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The main purpose of this study was to assess the effects of doodling on the learning performance of high school female students in Tehran. The design of this research was a pre-test–post-test with a control group. A group of 169 junior high school 12–13 year-old students was chosen for this study. After being taught a section of the Natural Science course, the students were asked to answer questions related to the lessons. After that, their grades were used as the pre-test scores. The post-test was carried out after the devised treatment. During ten sessions of the same course and teacher, the students were each given a blank sheet of paper and were asked for doodling if they felt like doing it. After each session, a couple of relevant written questions were asked to evaluate how well students had learned the lessons. The experiment and control group both consisted of 27 randomly selected students; participants in the experiment group were doodlers and those in the control group did not doodle. To evaluate the doodling effect a t-test analysis was performed. Comparison of the grades showed that the experiment group outperformed the control group significantly.
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Doodling Effects on Junior High School StudentsLearning
Mariam Tadayon and Reza Afhami
ABSTRACT
The main purpose of this study was to assess the effects of doodling on the
learning performance of high school female students in Tehran. The design of
this research was a pre-testpost-test with a control group. A group of 169
junior high school 1213 year-old students was chosen for this study. After
being taught a section of the Natural Science course, the students were asked
to answer questions related to the lessons. After that, their grades were used
as the pre-test scores. The post-test was carried out after the devised treat-
ment. During ten sessions of the same course and teacher, the students were
each given a blank sheet of paper and were asked for doodling if they felt
like doing it. After each session, a couple of relevant written questions were
asked to evaluate how well students had learned the lessons. The experiment
and control group both consisted of 27 randomly selected students; partici-
pants in the experiment group were doodlers and those in the control group
did not doodle. To evaluate the doodling effect a t-test analysis was per-
formed. Comparison of the grades showed that the experiment group outper-
formed the control group signicantly.
KEYWORDS
doodling, learning, educational performance, female adolescent, student
Introduction
When we talk about education we mean not only the transfer of knowledge, but
also how well this is accomplished using various techniques (Winters 2011). Vari-
eties of techniques from different elds of art (e.g. drawing, music, theatre) can
improve learning (Eisner 1998). The educational implications of art have been
investigated by a number of researchers (Burkitt et al. 2005; Cox 2005; Anning
1999; Warren 2003; Eisner 1998). Doodling, unconscious scribbling, one of the most
common habits among students, is one of the practical methods in the eld of art.
Recently, there have been a few studies suggesting that doodling can improve
academic retention (Andrade 2010; Brown 2011; Chan 2012).
Doodling usually happens through unconscious drawing of patterns and shapes
when people are bored with something. It may be observed as a common practice
by students on their books or in marginal notes. Some teachers consider it a mat-
ter of losing attention and concentration. The term doodlewas rst used in 1930
with the meaning which we know today: that is, absentmindedly drawing non-
sense symbols, designs, gures and patterns, but in a more comprehensive
iJADE 0.0 (2016)
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THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ART & DESIGN EDUCATION, 2016
DOI: 10.1111/jade.12081
denition it can be said that doodling is an unconscious designing while no atten-
tion is paid by the person (Gonzalez 2010).
Doodling usually occurs whilst a person is day-dreaming or is experiencing men-
tal wandering. It hardly ever happens when one is fully concentrating (Singer
1966). Both these two situations are states in which the default mood of the mind
is active (Schott 2011). Researchers observed that effective learning requires the
involvement of both brain hemispheres (Kerry 2005). Studies show that there is a
strong positive correlation between the dominance of the right side of the brain
and educational failure or behavioural disorders in schools (Warren 2003; Stellern
et al.1986). To involve both brain hemispheres, the brain should be trained. That
training includes a number of activities to strengthen mental skills like concentra-
tion, attention and problem solving. In this regard, the variety of activities might
be accentuated. It is noted that drawing and music are the most important com-
prehensive activities that involve both hemispheres (Caine & Caine 1990). So we
may observe doodling as an innovative activity that could affect both the right
and the left brain hemispheres.
