Doodling in class: Harm or help?

Emily Raymond, Staff Writer

You’re listening to a lecture in class with your head down and your hand drawing some sort of design. At first glance, this gives the impression that you’re not paying attention. However, studies have shown that doodling actually helps improve memory and that those in class who appear distracted are actually just as aware, if not more, of what’s going on.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Recent research in neuroscience, psychology and design shows that doodling can help people stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information.” There is a benefit to putting drawing in class.

Time Magazine’s John Cloud reports, “In a delightful new study, which will be published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than non-doodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture.”

Why not just focus on the teacher? The answer seems to be that when you aren’t keeping your mind occupied during a boring lecture, you are likely to daydream.

“Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention,” Cloud says.

You don’t have to be a talented artist to doodle. Even coloring or sketching patterns are shown to have the same effects.

Dave Umstead, the band director at HBHS, says that students doodling in class would not be a problem for him. “If someone is clearly focused I don’t say anything about it.”

Umstead believes that it varies according to the subject in which a student is doodling. “In English class, if someone is reading out loud, then I would say doodling would not be an issue, but in math where you need to be looking constantly then it wouldn’t work. “

If someone is clearly focused I don’t say anything about it”

— Dave Umstead

Molly McAndrews ‘15, claims that she occasionally doodles in class. “I draw patterns, flowers, anything. I generally refrain from doodling if it’s a new topic, but if it’s a topic I’m comfortable in I’ll doodle.” McAndrews believes that teachers will detect a pattern in students doodling in class, and that they understand it’s an important outlet in class.

So what should we take away from this? Teachers: Your students may actually be paying attention while they draw little bunnies and spirals. Students: You are now excused to draw bunnies and spirals, as long as you know what’s going on in class.