It might be conventional wisdom that a student doodling during class is a student who is not paying attention, however research indicates that doodling while taking notes can help students retain ideas and improve memory. KQED writes about two instructional coaches who tried out this method of note taking themselves and, impressed with the results, brought it back to their school.
The coaches said that some teachers were skeptical at first, but found the approach could be a useful way for students to both retain important concepts and demonstrate learning.
The practice also makes student learning visible and provides a valuable formative assessment tool. If a student sketches an interesting side note in the lesson, but misses the big themes, that will show up in her drawing. And when students share their drawings with one another, they have the chance to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, and drawings, while discussing the key ideas. Going over the drawings also solidifies the information for students.