Importance Of Note Taking In Colleges Education Essay

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Introduction

Note-taking is a very important learning tool in college classroom. Boyd (2004) found that students who take notes perform better on exams than students who simply highlight text. Most instructors also wonder whether providing handouts to students is really useful for students or not. A survey by Isaacs in 1994 shows that 43% of academic staff often or always use handouts in the classroom, and they feel that handouts help students to take notes and allow them to listen and participate more in lecture. The issue of note taking makes college professors use presentation software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint and its related handouts. Although Microsoft PowerPoint is more popular in colleges, it also has negative impact on teaching and learning. For instance, Tufte (2003) argues that PowerPoint and other presentation software have reduced the quality of presentations and represent poor pedagogy.

This paper presents two studies which determine if supplementing Microsoft PowerPoint lectures with handouts of the slides improve test-taking performance in an undergraduate human development course. In the first study, it was expected that students who received the handouts would perform significantly better on exams than students who did not. Students were surveyed about their use of the PowerPoint handouts and perceptions of the degree to which the notes helped with exam performance. The second study assessed the learning styles of students in order to determine whether the learning styles with PowerPoint presentation handouts may affect student learning outcomes. It looked at the three learning styles: linguistic, visual-spatial, and bodily-kinesthetic.

Method

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For the first study in the fall semester, students in two sections of an upper level Human

Development course at a small Midwestern university participated in the current study.

Each section had 50 students who were demographically similar across sections. In the fall semester, the course was divided into thirds, with an exam given at the end of each third. Students were required to take one of the first two noncumulative exams, but the lower grade of the two was not computed into the final grade. The final cumulative exam was required of all students. At the beginning of class, Section 1 students were given hard-copy handouts to accompany the Power Point lectures for the second exam and the final; they were instructed not to show these handouts to students from Section 2. Section 2 students were given the handouts for the final third of the semester only. In the spring study, the procedure of the study was similar to the fall semester. However, students in both sections were asked to check as many items in the checklist of Multiple Intelligences Inventory for adults (Harper, 2005; Lazear, 1991), which characterized the ways they learned material.

Results

For both studies, there were no significant differences between the two sections on the test scores with the use of the PowerPoint handouts. As clearly seen, the mean exam score of the students given PowerPoint handouts is quite similar to the mean exam score of the students without PowerPoint handouts.

Survey Results and Qualitative Analyses

Responses to the survey show most students (79%) used the notes for studying for the final, 21% were very attentive to the PowerPoint projections along with the notes, 25% indicated that they had paid a lot of attention to the lecture along with the handouts, and 39% frequently wrote additional notes on the handouts. Similar to the fall semester study, the spring semester students were for the most part quite positive about receiving the handouts, as 75% indicated that the handouts were generally helpful, 75% felt that they were useful in preparing for tests, and 50% indicated that the handouts improved their listening to the lectures.

Discussion

Some findings show that the role of presentation handouts is really useful for students to enhance the test performance, but some do not. Although the findings seem to be strong, many factors to evaluate the use of this teaching technique. One factor is course content which may influence the learning outcomes in classes using PowerPoint. Another is that the effect that PowerPoint slides has on learning outcomes is not matched by students’ intuitive beliefs. Finally, the format of handouts does not provide complete sets of notes for students. Future research should examine such instructor effects in the use of PowerPoint handouts, as well as whether PowerPoint slides may be more effective for certain course content and not others. In some respects, the use of presentation software in the college classroom is one of those old controversies encased in new technological wrapping. Yet, it forces those of us who are actively involved in improving teaching and learning in higher education to articulate our assumptions and beliefs about what happens in and out of the classroom. To that end, there definitely is something to be gained in the continued use of the software and empirical exploration of its effects.

References

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Boyd, C. H. (2004, May). Comparison of highlighting and note-taking during a PowerPoint

lecture on test performance. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the

American Psychological Society, Chicago, IL.

Harper, W.S. (2005). Course materials for Plant and Soil Science. Unpublished document,

University of Vermont. Retrieved October 1, 2005 from

http://pss.uvm.edu/pss162/learning_styles.html

Isaacs, G. (1994). Lecturing practices and note-taking purposes. Studies in Higher Education,

19, 203-217.

