For a while now, I have noticed that students don’t seem to know how to take notes. When in class, they only focus on writing down what is on the PowerPoint slides, and they write this down as a word-for-word transcription. They do this even if the lectures slides are available on the LMS. This means that student may be unintentionally ignoring the message from the instructor. Those students are missing out on additional explanations and examples. Their lives could be more difficult when it comes time to study for the exam without that additional information.
This issue is something that has been on my mind as of late. Based on my observations, I think this practice of verbatim note taking has become a standard practice for students (at least at my institution). I think this might be especially true for those that take notes with laptops. Verbatim note taking, regardless of whether you are typing or writing them, is problematic because students are processing that information in a shallower fashion (Luo et al., 2018; Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). According to levels of processing effect, information that is processed in a shallower (vs. deeper) fashion will typically show poorer retention (Craik & Tulving, 1975).
Previous research has shown that longhand (vs. laptop) note taking can lead to better learning and retention of information (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014); however, this effect can be seen assuming that students are attempting to put the notes into their own words or organizing it in some way (Luo et al., 2018; Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). This act of paraphrasing or reorganizing during class time is forcing the students to process this information more deeply. According to Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014), the benefits of longhand note taking are tied to the levels of processing effect. If students are engaging in verbatim note taking whether they are typing or writing their notes, they will not see these benefits because they are processing that information in a shallower fashion.
Is note taking behavior something that we (as instructors) should worry about? If we know that proper note taking can improve their memory for that information, how can we encourage this behavior? Is it too late to teach this at the college level?
Craik, F. I., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 268.
Luo, L., Kiewra, K. A., Flanigan, A. E., & Peteranetz, M. S. (2018). Laptop versus longhand note taking: effects on lecture notes and achievement. Instructional Science, 46(6), 947-971.
Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological science, 25(6), 1159-1168.
written by Jen Blush