Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques in by WV05FP


									                                        Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques   1


                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques in

                   Middle School Advanced Science Classes

                               Jennifer Bowen

                           Valdosta State University
                                                  Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques          2


The researcher used two note-taking strategies with sixth-graders (N = 35), placed in verbatim or

summarizing conditions who were pre- and posttested. Students’ opinions of note-taking and

science indicated very little change. Pretests indicated that, while Class 1 had a higher mean

score, there was no significant difference in the groups; significant differences showed up in

posttest results and 9 weeks grades. Verbatim note-taking was more successful in increasing

achievement than summarizing. Evidence suggests that sixth-graders dealing with challenging

new content may not be able to listen, combine, and reduce ideas simultaneously. Also, the

closer the wording of class notes to the wording of the questions on teacher-made exams, the

more likely students will be able to answer correctly.
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                           Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques in

                            Middle School Advanced Science Classes

    When developing learning experiences for intellectually gifted and academically talented

(G/T) students, there are several important facts to remember. Rogers (2007) explained that they

require challenge on a daily basis in their personal talent areas, require opportunities to be unique

and work independently, should be provided acceleration of content and/or grade, need

opportunities to socialize and learn with students like themselves, and differentiation should be

provided in areas such as math and science. For this study, the researcher concentrated on

refining the parameters for a specific classroom activity, note-taking, and its application in sixth-

grade science classes of G/T students to find the best fit of pace, content, and organization.

   A rich vocabulary is essential to understanding scientific concepts. Unfortunately, sixth

graders often come to middle school from their respective elementary schools with a substantial

lack of vocabulary and skills required to understand much of their first specific science content

course, Earth Science. This situation is clearly evidenced by the scores on pretests given to all

students in the school system in this study at the beginning of each term. Sixth graders county-

wide had class averages in the 30-65% range, as reported on the system’s website. Scores were

used to plan varied learning experiences for the 9 weeks, at the end of which a posttest was given

and scores from several classes and schools compared. Science process skills are addressed

through inquiry opportunities, experiments, and projects, while some strategies used to increase

content vocabulary knowledge are teacher-directed note-taking, organizing information

graphically, reading and discussing sections of the text, and writing summaries of scientific

information. The second category of strategies is the focus of the current investigation, although

these strategies are not usually the most preferred activities of adolescents.
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    By middle school, students have already formed opinions of how a science class should, and

should not, be taught. An overwhelming number notified the researcher that, during the year

prior to the research, they hated taking notes, reading the text book, and taking tests in their fifth-

grade Science classes. These opinions were the bulk of the comments students provided as a

response to the question “What was your least favorite part of Science class last year?”

    While students complain about note-taking, most seem to have found some security with

keeping detailed notes in notebooks in terms of completing class assignments and keeping up

with content. Stencel (2001) detailed the use of a specially-designed notebook. Ninety percent of

surveyed students wanted similar notebooks for their other classes; 80% found summarizing

beneficial and indicated that the notebook helped them after an absence from class. Using the

notebook, which was similar to a workbook or lab manual, focusing and scenario sequencing

strategies could be employed.

    Focusing strategies included underlining, circling, color-coding, coloring diagrams, using

opener questions, adding new information, and correcting misinformation. Scenario sequencing

involved numbered diagrams and corresponding numbered labels in the text of the notebook,

coloring in using the overhead projector, and highlighting steps in a process. Many of these

techniques are employed in middle school science classes. Stencel’s notebook was set up to have

a left-hand empty columnar space for jotting notes and to have nothing printed on the back of

each page, essentially reserving it for additional jotting. The experimental condition of the

current study utilized a similarly-designed notes page with space set aside for jotting of ideas and

questions that students may have had over the course of a class period.

    Studies identify summarizing as one of the most successful teaching strategies for

comprehension. Having examined the instructional practices of teachers of Social Studies and
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Science classes, Ness (2007) reported that there was very little time devoted to instructional

strategies for reading comprehension, such as asking literal questions and having students write

summaries. These are just two of the eight recommended research-based strategies known to

improve comprehension discussed by the National Reading Panel, one of which was a major

intervention component of the current study. Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) combined

results from many sources into a document focused on the nine instructional strategies which

have the most profound effect on student achievement. The almost 300 references, many

originally published in the late 1980s and early 1990s, included empirical studies compared

using effect sizes. Summarizing and note-taking are described in detail as the strategy second

only in effectiveness to identifying similarities and differences.

