the items on it. It’ll also better prepare you to tackle these tasks later in the day. (For example, when my friend had me watch his dogs for the week he drew little pictures next to each item, which helped out a lot).

  • Reflecting in new ways – While meditation and writing can be great tools for becoming more aware of your inner thoughts and feelings, drawing visual representations of your thoughts and emotions can also be a fantastic method for becoming more attuned to your inner world and expressing it. Similar to art therapy, taking a few minutes to draw how you feel can be a great way to express and release negative emotions by making them more tangible and changeable.

  • Brainstorming and creativity – One interesting lesson I learned in the book Creative Confidence is how important visuals can be when trying to solve problems or come up with creative solutions. Sometimes we need to draw out a problem (such as creating a flow chart, diagram, or illustration) to help us think in new ways and approach a problem from a completely different perspective rather than just trying to solve a problem by thinking about it inside our heads.

  • Relaxation and stress relief – Another obvious benefit to drawing and doodling is that it just feels good to be creative and take your mind off of things for a little while. This is probably why “adult coloring books” have also become a popular way to relieve stress and anxiety. Simply putting on some good music and taking 30 minutes to just doodle whatever you want can be a great way to refresh your mind, escape life’s everyday problems, and just relax more.


Art Teacher in Process: An Illustrated Exploration of Art, Education, and What Matters

Of more local note, “Art Teacher in Progress”, Meghan Parker went to the extraordinary step of creating her Masters of Education Thesis as a comic book. Quoting from her 2018 interview on CBC.

” It is about my experience as an early career public school visual arts teacher. It’s about why visual literacy is important, why art education is important, why the arts are important, and then sort of through the process, kind of figuring out who I am and what’s important to me,” Parker said.” – CBC – As it Happens 2018