Doodling decreases the level of autonomous arousal, accompanied by day-
dreaming and tiredness, and keeps the person conscious by increasing concentra-
tion (London et al. 1972). A simple activity like doodling needs a low level of
resources in the brain and is also helpful to prevent day-dreaming without affect-
ing concentration (Andrade 2010; Chan 2012). Day-dreaming is associated with the
generally high arousal level seen in boring situations through increased activity in
default cortical networks (Mason et al. 2007; Smallwood et al. 2007b). Doodling
focuses the brain and stops it from the day-dreaming which leads to a decrease in
concentration (Andrade 2010).
There have been a number of studies on the role of doodling in preventing
day-dreaming and mental wandering (Andrade 2010; Aellig et al. 2009; Chan
2012). In one study, doodling is requested while an auditory task is given. The
results show that doodlers are unexpectedly more successful in remembering than
the non-doodlers (Andrade 2010). In another study, doodling is asked while a
video task is given. It is demonstrated that there is not a signicant correlation
between doodling measures and the number of correct video content items (Aellig
et al. 2009). Recently, Chan (2012) has shown that doodling negatively affects per-
formance on a visual recall task. This may show that doodling can only be helpful
if it shares no common cognitive resource with the main activity. Doodling gener-
ally increases concentration: that is, an ability to keep and remember information,
especially in the case of boring and complicated subjects (Andrade 2010). It acti-
vates the mental eye using a part of the visual cortex, resulting in the ability to
make mental images, to solve problems in an innovative way, and to activate the
unconscious part of the mind through keeping the conscious part activated. It inte-
grates the visual, audience and kinetic senses, all of which lead to a better learning
process (Brown 2011).
So previous studies show that, except for situations in which the resources
needed for the main activity and those for doodling are the same, doodling is
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indeed helpful (Andrade 2010; Chan 2012). This may be because mental wander-
ing requires more resources than doodling (Aellig et al. 2009; Smallwood et al.
2007a)
In fact, day-dreaming and mental wandering are considered to be barriers in the
way of educational development, especially for adolescents (Smallwood et al.
2007a). Basically, one of the important factors in educational performance is the
functionality of working memory (Gathercole & Alloway 2008; Gathercole et al.
2008; Gathercole et al. 2006). Since working memory depends on concentration
(Gathercole & Alloway 2004), it can be said that improving concentration indeed
affects the learning process positively (Holmes et al. 2010).
Since the teenage and adolescent years are the period in which growth in men-
tal experience and learning exibility takes place (Jacob 2002; Charles & Luoh
2003; Dubas et al. 1991; Graber et al. 1997; Stattin & David 1990), students in this
age group are experiencing physical and mental changes. They are subject to day-
dreaming and mental wandering more than the others. This may lead to educa-
tional failure. Therefore, it is important to study ways to decrease day-dreaming
and mental wandering, to help students to focus and achieve a better educational
performance (Smallwood et al. 2007a). Therefore, on the basis of the frequency of
doodling amongst students (Chan 2012), here we are to study the effects of doo-
dling on learning/education performance.
Furthermore, one of the successful methods which has gained a lot of attention
in the past few years is the VAK learning method (University of Pennsylvania
2009). This method is based on the idea that the subject connects with the data
being gathered through one or more ways: visual, audience and kinetic. Since peo-
ple normally lack enough knowledge about their abilities to know the best way of
learning, invention and use of a method which covers the three ways while
respecting the teaching process seems benecial (University of Pennsylvania 2009).
In this regard, it may be said that doodling as a visual and kinetic task, concur-
rently with an audio task (as used in this study), can improve learning and be a
useful auxiliary device for teaching.
Method
Participants
As there are different changes in growth for males and females (Jacob 2002;
Charles & Luoh 2003; Dubas et al. 1991) and a difference between the educational
performance of male and female students (Graber et al. 1997; Cavanagh et al.
2007; Sttatin & David 1990), the gender was controlled. Participants of this study
were 54 females ranging from 12 to 13 years of age, with the mean age being
12.5, in a high school in Tehran. Experiment and control groups were respectively
among doodlers and non-doodlers.
Material
Throughout the term, students completed a test after each unit. They com-
pleted ten tests, consisting of ve questions each. It is worth noting that
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questions were not graded equally because the content of each lesson was dif-
ferent from others and each question had a different grade having a total score
of nine.