    Guided note-taking, once a staple of science classrooms, was suggested in the year prior to

the current study as an integral component of academic classes by the local system’s curriculum

director. Wilson and Korn (2007) produced a review of studies addressing note-taking and

attention span observational research. The authors asserted that the literature did not support the

perpetuation of the 10-15 minute attention span in students. Within the article, Bligh (2000)

explained that more students will maintain interest for a longer time when the topic is interesting

and delivered with clarity, enthusiasm, and drama, with a cognitive break every now and then (as

cited in Wilson & Korn, 2007).

    The teacher must make a concerted effort to teach a process, in order for students to know

what to attend to, and this is time-consuming. A philosophy and English teacher, Toole (2000)

detailed an instructional process as a note-taking and summarizing partnership, the Guided

Lecture Procedure (GLP). GLP requires students to suspend all note-taking during an

approximate 20-minute lecture, with no writing utensil in hand and all books closed. Learners
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were encouraged to remember and understand as many of the ideas as they could. New

terminology was presented along with the objectives at the start of the lecture, and discussions

and questions were permitted during the lecture. Afterward, students wrote down all they

remembered for only 5-10 minutes and then formed small groups to compare, polish, and discuss

what they wrote for 10-15 minutes. Two or three students then proposed a question to the entire

class for discussion. Results, of course, varied from group to group. The researcher found that

requiring each learner to write a question before the group discussion forced several beneficial

results. Students seemed motivated to challenge each other’s ideas and to use what they had

learned to support their positions.

    A concern that existed in the early stages of the current study was discussed in an article by

Boyle (2007) who noted the difficulties of students with mild disabilities such as mental

retardation or emotional/behavioral disabilities in taking notes due to the use and alternation of

several cognitive processes in rapid succession. There are occasionally students in the Advanced

Content program that fall in one of these categories, not to mention the attention deficits often

found in highly able students. Cued lecture points are statements to alert students to important

points, pausing, or changing verbal intonation and were actively employed by the researcher in

both conditions of the study.

    Blair (2004) and Sanders (2007) addressed the types, uses, and development of note-taking

strategies. The four stages of any note-taking process include the following: storing, sorting,

summarizing, and selecting. Methods of note-taking included abridging and selections of

interest. Blair maintained that investigating the uses of note-taking helped address writing and

thinking , while Sanders focused on other issues involving note-taking. A transferable skill to the

real-world well worth the effort for students to learn and practice, note-taking requires that
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information should be easily re-read, shorter, in a personal style. Strategies suggested for

adequate and useful note-taking included writing legibly, using “your own words. . .unless you

want a pithy phrase or an illuminating quotation” (Sanders, 2007, p. 26), and using a key and

abbreviations. Suggested strategies the researcher considered adding to the current study

included encouraging students to code notes by adding subheadings, using different colors for

dates or individuals, making lists, drawing pinmen or smiley/grumpy faces, and using invented

(or sample) notes from previous students.

    Kabayashi (2006) completed a meta-analysis of 33 studies addressing student intentions of

how they will use notes. Many subjects demonstrated the intention to take notes in order to

review them later. Unfortunately, with this mindset, students missed opportunities to personally

and immediately process the information presented. Structured note-taking processes, such as the

use of frameworks or copies of the personal notes of the instructor, seemed to increase the effects

of the intervention. The investigator took these suggestions into account when presenting the

summarizing and note-taking tasks to students.

