Student sketch

Does Sketching promote student learning? A review on undergraduate geology students

Marc K. Reichow


Sketching is an important way in science and other disciplines for illustrating complex concepts with more digestible formats and has therefore long been engrained in the field of Geology either for research or teaching purposes. The following report outlines an assessment of a compulsory second year undergraduate geology module where illustrations are implemented and form a key part of the student’s learning process. The intended learning outcomes are assessed through the submission of a practical folder and an exam including a practical component. The module receives critical but highly positive reviews from the student cohort who achieve overall good marks. However, a key difference in student performance between the practical components of the exam compared to that of the coursework is apparent. Practical components are problem-based and intended to offer the students an opportunity to engage with the complexity of a given task and sketching is intended to increase the student-learning process through exploration. The benefits of sketching are unequivocally clear but it remains open whether students use illustrations to enhance the learning process to their full potential. Introduction of a learning-cycle approach appeared to have improved student performance and is recommended to promote student learning.


conceptual sketches; geology; deep-levels of learning; teaching practice

Full Text:



Ainsworth, S., & Loizou, A.T. (2003). The effects of self-explaining when learning with text or diagrams: Cognitive Science, 27 (4), 669‒681.

Bates, S., & Galloway, R. (2010). Diagnostic Tests for the Physical Sciences: A Brief Review. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences 6, 10‒20.

Bonwell, C.C., & Eison, J.A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom, ERIC Digest Clearinghouse on Higher Education, Document No. ED 340 272. View Item

Johnson, J.K., & Reynolds, S.J. (2005). Concept Sketches – Using Student – and instructor – generated, annotated sketches for learning, teaching, and assessment in Geology courses: Journal of Geoscience Education, 53 (1), 85‒95.

Kindsvatter, R. Wilen, W., & Ishler, M. (1996). Dynamics of effective teaching, 379. White Plains, New York: Longman. View Item

Larkin, J.H., & Simon, H.A. (1987). Why a diagram is (sometimes) worth ten thousand words: Cognitive Science, 11 (1), 65‒99.

Lawson, A., Abrahamn, M., & Renner, J. (1989). A theory of instruction: Using the learning cycle to teach science concepts and teaching skills: NARST Monograph Number One: National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 79. GS Search

Mayer, R.E. (2001). Multimedia learning: Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 210. View Item

McKeachie, W.J. and Hofer, B. K. (Ed.). (2002). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.

View Item

Novak, J.D., & Gowin, D.B. (1984). Learning How to Learn. New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 199. GS Search

Pfister, R.A., & Eppler, M.J. (2012). The Benefits of Sketching for Knowledge Management: Journal of Knowledge Management, 16 (2), 372‒382.

Pfister, R.A. (2013). The Benefits of Sketching for Management. Literature Review and Experimental Evaluation: Dissertation No. 4172, University of St. Gallen, School of Management, Economics, Law, Social Sciences and International Affairs, Switzerland, 144.

Rudwick, M.J. (1976). The emergence of a visual language for geological sciences 1760 - 1840: History of Science, 14 (3), 149‒195.

Savin-Baden, M. (2000). Problem-based Learning in Higher Education: Untold Stories. The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press, St Edmundsbury Press, Suffolk, 157. View Item

Schwartz, M.S., and Fischer, K.W. (2003). Building vs. borrowing: The challenge of actively constructing ideas: Liberal Education, 89 (3), 22–29. GS Search

Temple, S. (1994). Thought made visible - the value of sketching: Co-Design Journal, 1, 16‒25. View Item

Van der Lugt, R. (2005). How sketching can affect the idea generation process in design group meetings, Design Studies, 26 (2), 101–122.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Marc K. Reichow

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.