1. Nine score tests made up of ve questions: to assess the level of studentslearn-
ing from the taught lesson in each session, students sat tests having ve ques-
tions lasting ten minutes and each was designed by the teacher. The maximum
and minimum scores in these tests were 9 and 0, respectively. The scores were
used as the educational performance.
2. White sheets for doodling: students were provided with A4-size paper for doo-
dling. Drawing tool, subject and pattern were freely chosen.
Procedure
After coordinating with the school dean and the science teacher in carrying out
this research, it was decided to have ten session Science classes for the junior stu-
dents in the same place and under the same circumstances. It is worth mention-
ing that the set up here matched the typical set up for these students as much as
possible.
In the pre-test, all 169 students sat a quiz according to the routine classroom
schedule after one session of teaching Natural Science. Lessons typically contained
general concepts on experimental sciences, including basic notions about the biol-
ogy of animals, plants, chemicals, the human body, the physics of uids, and elec-
tricity. The students were then provided with a denition of doodling: doodling is
an unconscious drawing which happens when situations get boring. In order to
avoid any interruption in the ow of the class, no instruction was given and no
limitation was set. All participants were assured that there was no obligation to
doodle. The duration of teaching lessons was 40 minutes in order to have enough
time to assess the impact of day-dreaming and mental wandering on the students.
Although the total time for each session was normally 90 minutes, in this study we
set the time so that the rst 40 minutes were devoted to teaching new lessons, 10
minutes for the exam, and the nal 40 minutes were for other classroom activities.
So apart from the 10 minutes spent on the exam in each session, the rest of the
class schedule matched the normal set up.
To assess the effect of doodling, ten sessions were provided for the students
and they were asked to doodle when they felt the need or desire to do so. A mini-
mum amount of doodling if more than 50 per cent of the paper was lled
with doodles had to be presented in order for a student to be considered as a
doodler.
After each session students were given a test that included ve questions com-
piled by the teacher herself, based on the lesson that had been taught. As men-
tioned before, the quiz scores of the rst session of the class, that is, before
describing doodling for participants, was used as the pre-test and the average of
ten quiz scores taken afterwards was the score for the post-test. All the students
wrote their names on the doodle sheets. After the tenth session, 27 students were
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randomly chosen from those who had doodled and were assigned to the experi-
ment group and 27 students randomly selected from those who had not doodled
were assigned to the control group.
Results
The aim of this study was to investigate the doodling effects on junior high-school
studentslearning.
Variances were not proved to be the same based on a level test in order to be
used in the covariance method in doing this descriptive analysis, so the effect of
intervention based on the meaningfulness of the mean of the pre-test and the
post-test was tested using a t-test.
Based on Table 1, the mean of the pre-test and the post-test of the experimental
group was 6.833 and 7.280 respectively. The standard deviation of the given data in
pre-test and post-test was 2.219 and 1.227 respectively. Based on the same table, it
is clearly seen that the mean of the post-test is more than that of the pre-test.
Based on Table 2, the t-test results of independent groups about having the
same levels of variances (F=6.6, sig: 0.013) is less than 0.05, so the variances are
not equal. In this regard, paying careful attention to the rows of Table 2 indicates
that the t size equals 2.194, which is a meaningful amount of 0.034 and which is
less than 0.05; hence, the t index is meaningful and there is a meaningful differ-
ence between the mean scores of the t-test of the pre-test and post-test. It is con-
cluded then that the doodling effect on studentslearning is meaningful.
Discussion
In this study the effect of doodling on learning amongst 1213 year-old female
students was investigated, with the mean age being 12.5. The results showed that
Table 1. Measures of Central Tendency in pre-test and post-test of experimental group
Group Pre-test Post-test
Number 54 54 54
Mean 1.500 6.833 7.280
Median 1.500 7.500 7.650
SD 0.505 2.219 1.227
Variation 0.255 4.925 1.504
Table 2. Results of applying t-test scores as to ndings of post-test in experiment group
Post-test F Sig T
Degrees
of freedom
Signicance
level
(bidirectional)
Mean
differences
Difference
of error SD
Accepted equalization
of variances
6.600 0.013 2.194 52 0.033 0.707 0.322
Rejected equalization
of variances
0 0 2.194 40.653 0.034 0.707 0.322
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doodler students were more successful in educational performance than those
who did not doodle: that is, doodlers outperformed non-doodlers in terms of edu-
cational performance. These ndings were consistent with other research in the lit-
erature (Andrade 2010).
