Educational Colouring: The Key to Memorising More, Faster?
Memorisation is an essential part of learning, especially if you have an exam or test to sit. Exams and tests form the basis for the modern education system, so it’s in your best interest to become good at remembering information! You’ve probably tried various techniques of cramming information into your brain, but have you ever tried educational colouring?
In the past year, numerous papers have been published discussing the benefits of drawing, colouring and visualising as a memorisation strategy. We’ve also published our first educational colouring book in the last year, for the UK car theory test. In this blog, we give you:
- A short description of why drawing improves memory
- A description of how using an educational colouring book helps you memorise more information
- The history of colouring as a mnemonic
All links and references are available at the end of the post.
Drawing, Mnemonics, Memorisation and Encoding
If you were to ask a psychologist about memorisation strategies, they would likely describe different combinations of mnemonics or encoding methods. Mnemonics are processes like repetition and association that make it easier to remember information. For example, a ballerina repeatedly practising dances to a piece of music. The physical activity and repetition, combined with the audio cues in the music, are some of the components encoding the complex dance to the ballerina’s memory.
Mnemonic: A mnemonic device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval in the human memory.
When it comes to information memorisation through drawing, Fernandes (2018) states there are three components at work improving your memory performance:
- Motoric – The physical muscle requirements of drawing, which are more demanding than reading or writing.
- Elaboration – Associating to-be-remembered information to existing memories personal to the user.
- Pictorial Generation/Processing – The process of imagining new visuals and reviewing them, rather than reading or writing textual information.
As shown in Fernandes’s (2018) model, these components can be effective memorisation techniques in pairs, like tracing or imagining. However, it is the combination of these three elements present in drawing activity that improves memory performance the most.
Educational Colouring As A Mnemonic
So, how does using an educational colouring book (like our recently published title, for the UK car theory test) help you memorise information?
In a good educational colouring book, information will be presented both textually and visually. After reading the textual information, thus textually processing it, the reader views the associated made-to-colour illustrations. Upon viewing, the reader instantly understands more about the context of the learning point, pictorially processing the same information. A diagram allows no room for imaginative error, or ‘getting the wrong end of the stick’.
The reader can also imagine themselves in the diagram, or apply the diagram to an existing memory – thus elaborating. Maybe the crossroads or cyclist featured in the illustration looks familiar?
When the reader colours the illustration, they are engaging all three elements of the drawing model presented by Fernandes. By choosing colours and imagining the future scene coloured in they are both elaborating based on existing memories and pictorially generating around the associated information. When putting pencil to paper they are engaging in the motoric element of the drawing model.
The combination of all these mnemonics together gives you the perfect memorisation tool to get stuck into the theory test!
It could be argued that colouring-in is a form of tracing as it does not involve the same pictorial generation that drawing does. However, we disagree. In our books, we leave room for the user to express their creative side in our books through humour, shading and detail. While there are elements of the book that should be coloured correctly (signs, traffic lights etc.) there are many illustrations the user has creative freedom over – for example, cars, people or even entire scenes. We argue that in this creative exploration the user is practising the pictorial generation mnemonic that is key to memorisation through drawing.
The History Of Colouring As A Mnemonic
Educational colouring is a tried and tested method, even if the science proving so is only just being published. Memorisation through colouring has been used as a technique by doctors and medical professionals to study and memorise anatomy for over 40 years. One of the first known educational colouring books is The Anatomy Colouring Book, first published in 1971. The book describes kinesthetic learning and the benefits to memorisation.
The book’s been well used and appears on a lot of required reading lists for physiology and has even spawned spin-off titles, such as specialist anatomical books for yoga instructors.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments – [email protected]
Recommended reading and sources
The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall, Meade & Fernandes (2016). Link
Drawing enhances item information but undermines sequence information in memory. Jonker, Tanya R. Wammes, Jeffrey D. MacLeod, Colin M. (2018) Link
Learning terms and definitions: Drawing and the role of elaborative encoding, Jeffrey D. Wammes, 2017. Link
On the mnemonic benefits of drawing, Jeffrey D. Wammes, 2017 Link