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Psycasm

Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

So this has been floating around twitter this morning - People Who Doodle Learn Faster. The primary source is this document, published in Science [Fulltext unavailable, Abstract here]. The original document is less than two pages long and very easy to read.

I really want to take the 'Doodle' article to task. It's just plain wrong.

At no point does the Science article make the claim that 'People Who Doodle Learn Faster'. The Author of the 'Doodle' post, Tim Barribeau , should be embarrased. The title of the original paper is 'Drawing to Learn in Science'. I suppose if that's all you read then you might be mistaken for thinking that doodling leads to learning (if drawing = doodling); but really? Faster learning? The word 'Fast*' is not even in the original article.

The paper in question is completely theoretical. In saying that, I'm being generous. It is theoretical inasmuch as it presents no data; but as far as theories go, there's not much substance.

The central thesis of the paper is that:

"...student drawing should be explicitly recognized alongside writing, reading,

and talking as a key element in science education"

- Ainsworth, Prain & Tytler.

Now when they say 'Drawing' they seem to mean 'making fun diagrams'. It is hard to reasonably infer that 'Doodling' is somehow beneficial to the process. 

Ainsworth et al (2011) offer 5 reasons to support their thesis. I'll summarize them here, but if you look at the original paper you'll find each is very short and easily understood.

1 - Drawing is fun and engaging. Kids often disconect in traditional learning settings, therefore anything fun and engaging should be encouraged.

2 - Drawing is a means of 'visual literacy', the value of which is in communicating ideas.

3 - Drawing is a flexible medium that allows us to represent / comprehend abstract ideas. e.g. drawing a sound wave, or molecules evaporating can readily be expressed and understood visually.

4 - Drawing a 'summary' of content is a good way of exploring ideas as an act of comprehension.

5 - Drawing makes ideas explicit, and allows for dissemination of said ideas.

The paper goes on to push the RiLS programme (Roles of Representation in Learning Science), which is described by Hubber, Tytler & Hassam (2010)

"The project involves researchers from three Universities, working with middle-years teachers, and their students, in three schools at various locations in Australia (metropolitan and rural Victoria, and Central Queensland). Over a period of 3 years the researchers will work with four groups of teachers at the primary and secondary level, studying both the
student learning that arises from this approach, and the nature of pedagogical change that occurs as teachers adopt a representational focus to their teaching across the different science topics. The science topics are selected from Forces, Earth in Space, Animal Adaptations, Cells and Genetics, Changes to Matter and Chemical Change. Through the period of the project, some of the topics will be repeated by the same, and different, groups of teachers."

Now I don't want to dismiss the potential for teaching science in this way. Why not? Scientists create diagrams all the time. It's important to be able to communicate abstract concepts visually. Hell, if drawing sciency-stuff is fun and inspires interest in science, I'm all for it. But it is important to note that this isn't really a study, but more of a pilot programme in education.

The bigger, more important point I wish to address is this. It is at no point claimed that 'Doodling' increases learning. It is suggested that visually representing science-relevant concepts can be engaging, potentially effective in communicating ideas, may allow for a litmus test of comprehension (which is useful for teachers), and is an explicit representation of an idea.

The hope is that this programme increases 'learning' of science in class-rooms. They do not 'learn faster' (as one can see people claiming on twitter and by the article on io9).

This is a pretty blatent example of bad science reporting, and it's the kind of bad reporting with an appeal that might see it swallowed wholesale by people who, legitimately, don't want to dedicate the time to reading the primary source.

 ---

ResearchBlogging.org

Ainsworth, S., Prain, V., & Tytler, R. (2011). Drawing to Learn in Science Science, 333 (6046), 1096-1097 DOI: 10.1126/science.1204153

Hubber, P., Tytler, R., & Haslam, F. (2010). Teaching and Learning about Force with a Representational Focus: Pedagogy and Teacher Change Research in Science Education, 40 (1), 5-28 DOI: 10.1007/s11165-009-9154-9


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yannisguerra
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Nice!

Timely, and appropriate.

Now...do I trust YOU?

Well, you did cite the original paper (which is rare in this day and age)

Therefore you win!

Good job


Psycasm
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Cheers.

 

The link to the original paper is there, and I had no paywalls to jump finding it. It's a very short article. Bit of a shame I could pull more traffic to it. People are pushing this all over twitter.

Liz Dorland

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If you had no "paywalls to jump" to get the article, then you must have been accessing it via a paid source on campus.

I'm not sure why I'm responding to this, but here goes. Perhaps it's annoyance at your comments about the lack of data in an overview article with 43 reference to scientific studies going back to 2000. Or maybe it's how you pull conclusions of your own out of thin air. More likely it's because it's late, I'm cranky, and your arrogance really annoyed me.

Writer of the Science article: one of the leading learning science researchers on learning from visualizations in the world, writing for a peer-reviewed publication.

You? Let's talk after you have actually read some of the references provided andhave completed a PhD in an area that qualifies you to comment.