In Andrades (2010) research, 40 participants aged between 18 and 55 were ran-
domly assigned to the experiment or doodling group. People in the doodling
condition were asked to shade printed shapes while listening to a telephone call.
The doodlers performed better on the monitoring task and recalled about 30 per
cent more information on a memory test. As can be seen, Andrade used an audi-
tory task, structured doodle and recall test. But in the current study, the effect of a
free doodle on the learning of lessons that included auditory and visual tasks was
investigated. Although there were some differences in methods between the cur-
rent and Andrade (2010) researches, the results supported the benets of doodling
as an artistic element in educational performance. It is also to be said that in case
of possible interference of doodling in the process of learning/recalling, it seems
that by creating a relaxing condition, doodling can improve unconscious drawing
by means of activating kinetic, auditory and visual activities which result in the
improvement of the psychological extroversion function, which both decreases
day-dreaming and increases concentration.
In another study, Aellig et. al. (2009) studied the correlation between free doo-
dling and the ability to learn contents from an educational video for a group of
34 undergraduate students. They found no signicant relationship. In Chan (2012),
14 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to either doodlingor non-
doodlingconditions. In the doodling group, participants were asked to draw ow-
ers at the same time as they were viewing a slideshow. Chan found that the mean
number of recalled images by the doodlers was signicantly lower than that of the
non-doodlers.
In the last two studies mentione, in which the task for learning/recalling is a
visual one, doodling has no or a negative effect on performance, but when the task
is auditory (Andrade 2010) or a mix of both visual and auditory (the current study),
doodling is an effective factor in learning. That might be because doodlersvisual
processing resources are divided into two visual tasks (Chan 2012). However, audi-
tory tasks do not require many executive resources and they may even help to pre-
vent mind wandering and day-dreaming without decreasing attention on the main
task (Andrade 2010). Since this study is the rst one in the eld of education in
Iran, and there has been no similar research or administrative method available
considering the strengths and weaknesses of previous studies as well as taking the
theory of doodling into account, applying doodling method has been in a way to
provide a suitable base for measuring unconscious extroversion. In this regard, the
method of selecting a suitable subject such as Science in order to apply auditory
and visual resources, free doodling, and having a base for unconscious doodling
can be noted. It should also be noted that students of this research were at the
age of both puberty and change of school level which by themselves can result in
a failure in educational achievement (Smallwood et al. 2007a).
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A noticeable point related to doodling in all researches is that doodling can
result in increased concentration by reducing day-dreaming (Andrade 2010; Aellig
et al. 2009; Chan 2012).
Day-dreaming causes the brain to focus on analysing personal emotions and
thoughts instead of processing the data gathered (Smallwood & Schooler 2006). It
has also been shown that day-dreaming intervenes in the performance of central
executive units of the brain, occupying its resources (Seibert & Ellis 1991; Small-
wood et al. 2003; Smallwood et al. 2007b; Smallwood & Schooler 2006; Teasdale
et al. 1993). In this study, because participants were not aware of how doodlers
and non-doodlers were grouped through the test sessions, they were prone to
day-dreaming.
Although a specic hypothesis is that doodling aids concentration by reducing
day-dreaming (Andrade 2010), in this study the teaching task would also have
encouraged day-dreaming because, according to research in the eld of educa-
tional failure (Smallwood et al. 2007a; Kerry 2005; Holmes et al. 2010), students
attention levels start to decrease after 1520 minutes spent in class (Matheson
2008).
