It turns out that the act of drawing an image helps us remember the meaning behind the image far better than simply writing out the definition, even for complex concepts. Scientists at the University of Waterloo in Canada ran a study on drawing to-be-learned concepts and memory that was published in August 2018.
They found that study participants who had a minute to draw an image representing “isotope” or “spore”, for example, were more likely to remember the meaning than people who were asked to copy out the definitions instead. “As with single words, we reasoned that drawing facilitates retention, at least in part, because it requires elaboration on the meaning of the term and translating the definition to a new form (a picture),” the researchers write.
This study helps to explain the cognitive process that adolescent students may be using when making visual annotations or drawing visual representations of new vocabulary words.
It also provides a more robust research base for best practices when assigning students tasks meant to cement definitions of new terms.
Explanation of the study (The British Psychological Society Research Digest)