    Though students are aware of the “no pain – no gain” principle, it may not apply to their

experiences with note-taking. In a study led by Brown (2005), students in a British public school

responded to a questionnaire addressing their meta-cognitive awareness of note-taking

preferences and abilities. The researcher wondered if students had been instructed in strategies

useful in producing summaries of written material. Eighty percent of the students knew 5 or

more ways to take notes such as lists, note cards, 5-W format, webs, outlines, visuals like charts,

and double-column notes; 40% knew 6 ways. In other words, as often as students object to note-

taking and summarizing, they understand the purpose and are able to learn about many strategies

that do just that. Robinson, Odom, Hsieh, Vanderveen, and Katayama (2006) reported that while
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subjects recorded very little of the information presented, notes of a spatial nature were more

successful in raising achievement than forms that were more linear. For the current study, the

researcher used this idea to make sure that several types of notes were presented during the

classes, such as sequencing maps, webbing, cyclical processes, and myth versus reality.

    The middle school level is often a definitive opportunity for students to decide how they feel

about a subject, whether that be with dread, with joyful anticipation, or with indifference. Studies

of gifted/talented students, reviewed by researchers Raynieri, Gerber, and Wiley (2006),

indicated that the underachievement of gifted students may be a result of an incompatibility of

learning and teaching styles. Discussing the results of the study the researchers surmised that

student motivation to succeed was a larger influence on achievement than many environmental

aspects of the classroom. While techniques to achieve it are not detailed, teachers must be

diligent in searching for opportunities to encourage students to develop task commitment and

personal responsibility for their learning.

    It was especially important to this researcher to maintain or improve students’ interest in

learning activities using scientific ideas and processes as she would most likely have the same

students for the following two academic years. Accordingly, strategies such as the use of graphic

organizers would be employed through both conditions and over all of the three Science areas:

Earth, Life, and Physical. Robinson et al. (2006) reported that in experiments where students

completed partially complete graphic organizers (GOs) or studied complete GOs that covered

course content students were able to make connections within the content and increased

achievement. Note-taking involves two processes: encoding and external storage. GOs address

both aspects.
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    Crooks, White, and Bernard (2007) used two types of GOs and two note-taking strategies to

determine the combination most likely to affect retention of information and reported that

summarizing involved mental processes unrelated to those required for verbatim note-taking.

The researchers explained that succinct summaries helped learners to focus mostly on relevant

material because they entailed removing unnecessary modifiers, phrasing, and/or articles.

Elements of information shown closely together in time or in spatial proximity lead to greater

information recall. Davis and Hult (1997) also addressed this notion and utilized a summarizing

strategy where students took notes throughout a lecture and summarized them during 4-minute

pauses compared to a group that merely reviewed (not rewrote) their recorded notes during the

pauses. An additional (control) group recorded notes without pauses. Posttests evidenced

contradictory results especially when summary writing was stopped after a pause. The greatest

effect seemed to be that the summary group’s recall of the information did not decline over the

span of 12 days. The researchers commented that long-term study results of a quantitative nature

were indicated. The current study attempted to do just that, though on an admittedly small scale.

   The school in this research study is one of two public middle schools (not including the sixth-

eighth graders in a magnet program) in a rural area of Southeast Georgia. The school system had

an approximate high school dropout rate of 40% and was 15 years into a consolidation process

that combined a centralized, city school system and a wide-spread, county school system. There

were 7006 students in the system during the study time period. More than 450 of the 650

students at the school qualified for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program.

    The Advanced Content (previously labeled Honors) section of the school includes all five

academic areas (Math, Reading, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science) for students in

sixth – eighth grades and is a component of the system’s Gifted Education Program. Reviews of
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several curriculum models for the gifted have determined that though they had varying degrees

of research support, studies confirmed the outstanding effects of acceleration over enrichment, in

tandem with grouping, as well as the embedding of multiple higher-level thinking models and

inquiry-based strategies (VanTassel-Baska & Brown, 2007). The curriculum of the Advanced

Content classes was of a parallel design to support the Georgia Performance Standards which are

tested using Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) each spring as well as locally-

developed Gifted Education Goals.