On the other hand, for educational development to take place, coordination
between the data gathered from the environment and internal representations is
necessary (Smallwood et al. 2007a). But day-dreaming and the gradual decrease in
concentration prevent this coordination from happening (Smallwood et al. 2007a)
.Alternatively, here, doodling has been studied as one of the proposed methods to
establish this coordination. In some studies using laboratory procedures and retro-
spective methods it has been concluded that with increasing age people have less
frequently unbidden task-unrelated images, thought intrusions or day-dreams
(Giambra 1993; Lindquist & Maclean 2011). With regards to this negative relation-
ship between mental wandering and age (Smallwood & Schooler 2006; Christoff
et al. 2004), beside considering reported studies on the critical effects of mental
wandering on educational failure (Giambra 1993), research about ways of prevent-
ing mental wandering in educational systems especially among youngsters is
important. Unlike previous researches on participants more than 18 years old, we
considered a younger group (1213 year-old students).
Research has revealed that artistic activities can lead to academic achievement
(Eisner 1998). Since an important factor in educational performance is effective
function of working memory (Gathercole & Alloway 2008; Gathercole et al. 2008;
Gathercole et al. 2006), and one of the properties of working memory is its relation
to concentration (Gathercole & Alloway 2004), perhaps it can be concluded that
artistic activities (such as doodling in this study) can drastically improve learning
by improving working memory and concentration.
In some psychological approaches like art therapy and art media, the creative
process and the resulting artwork are used to explore peoples feelings, reconcile
emotional conicts and foster self-awareness (Rubin 2005). Nowadays to overcome
many educational problems and to help dropouts, art has been considered as a
form of therapy for special educational needs (SEN) students (Warren 2003). In this
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study we tried to apply doodling in a way in which there can be artistic plan in
line with improving academic performance, and in fact, doodling was dened as a
method of art therapy for students.
Alfred Adler, a founder of the school of individual psychology, sees doodling as
a manifestation of a rational craving for symmetry and order. He speaks of doo-
dling as a manifestation of the essentially rational urge with an adaptational mean-
ing: a manifestation of the struggle for survival and the struggle to organize, into
graspable form, the chaos of life(Slobtseva 2006, 22). In psychoanalytical
approaches, pictorial images and drawings are considered to be expressions of the
unconscious emotional aspects of a person (Diem-Wille 2012). From the Freudian
perspective, since doodles often include abstract elements, it is worthwhile seeing
how automatic paintings can be interpreted (Slobtseva 2006). In the present study,
we did not consider what students had drawn but it would be worthwhile to iden-
tify it for each student in order to obtain deeper information about a persons inte-
rior world.
On the whole, it can be said that stress and internal excitements can occupy
peoples minds and consequently prevent concentration. So seemingly, doodling
as a drawing activity in the eld of art can release excitement and increase levels
of concentration.
Due to the prevalence of doodling, specically in lower age groups, teachers
always take it as a kind of negligence and lack of concentration. In such circum-
stances the positive effects of doodling are ignored. This study and its positive
ndings about doodling in educational settings could be a good reason to pay
more attention to this prevalent and unconscious behavior. Considering the nd-
ings of this study, it can be said that by witnessing increasing rate of doodling
(mostly in lower age groups) among students, applying doodling in the process of
education can be seen as a great educational help. As a drawing process in the
eld of art it can control the occurrence of day-dreaming and increase concentra-
tion, which could lead students to better performance in their studies.
Not surprisingly, free doodling was investigated here. That is, an intense empha-
sis was put on the aspect of doodling being unconscious. However, future studies
could suggest a pattern or sample for doodling. Also, regarding the fact that to
this date all the results of other studies are in a modal form, it would be better for
future studies to nd a method to record the activities of the brain to assess the
impacts more precisely. Since only female students were chosen for this study,
generalising of the results is limited. Future studies could be carried out for male
students as well. Here doodling is asked for by providing blank sheets of paper for
students. Although the students are free to doodle or not to doodle, this is not in
accordance with doodling dened as an unconscious activity. Therefore, it would
be interesting to see the effects of doodling on learning by observation. That is,
no instruction and/or training would be given and only by observation would the
educational performance of those students who make drawings while listening in
the class be monitored.
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Mariam Tadayon graduated in art studies at Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran. She
holds an MA in Art studies. Tadayon has focused on the cultural and psychological aspects
of art and design studies and she teaches in the eld of art and design, also art studies, in
private artistic Institutes. She is T.A. at the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Stud-
ies in Tehran and works on art-based learning, especially doodling projects. Contact
address: College of art & architecture, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran. Email:
MariamTadayon@gmail.com
Reza Afhami is an associate professor in art studies at Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran.
