This one has been all over the news in the last two days, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s an Early View article in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology. The article suggests that people who doodle while they are listening to stuff retain more of what they hear than non-doodlers do.
As an unabashed doodler, for me it’s usually fancy typography-like versions of my dog’s name, this isn’t all that surprising. But my brain keeps going back to it — should we be figuring out ways to encourage our students to doodle in library sessions?
See, the article doesn’t say definitively why the doodling works. But the author, Jackie Andrade, does suggest that it might have something to do with keeping the brain engaged just enough to prevent daydreaming, but not enough to be truly distracting:
A more specific hypothesis is that doodling aids concentration by reducing daydreaming, in situations where daydreaming might be more detrimental to perfomance than doodling itself.
So you’ve got an information literacy session in the library, with a librarian-teacher you have no relationship at all, about a topic about which you may or may not think you need instruction. That sounds like a perfect situation for daydreaming.
And it’s not too hard to think of ways to encourage doodling. Handouts with screenshots of the stuff you’re talking about – encourage them to draw on the handouts. Maybe even provide pencils? I don’t know – it’s not an idea where I’ve fully figured out the execution, but I’m interested.
My students, most of the time, don’t take notes while I’m talking. Part of this is my style, I talk fast and I don’t talk for very long in any one stretch before switching to hands-on. But I don’t think that’s all of it – most of them don’t even take out note-taking materials unless they are told to do so by their professor (and then they ALL do) or unless I say “you should make a note of this” (then most of them do). And this isn’t something I’ve worried about. I have course pages they can look at if they need to return to something, and I’m confident that most of them know how to get help after the fact if they need it.
But the no-notetaking thing means that they aren’t even in a position to do any doodling. And as someone who needs that constant hands/part of the brain occupation to stay focused, I wonder why I’ve never thought about that as a problem before.
This study specifically tried to make sure that the subjects were prone to boredom. They had them do this task right after they had just finished another colleagues experiment, thinking that would increase the chance that they would be bored. And they gave them a boring task – monitoring a voice message. Half doodled, half did not, and then they were tested on their recall of the voice message.
I don’t mean to suggest that information literacy sessions are inherently boring; I don’t actually think they are. But I think some of the conditions for boredom are there, particularly in the one-shot setting, and I don’t think there’s stuff that we can do about all of those conditions. Some of them are inherent. The idea of using the brain research that’s out there to figure out some strategies for dealing with that interests me a lot.
Jackie Andrade (2009). What does doodling do? Applied Cognitive Psychology DOI: 10.1002/acp.1561