As an educator, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing a student scribbling into their notebook during class, only to realize that he or she is doodling in the margins rather than dutifully taking notes. However, doodling might not be as bad as you think. Researchers have discovered that doodling can actually be good for your brain. Learn how to reconceptualize the role of doodling in your classroom and try to channel the energy of your doodling students.
Doodling has traditionally been dismissed as a time wasting activity for bored or disengaged students. By its definition, doodling encompasses marks on a page that are (at least on their surface) unrelated to note taking. However, the act of doodling can actually facilitate learning.
In one scientific study, participants were made to listen to a boring telephone conversation. Half were told to doodle while they listened, while the other half were not. Surprisingly, people from the doodling group were able to remember 29% more information about the conversation than the non-doodlers. Researchers think that doodling is a mnemonic strategy that allows us to connect the information we’re learning in a way that aids recall. It may also help students make connections between disparate pieces of information, facilitating creative thought.
Part of the benefit of doodling comes from the written aspect of doodles. A substantial body of evidence suggests that handwriting notes is better for later memory than typing the notes. Doodling may improve memory by a similar mechanism, helping your motor system connect with the visual system and brain regions associated with memory. Encoding information through numerous channels — auditory, visual, and motor — helps all kinds of learners better absorb the classroom lesson.
How to Encourage “Smart” Doodling in the Classroom
Although doodling has myriad benefits, it is still reasonable to channel students’ doodling energy into a more constructive mode. Some educators have decided to embrace doodling by encouraging all students to have blank paper and colored pencils available at all times. Leading lessons in sketchnoting — a method of taking notes through drawing images — can help your students harness their desire to doodle in a beneficial way.
Encouraging students to take visual, pictorial notes, rather than punishing them for doodling, can be a great way to engage visual learners in the classroom. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that all students learn differently. Doodling is just one of many memory strategies that can be used to enhance encoding of classroom material.