    Neihart’s (2007) compilation of results from approximately 100 studies indicated that high-

ability students experience increase in achievement when grouped together. The 2 classes of

sixth graders involved in the current study were placed by administrators into the program using

Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) scores from Spring 2008 and recommendations

from elementary-level teachers. Academically gifted students were placed first with students

talented in math used to fill in the remaining spaces in the class (not to exceed 21 students). The

Advanced Content Program may have appeared homogeneous in design due to the use of CRCT

scores to select students, but the actual abilities of the students represented such a wide range of

abilities (some were strong in Social Studies and Reading but not Math, or Science and Math but

not Reading, for example) the teacher considered that the classes may be more of a

heterogeneous mix. It is generally accepted in the fields of Educational Psychology and Gifted

Education that due to the extreme high and low levels of student interest and motivation in

specific academic areas these students have, the ability range within a classroom of G/T students

is much wider than that of a classroom of average students.

    Sixth graders in the Advanced Content section were instructed in Earth Science in the first or

second period each day (for around 1 hour) in order to reduce the effects of teacher fatigue, food
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or drinks consumed by students, and variations of class period length. First and second periods

encompassed roughly approximately 50 minutes, while in the past third period had been almost 2

hours long, and sixth and seventh periods were only about 35 minutes in length.

    Racial groups represented include the following: Black students (13.9 %), Asian/Pacific

Islander students (2.8 %), and Multiracial students (5.6 %), while the remaining students are

White. Of the students in this grade, most were meeting or exceeding achievement levels in

several of the five fifth-grade CRCT sections from the previous spring.

    The local school system instituted a 3-year Twenty-First Century Technology program in the

fall of 2008. The investigator was part of the first stage, which involved the installation of a

SmartBoard and a digital projector. These tools were integral to instituting the experimental

condition which involved student summarizing of newly-presented Earth Science content.

    One goal for the study was to determine whether or not the preparation time required for

instruction with the SmartBoard and other technology efficiently produced positive results in

achievement. It was a risk, especially with the learning curve that must occur at the beginning of

the school year, but a previously unavailable opportunity existed that there would be enthusiastic

reactions from students to anything new. Debevec, Shih, & Kashyap (2006) worried that they

would be wasting valuable energy and resources in preparing presentations using multi-media.

Results suggested that technology use alone did not increase achievement. The current study

focused on collecting evidence of the effectiveness of two methods for presenting new

information to students. The researcher’s goal was to determine which method is the most useful,

time-efficient, and user-friendly (READ: appealing) to students.

    To determine whether or not note-taking skills can be taught, Faber, Morris, and Lieberman

(2000) instructed students on the use of the Cornell method of note-taking (rather than webbing,
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concept mapping, KWL, Power notes, or graphic organizers). The technique was chosen due to

its use of self-questioning which required students to process information in a meaningful way,

as opposed to verbatim notes which, due to its passive nature, did not. Regardless of ability,

comprehension of information presented and the ability to use the Cornell method were

increased, though researchers observed that the note-taking strategy was rarely applied to high-

interest passages reinforcing the idea that if the topic is interesting students naturally tune in.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for the teacher/researcher to predict what is interesting to an

audience as varied as a group of sixth-grade girls and boys who may be on two entirely different

planes of maturity.

    Summary frames were used by novice teachers Honnert & Bozan (2005) who determined

that discussion and application of information learned could not occur prior to instruction on

vocabulary skills, note-taking, and summarizing. A summary frame relied on questions to be

answered, and then combinations of the answers were arranged into summaries of a text section.

The authors claimed that the strengths of summary frames included an increase in the level of

questions asked and in the depth of discussion that resulted. In the current study, the researcher

used the summary frames idea to construct the summarizing page for one of the test groups. It

was assumed that a specific amount of time and energy would be necessarily devoted to specific

instruction of the strategy, its purpose, and its use, so an explanation and practice session was

planned for the beginning of the intervention.

    It is important to note that G/T students have tendencies to attribute their successes and

failures in predictable ways, ways which are different from average-achieving students. On a

questionnaire addressing various aspects of their academic lives, between 20 and 35% of

responses indicated ability as the main reason for success in math, science, language arts, and
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school in general (Assouline, Colangelo, Ihrig, & Forstadt, 2006, p. 287). Teachers strive to

instill and support students’ beliefs that success results from the fact that students are smart, in

addition to increased effort put toward their work, as the basis of achievement rather than

teacher/student personality interactions, luck, or task difficulty.

    Of course there may be ways to be “too positive” about the progress students make.

