Comics are often associated with super-heroes, humour and
funny animals. The term 'comic book' also usually conjures images of a medium
which is juvenile, cheap and disposable.
However, there is a long history of comics being used as
supplementary materials in school settings. These uses have ranged from using
comics as tools for teaching different subjects like sociology (e.g see Burns,
1999; Snyder, 1997); general comprehension and memory (Brooks, 1977);
perceptual skills (Singh, 1981); reading (e.g. Aleixo & Norris, 2007;
Millard & Marsh, 2001) and acculturation (Takashima, 1978). Some authors
have also suggested the positive benefits of using comics to teach children
with learning difficulties (e.g. Hallenbeck, 1976).
Comics also appear to be a good medium to impart educational
material. In a study published earlier this year (Aleixo & Sumner, 2017),
we found that memory for educational material presented in a comic book format
was better remembered than the same information presented in text alone or in a
combination of random images and text. Other studies have found similar
results. This shows that the special combination of words and pictures in a
sequence, increases the memorability of that material. In fact, a cognitive
theory (Dual-Coding Theory) can be used to explain why comics might be superior
at imparting information.
While more research is clearly needed, these early findings
suggest that comics could be a good source of teaching materials in schools and
other educational establishments.
Paul Aleixo is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Sheffield
Hallam University. His research interests include the application of Comic
books to educational settings. He is the author of ‘Biological Psychology an
Illustrated Survival Guide’; a comic book format undergraduate textbook
published by Wiley which has been translated into simplified Chinese and Greek.
He recently published research in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
which found that memory for material presented in comic book format was better
than that for material in text only format. This was picked up by national and
international media including an interview on the ‘Today’ programme on BBC