A Summer of Sketching

I spent this summer sketching. I drew and a I wrote and I learned more about research than I ever could have. This summer, I focused on two projects: a survey that tested for aphantasia, and a study that incorporates sketching in the classroom. While I started the summer focusing on neither of these projects, I ended up with not one but two projects to work on this year. Therefore, a summer of sketching will lead to a year of research.

The first project involves an aphantasia survey which the lab hopes to administer in the fall of 2019. This project takes participants through a series of questions. Each of these questions ask them to attempt to visualize an image. If the participant can visualize, then they are asked to add movement to their mental image. The purpose of this quiz is to help gauge a person’s ability to visualize. Subsequently, the person may not be able to visualize at all. The inability to voluntarily visualize is known as aphantasia. Participants who are unable to visualize will then be asked to participate in a follow up interview. This project has already been sent to an IRB. The researchers will begin collected data in the fall. I will shift my focus on this project to collecting data and which statistical test would be best for representing our data.

The second project that came from my summer of sketching has to do with sketching in the classroom. The nick name for this project is biology pictionairy. This project asks participants to read selected passages and then sketch what the passage describes. This study borrows ideas from Wu et al as it tests to see if drawing can be used effectively in the large lecture setting. We will be testing this in a smaller setting with pre-test/post-test methods. Then, the participants will be split into two different groups; one group with intervention, and one group that only watches a video. These results can be interpreted to effect size and the hope is for there to be a defined difference. Many studies have asked the question we are: can sketching be used in large classrooms. Our lab takes this core concepts and adds a qualifier:cost.

I will spend the fall working on conventions, videos and passages for this project.  Then, I will look for participants. The passages used in this study will focus specifically on very basic concepts such as hydrogen bonding and molecular interactions. However, the passages will describe in great detail what really happens in this often quickly taught topics. These topics have been selected because we have noticed that not many biology majors have a deep understanding of these topics. By focusing on these better known topics, students can find new and effective ways to study. These methods may not only enhance their recall but aid them in problem solving.


  1. This sounds so interesting! Do you think/did you find that sketching in the classroom works well overall or that it is more suited to some types of people (i.e. visual learners)?