Kauffman’s 2004 study suggested that receiving positive feedback could hinder students’ beliefs

in their ability to succeed in school. Teachers must remember to not go overboard with praise,

particularly when dealing with students who are used to learning things quickly, as it may

cheapen their accomplishments in some way. The current study focused on empowering students

to learn in a way that was self-monitored, efficient, and that would affect long-term achievement,

rather than by temporarily memorizing lists of vocabulary words or random facts in the short

term for weekly quizzes or chapter tests.

    The researcher compared two strategies of presenting new information to students: 1)

highly-structured guided note-taking using full sentences to be recorded by students verbatim

and 2) loosely-structured summarizing opportunities after information is presented in condensed

phrases. In addition to the researcher being interested in the effects of a shift in responsibility for

recording and interpreting factual information from the teacher to students, it was predicted that

one strategy would allow for better retention of material plus greater gains in achievement. Both

strategies were accompanied by specific verbal explanation and elaboration from the teacher.

Research Questions

    Research question 1. Is the gain in achievement in a sixth-grade Science class greater with

traditional teacher-guided verbatim note-taking or with the presentation of bulleted phrases on

the SmartBoard paired with a summarizing strategy?
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    Research question 2. Is the time required for the teacher to prepare notes on the SmartBoard

more than that required to prepare verbatim notes from the text?

    Research question 3. What positive or negative changes occur in student attitudes of note-

taking and Science class when the two conditions are used to introduce new content?

Definition of Variables

    Achievement gain. Achievement gain for this study was determined by the net gain on a

posttest as compared to the 9-weeks pretest. Nine-weeks grades were also used.

    Verbatim note-taking. Verbatim note-taking is the process by which students record notes

presented (on the overhead projector in this case), exactly as the teacher has written them, onto

student-provided notebook paper. Information and facts come from the student textbook.

    Bulleted phrases. Bulleted phrases are facts from the text in their simplest forms. They come

from the verbatim notes used in the traditional (control condition) class but had punctuation,

articles, etc. removed. Phrases were shown within slides of multi-media presentations using a


    SmartBoard. A SmartBoard is an interactive computer-linked writing surface that is attached

to the wall of a classroom and serves as a multimedia tool when paired with a digital projector.

    Summarizing strategy. A summarizing strategy was a note-taking procedure presented to the

experimental condition class. Students were asked to combine and record ideas from the

presentation and/or create a graphic organizer to show how those ideas relate. A specially

designed notes page (see Appendix A) was provided to remind students of the steps they would

follow each instance that the SmartBoard was employed for note-taking.

   Attitudes. Attitudes toward the note-taking process and science class in general were gauged

using a teacher-created survey of Likert-type questions. The survey was administered at the
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beginning of the intervention as a baseline measure to determine to what degree the students

liked or disliked taking notes and being in a Science class. The instrument was administered

again at the end of the study to determine if opinions had changed either negatively, meaning the

students liked taking notes and/or Science even less than before the intervention, or positively,

indicating that students’ opinions of note-taking and /or Science had improved during the study.



    Sixth-grade students with parental permission (N = 35) from a grades 6-8 middle school in a

rural county in the southeastern part of Georgia (USA) participated in this study. Administrators

assigned students to the two classes who were identified gifted in elementary school or

academically talented based on CRCT scores at the end of fifth grade. Math and Science CRCT

results are shown in Table 1. Data from students who moved in, moved away, or who were

voluntarily withdrawn from the study were not included. Convenience sampling was used to

select participants.

Table 1

2008 CRCT Results Used to Screen for Participants in the Advanced Content Program

                                     Performance levels

                Less than 850              850-900                Greater than 900

           Math           Science   Math             Science    Math             Science

Class 1     0                   1    10                15         8                  2

Class 2     2                   7    16                10         0                  0
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    Demographic data are shown in Table 2. Cultural groups represented include the following:

Black students (14.3 %), Asian students (2.9 %), and Multiracial students (2.9 %), while the

remaining students were White. In the classes there were 21 females and 14 males; 5 were

identified as Gifted and counted toward the school’s FTE, while the other 30 were considered

academically talented. One student in Class 1 had been identified and included in the Special

Education program at the school.

