The Effects of Guided Notes on Undergraduate Students' Recording of Lecture Content

By Austin, Jennifer L.; Lee, Melissa et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2004 | Go to article overview
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The Effects of Guided Notes on Undergraduate Students' Recording of Lecture Content


Austin, Jennifer L., Lee, Melissa, Carr, Jeffrey P., Journal of Instructional Psychology


Notetaking is important for recording and remembering class content in most university courses. Despite the importance of this behavior, however, students are often poor notetakers. This study compared undergraduates' notes after traditional lecture, lecture with slides, and lecture with slides plus guided notes. Data on the percentages of critical points and examples, as well as number of extra points, which were recorded in student notes were collected for each set of student notes produced in each condition. Results indicated using slides with or without guided notes was superior to traditional lecture with regard to critical points and examples. However, improvements in note quality across all dependent measures were observed when guided notes were used.

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Despite the importance of quality notes as an aid to academic success, university students are notoriously poor notetakers who often fail to record even half of the critical points from a lecture (Baker & Lombardi, 1985). Though students' deficiencies might be the result of ineffective or nonexistent training in notetaking behavior, another plausible explanation is that the classroom environment does not consistently prompt the behaviors necessary to produce a complete and accurate set of notes. Some researchers have advocated the use of guided notes (e.g., Barbetta & Skaruppa, 1995) to ameliorate the latter problem. Guided notes are modified versions of the instructor's notes or slides that require students to fill in missing information as the lecture progresses. These notes give specific prompts as to when and where students should record key points from a lecture, thus providing an effective antecedent for evoking desired behavior.

Published research on guided notes has focused primarily on the effects of guided notes on students' recall of information as measured by tests and quizzes. The effects of guided notes on academic behavior have been demonstrated convincingly in several studies. For example, Hamilton, Seibert, Gardner, and Talbert-Johnson (2000) found that using guided notes during whole-group instruction improved academic performance of incarcerated juveniles (ages 13-18) in a detention center. Similarly, Lazarus (1991, 1993) found that the achievement of high school students with learning disabilities was higher when guided notes were used. Lazarus (1993) also demonstrated that guided notes were beneficial in increasing academic achievement of college-level students with learning disabilities. Austin, Lee, Thibeault, Carr, & Bailey, (2002) examined the effects of guided notes on undergraduate Psychology students' responding and recall of information and found that the use of guided notes increased the number of prompts given by the instructor and thus the number of verbal responses by the students. The latter two studies are particularly interesting because they used post-secondary students as participants, a group that has not been included in guided notes research frequently.

To date, only one study has assessed the effects on guided notes on the quality of the notes taken. Sweeney, Ehrhardt, Gardner, Jones, Greenfield, and Fribley (1999) compared the notes taken by developmentally disabled or limited English proficiency (LEP) high school students with and without the use of guided notes. Results indicated that students correctly recorded more concepts and got better quiz scores during guided notes conditions than when they took their own notes, despite the fact that visual aids (i.e., overhead transparencies) were used in both conditions. This finding is interesting in light of previous research on the impact of visual aids on accuracy of notetaking. For example, Locke (1977) concluded that students recorded a greater percentage of critical points from a lecture when points were written on the blackboard as opposed to being presented by spoken word alone. The results of Sweeney et al. suggest that notetaking skills may be further enhanced by the addition of guided notes.

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