Google lead me here, and I'm sorry for that. No, I'm not the researcher in question. She is much too busy. Yes, I have great respect for her work and for this important area of research in general.

Your point about "doodling" is well taken. But as for the rest...in the future, try to think harder before you send your speculations out into cyberspace. Please.

 


yannisguerra
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I am not sure Liz if you actually read the article above. I don't think Psy said anything bad about the original article. He was commenting about the horrible "science reporting" that OTHER people have done in the internet. Yep, just reread the post, it is there in the last paragraph. 

It would be good to read the post before making comments

And besides that...well, the argument from authority has never been useful in science. 

So let's repeat something said by somebody wise

"In the future, try to think harder before you send your speculations out into cyberspace.

Please."

 

 

Fun, fun!

 

 

 


Psycasm
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Sorry you feel that way.

I must agree with Yannis. My beef was with the author of the 'doodle' article, not the original authors.

I suppose you didn't like when I said:

"It is theoretical inasmuch as it presents no data; but as far as theories go, there's not much substance."

Well.... there was no data. Secondary sources are invaluable in supporting an argument, but data is presented alongside an experiment. My point, with respect to the 'substance', was that the 5 points seem valid in the persuit of effective teaching, I fail to see the connection with teaching science. They seems as applicable to history as to science. In fact, despite my lack of experience in the field, I offer my support:

"Now I don't want to dismiss the potential for teaching science in this way. Why not? Scientists create diagrams all the time. It's important to be able to communicate abstract concepts visually. Hell, if drawing sciency-stuff is fun and inspires interest in science, I'm all for it."

I'm sorry my style is as offensive as it was. I make no secret of the fact I'm an undergrad, so your call that I should come back with a PhD seems misplaced. I suspect that the author of the 'doodle' article lacks the requisits you demand, also. I merely read the source article, and a handful of the references, and listed those I directly used. The doodle-man, I should point out, did not. And although you feel I misrepresented your discipline, I feel you should really be fucking riled over Tim Barribeau who wrote the 'doodle' article and genuinly misrepresented this paper (and discipline) in a fairly high-profile manner.

My only goal was to correct a misconception regarding your field, and attack someone you demonstratably misrepresented science. Though my opinions may agitate you, they are based on a touch more reading and a wilful attempt to comprehend and communicate the area than the 'doodle' author attempted. I certainly hope Barribeau was equally the subject of your ire.

 

 


Laurie

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Am I the only one would can't access the entire Science article? I have a hard time picking on anyone, and want to better understand what Mad Science writer was getting at and whether there's a genuine beef to be made.

 


Psycasm
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Yeah, that link has gone dead. I think I was incidentally logged in when I accessed it. I can't seem to get it now as I normally would however. A friend has good luck on reddit looking for articles like this.

Liz D.

Guest Comment

Of course I read the article above. And the article from Science. I had a pre-print. I'm also familiar with a lot of the research.

My focus was not on the Doodle article. Readers (and too many science journalists) jump to unfounded conclusions all the time and totally miss the point of the research and science. If you had stuck to criticizing the Doodling article, fine.

But "Doodling" was not a word that was used in the Science article at all. That isn't what it was about. It's the wrong concept entirely and conveys the wrong impression. "Drawing to Learn" is a purposeful activity.

Criticizing two articles with such different levels of credibility in the same post is a bad idea. Especially when one is from a subscriber-only journal like Science. Since almost no one can read it, they are left with only your opinions to judge it by. That struck me as very wrong.

You are correct about the statement that annoyed me. It showed a lack of understanding of the type of article it was meant to be (a brief overview of research) and of the editorial process. The Science magazine editors undoubtedly got just what they asked for or they would not have published it. And the depth of references provided was exceptional.

What I said about it being late and me being tired and grumpy was true. I probably should not have commented at all, because I knew it would provoke just the kinds of reactions it did, and do little good.

I apologize for the sarcastic tone. I think I felt I was responding in kind to your own rather presumptious and disrespectful analysis. ;-)

I won't do it again. It was a random Google encounter.


Psycasm
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You said:

But "Doodling" was not a word that was used in the Science article at all. That isn't what it was about. It's the wrong concept entirely and conveys the wrong impression. "Drawing to Learn" is a purposeful activity.

I said:

Now when they say 'Drawing' they seem to mean 'making fun diagrams'. It is hard to reasonably infer that 'Doodling' is somehow beneficial to the process.

You said:

My focus was not on the Doodle article. Readers (and too many science journalists) jump to unfounded conclusions all the time and totally miss the point of the research and science.

What conclusions did I jump to? What point did I miss? Why is your focus 'not on the doodle article'? I was the one who tried to communicate the conclusions of the Science article and refute the exagerations and misrepresentation in the Doodle-article...

What point are you trying to make? Is it simply a matter of tone?

If you choose to reply again, try to address these three questions. I'm more than happy to continue this correspondence, but without clarification on these points I'll be at a loss.

1. Why are you pissed at me?

2. What aren't you pissed at the doodle-author?

3. And what did I get wrong in my assay of the Science article?

 

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