How drawing in class may help you focus better

  • January 28, 2020
Miye Sugino (10) draws a spooky ghost in class

We’ve all experienced times where class just isn’t fun and interesting. And hey, no one blames you. Not all of us want to learn how Napoleon Bonaparte is 5’7’’ and is two inches taller than Louis XIV of France. We’d rather be learning how Pavlov probably thought about feeding his dogs every time someone rang a bell. The truth of the matter is that we’d rather be learning about things we find interest in and enjoy. But there is a hack to learning the boring material in class, and it’s something that most teachers don’t approve of.

Drawing. Believe it or not, doing such activities while listening to lectures or lessons can be more beneficial than just regular note-taking. According to a 2009 study by professor of Psychology, Jackie Andrade, doodling while listening to information can help our memory. The study conducted by Andrade measured how well participants recalled details from a monotonous fake telephone message. Some participants were asked to shade in printed shapes while listening, and others simply listened to the message. Those who shaded performed far better at recalling information. 

This popular theory is that doodling engages our minds enough to keep them from daydreaming. This is particularly useful when information is tedious or boring, but also seems to help concentration when listening to information-dense material. It is also believed that doodling is a form of external thought that allows one to visualize the connections one has made while thinking. In the conscious mind, doodling can assist concentration and focus, but even in the unconscious mind, connections are made while doodling. 

However, this is not a negative idea to have in school. Teachers rejoice, as drawing in class is encouraged because it helps the students remember what they learned about through drawing. 

An article by NOVA describes that students who were encouraged “to draw what they learned during lecture, and while doing assigned readings… not only retained more information, but they also reported more enjoyment and engagement with the course material.” Therefore, drawing improves note-taking, brainstorming, concept understanding, critical thinking, and making concrete foundations in certain subjects such as math. 

Funding from the National Science Foundation to support projects such as the Representation in Learning Science (RILS) and partnering in research with Harvard and MIT show that there is a strong misconception on how doodling distracts students from learning, but it may be the exact opposite. 

Overall, one can view doodling as a positive factor to be better educated in school, but don’t let this newfound information to be an excuse to teachers when you get caught doodling, while not actually paying attention. 

Information comes from Edutopia, Sylvan, InformED, and NOVA

%d bloggers like this: