In school or college, students take notes during class, but how can we help them take sufficient notes to fuel their learning in their later revision?
Many studies have reported that students only take up to 30% of the lesson points in a class. Missing over 70% of important information that they will need to know going into exams, practical tests and generally increasing their knowledge in the subject you teach them.
There are two aspects to note taking being; the process and the products. The process is just taking the notes while the product is the notes taken home for later review. Researchers are torn whether the process of notes engages the students to be present and ‘on’ in class, while other researchers say simply listening to the lesson and not being distracted by taking too many notes is more beneficial.
The important part of note taking is the product, the actual notes, as these are the focus for later revision, and it is the revision that is crucial. If the revision is to be effective, then clearly the notes have to be accurate and reasonably comprehensive; but the research indicates that students notes are often inaccurate (especially for diagrams and numbers) or inadequate, with insufficient information to give a complete account. Part of the problem is that many students simply record verbatim what the teacher says, which is a particularly ineffective method and can actually detrimental to learning.
Having the appropriate notes will ensure the most from revision for the students at a later stage. Excessive note taking in the classroom can lead to incorrect notes being taken down by students. Researchers have shown that students notes can be incorrect, especially when it comes to diagrams and graphs. To alleviate this issue, some researchers say that if teachers provide partial or full notes to students (in class or afterwards on their online school system) this benefits the students learning when revising, as the researchers say that revision is more important than note taking itself.
How can teachers improve their students note taking?
One way to help is giving students complete notes for them to study later. This approach is a common practice in grind schools across Ireland and the UK. While some students may not listen in class, teachers might prefer to keep students engaged by taking notes, for a situation like this, partial notes from the teacher could be hugely beneficial. This will keep the students engaged, while the teacher is confident that the notes are structured and the layout is easy to follow for the students. When an important topic is being discussed, while using partial notes, it may help if teachers nudge students when they need to take a small note of relevance. This can help students stay engaged and listening to the class, while taking a few notes.
Another way that can help students note taking skills, would be to pair them up with a partner to discuss the topic. The following day, students can present their top 3 important points from the lesson. This could help all students and the teacher can fill in any blanks in students learnings.
If teachers are providing notes, whether they be comprehensive notes or partial notes. These notes should be available for students at later dates, for instance the teacher could upload them to the class folder online so that students can access when it’s time to revise. As the quality of the notes is of most important and gives the most values to students revision.
Have you got any tips for other teachers? Feel free to leave a comment below with your suggestions, tips and tricks on note taking in the classroom.