Maximising Cognitive Recall: Exploring the Lost Art of Note Taking

Researcher: Dr Dawne Irving-Bell

Institution: Edge Hill University

Research Year: 2020

Project aims:

Despite its importance, student notetaking is under-researched and under-theorised. Many studies are outdated, analysing student behaviour in pre-digital times.

Recent research can also be questioned, e.g. one widely reported study recommended that students should abandon laptops in favour of written notes to improve cognitive processing. The latest studies suggest more complex relationships. Consequently, current practical advice and guidance is often problematic.

This study investigates current notetaking practices and pilots a structured intervention introducing different visual methods to augment and organise notes – a choice of sketch-noting and concept mapping. Both methods can be paper and/or computer-based, and both are supported by research which demonstrates their potential contribution to learning and understanding.

Our research participants are Graduate Teaching Assistants about to start their Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education – an ideal pilot group as they cover a wide range of subject disciplines and can offer insights based on their own experiences of undergraduate and postgraduate education, from both student and lecturer perspectives. We investigate how and why different notetaking methods are chosen and the impact on learning and performance.

Our reviews of research literature and existing practices deliver a typology of notetaking styles – a resource for all tutors, learning developers and students to use (and further develop). Our workshops and support materials in notetaking, sketch-noting and concept mapping will be freely available and can also be used/adapted by tutors/developers elsewhere, taking into account the evidence we assemble on impact and patterns of use.

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