The last class of the semester for my undergraduate EdTech class was looming. While I wanted to make the class review of what we’ve learned over the semester more engaging than me droning on with my well-worn slide deck, did I want to put in the time and effort to create a more engaging last day of class experience?
I thought back to my experiences as a learner at the end of the semester and remembered the best “last class” I’d ever experienced. In a self-regulated learning class, we create a Sketchnote of highlights of the course on the last day of class in small groups. It was a genius idea for a course review in Dr. Allyson Hadwin class, and a perfect way to end the first course of my graduate degree (Davis & Hadwin, 2021).
As the end of the semester approaches, students may feel overwhelmed with all the assignments and tests they have to prepare for. They also often struggle to identify and summarize all the important concepts and information they’ve learned throughout the semester. This is where sketchnoting can come in handy as a powerful tool to help students retain and organize their new knowledge and skills.
The feedback from my students on the Sketchnoting activity was overwhelmingly positive. Several students told me (unprompted) that the Sketchnoting they did in class was the best course review they’d ever done. With their permission, I’ve included several of their sketchnotes in this blog post. It was a wonderful way to conclude both sections of the Educational Technology class I taught (EDCI 336 at the University of Victoria), and I suspect would be a wonderful tool to use in many other K-12, undergraduate, and graduate courses.
For anyone who is interested in trying it out, this is the format I used to run an end-of-semester sketchnoting activity (McCue, 2023), and here is the UVic Libraries DSC Sketchnoting workshop that my class completed earlier in the semester to introduce them to Sketchnoting:
- Brainstorm with POST-IT Notes (20 min)
- 10 min: First on your own, use Post-It notes to brainstorm and identify concepts, ideas, and pedagogies that are important to you. Identify 1 or 2 key takeaways from each module of the course.
- 10 min: Compare your Post-It notes with your partner, and discuss any differences between them. Because of the different backgrounds and grade levels you will teach, there may be significant differences, and that is just fine.
- Feel free to create new Post-It notes for yourself based on your discussion with your partner.
- Organize Your POST-IT Notes (5 min)
- Next, individually you will organize your Post-It notes in a way that will allow creates visual relationships between the notes to help you prepare to make your sketchnote.
- This is optional, but you might want to quickly draw simple doodles on your Post-It notes to visualize some of the concepts and ideas you’ve identified.
- Draw Your Sketchnote on Paper (30 min)
- Continue to work on your own, and use a provided sheet of paper (11”x 17”), along with your pens, and highlighters (highlighters are optional) to create a sketchnote, using your organized Post-It notes to guide you.
- Create Relationships Between Ideas with arrows or other connecting doodles. Bonus marks for connecting course content with prior knowledge.
Some of the key reasons why I think that Sketchnoting is such an effective end-of-semester learning and review tool include:
- Boosts Memory Retention – Sketchnoting is a creative and graphic process that combines text with illustrations, symbols, and structures to record thoughts, ideas and relationships. This technique can be especially useful for undergraduate students as they review and consolidate their learning. One of the key benefits of sketchnoting in educational settings is that it can help improve memory retention (Meade et al., 2018). By combining text with visual elements, undergraduate students can create a more engaging and memorable representation of the material they are studying. This can help them better remember key concepts, ideas and relationships (Wammes et al., 2016) as a final course review or in preparation for a final exam.
- Increases Comprehension – Sketchnoting can also help undergraduate students organize their thoughts and ideas. By creating a visual representation of the material they are studying, undergraduate students can more easily see connections and relationships between different concepts. This can help them better understand the material and identify areas where they may need to focus their review efforts (Gansemer-Topf et al., 2021).
- Enhances Creativity & Helps Focus – In addition to improving memory retention and organization, sketchnoting can also be a fun and creative way for undergraduate students to engage with the material they have studied. By incorporating drawings and other visual elements into their semester-end summary, or weekly notes, undergraduate students can add an element of creativity to their learning practice, and in my personal experience, make it easier to focus on less interesting topics and relate them to other ideas and information I already know. This can help make the review process more enjoyable and engaging (Smith, 2016).
- Effective Communication of Learning – Another benefit of sketchnoting is that it can help undergraduate students communicate their ideas more effectively. By creating a visual representation of their thoughts and ideas, undergraduate students can more easily share their understanding of the material with others. This can be especially useful during group study sessions or when presenting their work to others (Gansemer-Topf et al., 2021).
Going forward I’m going to be using Sketchnoting every semester as a last day of class course review activity. By encouraging students to incorporate Sketchnoting into their review and study routines, undergraduate students can improve their memory retention, better organize their thoughts and ideas, add an element of creativity to their review process, and communicate their ideas more effectively.
Here are all student sketchnotes from EDCI 336 who gave their permission to share them publicly: https://photos.app.goo.gl/h9eiKaCDhiGXf91J9
Davis, S. K., & Hadwin, A. F. (2021). Exploring Differences in Psychological Well-Being and Self-Regulated Learning in University Student Success. Frontline Learning Research, 9(1), 30–43. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1284915
Gansemer-Topf, A. M., Paepcke-Hjeltness, V., Russell, A. E., & Schiltz, J. (2021). “Drawing” your Own Conclusions: Sketchnoting as a Pedagogical Tool for Teaching Ecology. Innovative Higher Education, 46(3), 303–319. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-020-09542-6
Mccue, R. (2023). Sketchnoting to Reflect on the Term. Rich McCue v5.0. https://richmccue.com/2023/03/25/week-12-reflecting-on-the-term/
Meade, M. E., Wammes, J. D., & Fernandes, M. A. (2018). Drawing as an Encoding Tool: Memorial Benefits in Younger and Older Adults. Experimental Aging Research, 44(5), 369–396. https://doi.org/10.1080/0361073X.2018.1521432
Smith, R. S. (2016). The scientific case for doodling while taking notes. Quartz. Retrieved 6 May 2016, from http://qz.com/676557/the-scientific-case-for-doodling-while-taking-notes/
Wammes, J. D., Meade, M. E., & Fernandes, M. A. (2016). The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69(9), 1752–1776. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2015.1094494