Table 2

Demographic Data of Participants

                         Ethnicity                                        Gender

               Black     White       Asian      Multiracial        Female           Male

Class 1         2         14            1           0                 8                9

Class 2         3         14            0           1                13                5


    During the intervention stage of 40 days the note-taking opportunities were employed 10

times. Time required to prepare the notes for each class was also recorded. Class 1 (N = 17)

practiced note-taking in the traditionally teacher-lead (verbatim) style. Handwritten-overhead

transparencies and an overhead projector were used to show facts arranged in paragraphs on a

screen at the front of the room. Class 2 (N = 18) was presented the same information as Class 1;

however, it was typed in bulleted phrases on the smaller SmartBoard screen using the

PowerPoint program and a digital projector. While Class 1 recorded information in their personal

notebooks, exactly as the teacher had written it, paragraph by paragraph, Class 2 viewed the

presentation and were encouraged not to write any notes until the presentation of new material
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was complete. Class 2 was provided a specially-designed page (see Appendix A) to record

summaries of the notes, for construction of graphic organizers, and to propose questions that

could be discussed for better understanding of the topic Both classes were shown the same video

clips from the Weather Channel, heard explanations of the material by the teacher, and

participated in identical class activities such as quizzes, Ticket Out the Door (TOTD), science

fair project log entries, official project form completion, and portfolio writing assignments.

Data Collection Techniques

    Two classes of sixth graders participated. Data was collected using a pretest, a survey, a

posttest, and student grades for the first 9-weeks of the school year.

    Pretest and Posttest. On the fourth day of the term a science pretest was given to all middle

school students in the school system (see Appendix B). Questions on the pre-test were written by

teachers from several schools in the system and focused on determining the level of knowledge

students had prior to instruction addressing the first and second units of the year (Weather and

Oceans). The 35 item multiple-choice exam was entered and scored by the TestGate program,

and data were collected to determine baselines for both classes.

    Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data gathered for the pretest.

Means and standard deviations were computed for the two classes, and two-tailed t-tests were

used to determine if a difference already existed in the two groups at the start of the intervention.

At the end of the term a posttest was given, and results were compared in terms of improvement

from the pretest data. A mean improvement rating was computed for each class.

    Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data gathered for the posttest.

Means and standard deviations were computed for the two classes, and two-tailed t-tests were
                                                  Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques          18

used to determine if a difference in achievement gain existed in the two groups following the

intervention thereby indicating the more successful strategy for knowledge retention.

    Nine-weeks grades. Averages of academic grades for both classes over the 9 weeks were

compared, as well, to determine if either note-taking style (verbatim versus summary)

accompanied greater motivation to complete assignments or ensured greater accuracy leading to

higher grades overall.

    Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the 9-weeks report-card grades of

students. Means and standard deviations were computed for the two classes, and one-tailed t-

tests were used to determine if a difference in assignment completion and accuracy existed in the

two groups following the intervention, thereby indicating the more successful strategy for

supporting student motivation to work on assigned tasks.

    Survey on General Opinions of Note-taking and Science. A teacher-created Likert-type

attitudinal measure (see Appendix C) addressing students’ views of note-taking and Science

class in general was also administered at both the start and end of the study. The instrument was

reviewed by two university instructors and the IRB before administration. Prior parent

permission to participate in the survey was obtained, filed, and stored to ensure confidentiality

for students. Students chose a one- to five-digit code number to use in both administrations.

    Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data gathered from the survey.

Comparisons were made for the two administrations to determine if students’ opinions on note-

taking or Science class had changed. Means and standard deviations were computed for the two

classes, and two-tailed t-tests were used to determine if changes in the student views were greater

in one class than the other. One tailed t-tests were used to determine the direction of change

between the two groups at the end of the study.
                                                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques          19


    The purpose of this research was to determine the most efficient and effective style of note-

taking for use in sixth-grade Science classes. Results of this study were based on the researcher’s

analysis of the data: participant’s scores on an Earth Science pretest and posttest, an attitudinal

measure addressing the opinions of students on Science class in general as well as note-taking

was used to determine baseline attitudes and changes over the course of the study, and grades for

each student were compared to determine if one style of note-taking allowed for a higher rate of

retention of information (as evidenced on assignments such as quizzes and tests) as well as

motivating participants to turn in assignments completely (as evidenced on daily grades such as

labs, practice pages, writing assignments, and science fair project components).