He holds an MA in architecture and a PhD in Art studies. Afhami has focused on the cul-
tural, political and psychological aspects of art and design studies. As the consultant col-
laborating with the organisation responsible for the development, renovation and
equipment of schools of I.R. IRAN, he has worked on several research programmes improv-
ing architectural design and art-based learning methods, and technologies. In 2008, he
was awarded the rst Farabi international award for young researchers and the Iranian
Academy of Art prize in art history. Contact address: Department of Art studies, College of
art & architecture, Tarbiat Modrares University, Tehran, Iran. Email: afhami@modares.ac.ir
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... Furthermore, the doodling group performed better than monitoring task and recalled more information on a surprise memory test (Andrade, 2010). Also another studies doodlling has several benefits: (1) increasing student focus in taking notes, (2) releasing stress because doodle will use color games, (3) memory strategies, (4) increasing concentration of students, (5) students will pay attention to details (Andrade, 2009;Boggs, Cohen & Marchand, 2009;Tadayon & Afhami, 2016). ...
... The results showed that doodle notes were effective in physics learning on sub-topic concave mirror. These findings were consistent with other research in the literature, that students used doodle were more successful than those who did not doodle (Tadayon & Afhami, 2016). This is because the doodle notes were made is differently from other doodles. ...
... Many students are used to doing other things with a low cognitive load at the same time while listening to a lesson (Götz, Frenzel, & Pekrun, 2007) such as doodling or knitting. Research suggests that such tasks, especially doodling, may have even positive consequences on concentration and learning (Andrade, 2010;Tadayon & Afhami, 2017). The cognitive effort required for the game used in our experiment was not very high, yet the students in the push condition suffered a performance loss. ...
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... International Journal of Instruction, January 2022 • Vol.15, No.1 The Role of Sketchnote Sketchnote is those sketches that students draw on their books or worksheets. In a more precise word, sketchnote is unconscious drawing in marginal note (Tadayon & Afhami, 2017). Sketchnote is synonymous with taking visual notes. ...
... Subsequently, a test was created and tested for doodling [22], and the Lancet published a study regarding doodling [23]. Since then, the number of studies of doodling has increased [24][25][26][27][28][29][30] and, in 2015, the 2009 test was replicated [31]. Nevertheless, in over eighty years, these remain doodling's peer-reviewed studies-none of which had considered doodling as a valid measure of the psyche until the report on the Health Narratives Research Group from last year [19]. ...
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... However, there is research that disputes this point of view, finding instead that doodling improves memory, concentration, and cognitive performance (Andrade, 2009;Burger, Lee, & Rust, 2018;Tadayon & Afhami, 2017). Additionally, of the seven perceptual learning styles cited by Adebayo, Mortimer, Marcis, and Little (2015), two modalities, haptic and kinesthetic, may be achieved through doodling or actions such as drawing on the tabletops. ...
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In the spring of 2011, a teacher allowed his fourth and fifth grade students to draw and write on their classroom tables. What began as a few names eventually turned into a series of frenetic marks that completely covered the tabletops. Over the course of two years, new groups of students brought with them another cycle of marking that evolved in the form of notations, designs, and even carvings. The teacher documented this process over the years collecting data in the form of digital photographs, video clips, email communiqués, and teacher journal entries. This paper presents an analysis of the data, a discussion on the effects of allowing general elementary classroom students a significant degree of creative agency, and the pedagogical impacts of that agency.
... First, doodling showed higher academic performance and memory retention in students. This extends previous evidence from studies of junior high school students that doodling improved academic performance (Tadayon, Afhami, 2017). In Tadayon and Afhami's research, 54 female participants aged between 12 and 13 were given two quizzes in a control and experimental setting to assess the impact of doodling on their academic performance. ...
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... Psychologists refer to this high-focused mental state as flow. Tadayon and Afhami (2016) claimed that doodling assists in enhancing students' focus and learning effectiveness. A state of meditation, resulting from high-focused attention, reduces stress and improves well-being ( Goyal et al., 2014;Khoury, Sharma, Rush, & Fournier, 2015). ...
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