Training Tips – Are doodlers distracted?

I am a doodler! There….I said it!

I can’t help but doodle, it’s not that I am bored, I am listening to you my doodling is helping me to pay attention, and if you look at my doodles you may notice some association that is linked to what you are saying.


I am aware that teachers and trainers misinterpret my doodling as failing to pay attention. I have scars ingrained on my memory where you have verbally humiliated me in the classroom and I know you wonder how I dodged the board dusters your threw at me….perhaps you fail to realise that when I doodle I am present and I am focused.

Of course you never once looked at my doodles and simply wrote me off as having the attention span of a flea, you failed to engage with me and I am determined to avoid that mistake with my students.

 Behaviour that is Focused on Learning

Identifying behaviour that is focused on learning is a key skill for trainers, I guarantee that every student in your classroom has a smart phone, and devices like the iPad are becoming common. Consequently these devices have changed our learner’s mental reflexes and habits, the way they learn and absorb information.  These devices allow for increased sharing of information, and this can be a benefit to instructors if only you set ground rules for their use and you recognise that what is going on “outside” can be deceiving a learner who is focusing on their iPad may not have eye contact with you but please don’t misinterpret that as failing to pay attention.

Research has shown that doodling actually helps learning!! Individuals may not look like they are paying attention but science says otherwise. In research published in Applied Cognitive Psychology test subjects who doodled while listening to recorded messages had a 29% better recall than those who didn’t.

Various articles on associative memory state that doodling can boost retention up to 50% for immediate recall. In other articles there is information that doodling actually helps the learner attend to discussions by enhancing recall invigorating multiple neural pathways. (A message to all those teachers who wrote me off – SEE I TOLD YOU! You were scientifically wrong.) Time Magazine quotes a study that defines the benefits of doodling very simply. It prevents daydreaming. Daydreaming tends to trigger the brain to recruit other networks that shift your attention to other things so you cannot focus on the tasks at hand. Doodling does just the opposite; it keeps the motor running so the brain can focus

Encouraging Doodling

I was recently reminded of how we can easily misinterpret our student’s intentions when during a recent training course, Mohammed arrived with his IPad…Mohammed had just finished a nightshift. The environment would have challenged most trainers, and learners, on day one nine learners arrived who had been “Sent” on an advanced presentation skills course a topic not remotely linked to their job roles, the temperature averaging at 50 degrees and the usual comings and goings of people arriving late or finding themselves in the wrong classroom. Mohammed could have been forgiven if he had gone into a coma under the circumstances, never mind a daydream! But he did neither; during the parts of the course where I was talking, he quietly doodled.

I could see him out of the corner of my eye, completing tasks when required and then back to the doodle, imagine if I had misinterpreted this behaviour as failing to pay attention……I would have never have seen THIS amazing doodle!

Paying attention in the classroom no longer means sitting up straight – eyes focused on your work or on the trainer, and if you are a trainer who is upset by doodling i suggest you get over it! Rather than a distraction, doodling can assist in triggering many major routes for us to store information into long-term memory because doodling enables a connection between the conscious and unconscious and that is where we learn.

 Doodle by Mohammed Sadeq Booalyan


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