According to professors Shaaron Ainsworth, Vaughan Prain and Russell Tytler, this is what makes drawing an effective learning tool.
They offer their thoughts on the subject in Drawing to Learn in Science, a paper in which they make the case that drawing circumvents the passive learning often observed in science classrooms. Their position on this topic can be summed up simply — instead of leaving students to interpret the drawings of others, have them create their own (Ainsworth et al., 2011).
The authors offer five suggestions as to why drawing makes a good learning tool. What follows is a very brief summary of the arguments Ainsworth et al. (2011) make in their paper.
Drawing Encourages Engagement
Passive learning can be diverted when drawing is used alongside reading and writing in the classroom. To draw means to explore and to understand.
Drawing Deepens Understanding
Drawing also develops visual literacy skills and provides real-time experience documenting observations.
Drawing Develops Reasoning Skills
Planning a drawing requires thinking through content and learning to reason in different ways.
Drawing is a Good Learning Strategy
Drawing is a good way to work through confusing information and transform student understanding into an observable medium.
Drawing Makes Knowledge Public
When knowledge becomes public, it can be shared and discussed with others.
Ainsworth et al. (2011) continue making their case for drawing in the sciences by highlighting programs that are actively researching the effectiveness of drawing in the classroom.
Ainsworth, Shaaron and Vaughan Prain and Russell Tytler. 2011. Drawing to learn in science. Science. 333(6046): 1096-97
Shaaron Ainsworth’s interview about this paper in a podcast produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.