Lazear, D. (1991). Seven ways of knowing. Teaching for Multiple Intelligences (2nd edition).

Palatine, IL: Skylight Publishing.

Noppe, I., Achterberg, J., Duquaine, L., Huebbe, M. & Williams, C. (2007). PowerPoint

presentation handouts and college student learning outcomes [Electronic version].

International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1). From

http://www.georgiasouthern.edu/ijsotl

Tufte, E. R. (2003). The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics

Press LLC.

Introduction

Note-taking is a very important learning tool in college classroom. Boyd (2004) found that students who take notes perform better on exams than students who simply highlight text. Most instructors also wonder whether providing handouts to students is really useful for students or not. A survey by Isaacs in 1994 shows that 43% of academic staff often or always use handouts in the classroom, and they feel that handouts help students to take notes and allow them to listen and participate more in lecture. The issue of note taking makes college professors use presentation software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint and its related handouts. Although Microsoft PowerPoint is more popular in colleges, it also has negative impact on teaching and learning. For instance, Tufte (2003) argues that PowerPoint and other presentation software have reduced the quality of presentations and represent poor pedagogy. This paper presents two studies which determine if supplementing Microsoft PowerPoint lectures with handouts of the slides improve test-taking performance in an undergraduate human development course. In the first study, it was expected that students who received the handouts would perform significantly better on exams than students who did not. Students were surveyed about their use of the PowerPoint handouts and perceptions of the degree to which the notes helped with exam performance. The second study assessed the learning styles of students in order to determine whether the learning styles with PowerPoint presentation handouts may affect student learning outcomes. It looked at the three learning styles: linguistic, visual-spatial, and bodily-kinesthetic.

Method

For the first study in the fall semester, students in two sections of an upper level Human

Development course at a small Midwestern university participated in the current study.

Each section had 50 students who were demographically similar across sections. In the fall semester, the course was divided into thirds, with an exam given at the end of each third. Students were required to take one of the first two noncumulative exams, but the lower grade of the two was not computed into the final grade. The final cumulative exam was required of all students. At the beginning of class, Section 1 students were given hard-copy handouts to accompany the Power Point lectures for the second exam and the final; they were instructed not to show these handouts to students from Section 2. Section 2 students were given the handouts for the final third of the semester only. In the spring study, the procedure of the study was similar to the fall semester. However, students in both sections were allowed to check as many items in the checklist of Multiple Intelligences Inventory for adults (Harper, 2005; Lazear, 1991), which characterized the ways they learned material.

Results

For both studies, there were no significant differences on the test scores with the use of the PowerPoint handouts. Table 1 shows the mean exam scores for two sections of the course. As clearly seen, the mean exam score of the students given PowerPoint handouts is quite similar to the mean exam score of the students without PowerPoint handouts.

Survey Results and Qualitative Analyses

Responses to the survey show most students (79%) used the notes for studying for the final, 21% were very attentive to the PowerPoint projections along with the notes, 25% indicated that they had paid a lot of attention to the lecture along with the handouts, and 39% frequently wrote additional notes on the handouts. Similar to the fall semester study, the spring semester students were for the most part quite positive about receiving the handouts, as 75% indicated that the handouts were generally helpful, 75% felt that they were useful in preparing for tests, and 50% indicated that the handouts improved their listening to the lectures.

Discussion

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Some findings show that the role of presentation handouts is really useful for students to enhance the test performance, but some do not. Although the findings seem to be strong, many factors to evaluate the use of this teaching technique. One factor is course content which may influence the learning outcomes in classes using PowerPoint. Another is that the effect that PowerPoint slides has on learning outcomes is not matched by students’ intuitive beliefs. Finally, the format of handouts does not provide complete sets of notes for students. Future research should examine such instructor effects in the use of PowerPoint handouts, as well as whether PowerPoint slides may be more effective for certain course content and not others. In some respects, the use of presentation software in the college classroom is one of those old controversies encased in new technological wrapping. Yet, it forces those of us who are actively involved in improving teaching and learning in higher education to articulate our assumptions and beliefs about what happens in and out of the classroom. To that end, there definitely is something to be gained in the continued use of the software and empirical exploration of its effects.