The Science of Drawing and Memory
Want children to remember something? Ask them to draw it. It’s long been known that drawing something helps a person remember it. A new study shows that drawing is superior to activities such as reading or writing because it forces the person to process information in multiple ways: visually, kinesthetically, and semantically. Across a series of experiments, researchers found drawing information to be a powerful way to boost memory, increasing recall by nearly double. The researchers confirmed drawing to be a “reliable, replicable means of boosting performance”—it provided a significant boost to students’ ability to remember what they were learning. Importantly, the benefits of drawing were not dependent on the students’ level of artistic talent, suggesting that this strategy may work for all students, not just ones who are able to draw well.
Why is drawing such a powerful memory tool? The researchers explain that it “requires elaboration on the meaning of the term and translating the definition to a new form (a picture).” Unlike listening to a lecture or viewing an image—activities in which students passively absorb information—drawing is active. It forces students to grapple with what they’re learning and reconstruct it in a way that makes sense to them.
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.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT LEARNING STYLES
It would be a mistake to think that drawing is beneficial because it taps into a particular learning style. Research has debunked the idea that students learn best when teachers try to match instruction to a single modality.
Instead, what’s happening is that drawing taps into multiple modalities—visual, kinesthetic, and semantic—which is superior to tapping into only one. When students draw something, they process it in three different ways, in effect learning it three times over.
In connection to this blog post please read here, here and here to learn more about creative and relatable ways to incorporate process art in childhood development and educational strategies.