To Make Students Understand Science, Let Them Doodle in Class

Posted by Liz Dwyer

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The push to bring art back to schools could get a boost thanks to a new study that shows kids understand science better when they're encouraged to draw in class. A team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia write in the latest issue of Science that allowing students to draw during science class—the same doodling that teachers generally discourage—actually helps kids retain the information being taught.

To be clear, we aren't talking about allowing students to scribble at will. The improved understanding and retention of information happens when students read a science passage and draw pictures demonstrating the content. For example, if a chemistry student is studying catalysts and draws a quick picture of a beaker over a Bunsen burner—then makes visual representations of the chemical reaction—she's more likely to internalize the concept. In addition, the researchers found that students who draw during science class actually enjoy the subject more than those who only read the text or write summaries of what they've read.

This isn't a completely surprising find, as scientists throughout history have used drawings, diagrams, and other kinds of visual aids to comprehend and explain scientific phenomena. And given that people are more apt to remember something if they write it down, it makes sense that drawing further stimulates the brain's ability to recall information.

The researchers conclude that along with reading, speaking, and writing, drawing should actually be regarded as a key part of science education. But why stop there? Bored students in English class might just give classics like Jane Eyre a second chance if they could doodle the drama going down between Jane, Mr. Rochester, and the unknown figure in the attic. Given all the benefits, let's bring drawing—and doodling—back to class.

photo via Wikimedia Commons