Table 3

Pretest and Posttest Scores Reported as Percentages

                       N                 M               SD           t-value          p

Class 1 Pretest        16              48.19             9.66         1.95            .06

Class 2 Pretest        16              40.00             8.27

Class 1 Posttest       14              61.00             9.01         3.17            .004**

Class 2 Posttest       17              48.24             12.64

Class 1 Improvement                    14.15             10.05        .98             .34

Class 2 Improvement                    9.29              15.09

*p < .05, **p < .01

   Means and standard deviations of scores on benchmark pretests and posttests are given in

Table 3. To determine which curricular standards to address over the time period of the study

and establish baseline knowledge for the students of each class, pretests were given, scored and
                                                            Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques             20

compared. Mean scores on the pretest for various student populations included the following:

36.64 for the district and 33.87 for the school. The mean pretest score for Class 1, the class that

used a traditional note-taking method, (M = 48.19) was not significantly lower (t(30) = 1.95, p =

.06) than the mean pretest score for Class 2, the summarizing group (M = 40). The groups

appeared to be comparable in terms of prior knowledge at the beginning of the study.

     Mean scores on the posttest for the different student groups included the following: 48.77 for

the district and 40.02 for the school. The mean posttest score for Class 1 (M = 61.00) was

significantly higher (t(29) = 3.17, p = .004) that the mean posttest score for Class 2 (M = 48.24).

Mean percentage of improvement, or gain in achievement, for Class 1 (M = 14.15) was not

significantly higher (t(25) = .98, p = .34) than the mean percentage of improvement for Class 2

(M = 9.29). Posttest evidence indicates a greater amount of information was recalled by the

verbatim group, Class 1.

     Curriculum standards mastered at the 100% level were posted by number and letter code on

the walls of the classroom for both classes. Initials of students were used to track individual

progress toward mastery. Posttest results were used to update the charts.

Table 4

Pretest and Posttest Standards Mastery

                                     Percentage of Improvement by Group

Class                                                 Standards

           C.S6E2.c 3.a 3.b     3.c 3.d     4.a 4.b    4.c 5.f    5.j   6.a    M       SD     t-value    p

Class 1         2     25   3    15     19   25    4    33    -3   3     5     11.90   11.99    1.24     .23

Class 2         4     7    15   11      2   6    20    13 -16     -2    8     6.18    9.61

School         –8     2    7    11     10   6    7      9    -3    2     4    4.27    5.76

District       -13    12   15   21     10 12     12    19     0    4    15    9.73    9.63

*p < .05. **p < .01
                                                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques           21

    Means and standard deviations of improvement by standard are shown in Table 4. Mean

improvement on curriculum standards in Class 1 (M = 11.90) was not significantly different

(t(20) = 1.24, p = .23) from the mean improvement per standard of Class 2 (M = 6.08). Students

were informed of their posttest percentage scores, but not their pretest scores, since the former

would not be used as a component of grade computation.

Table 5

Nine-Weeks Grades Comparison

                       M                      SD                     t-value                   p

Class 1                95.29                  3.75                    3.22                   .003**

Class 2                86.22                  11.02

*p < .05. **p < .01

    Means for 9-weeks grades in each class are shown in Table 5. This result was used to gauge

the motivation effects of the two note-taking styles. The mean grade average for Class 1 (M =

95.29) was significantly higher (t(33) = 3.22, p = .003) than the mean grade average for Class 2

(M = 86.22). Evidence suggested that verbatim note-taking in Science class was more motivating

and allowed for more accuracy and completion of assignments than summarization note-taking.

Table 6

Comparison of Pre-and Post Intervention Survey Reponses Averaged and Shown by Class

                                              Class 1                         Class 2
                                         August       October           August       October

                                       M      SD       M     SD        M        SD     M        SD

Q 1 Note-taking is important for    3.59      1.18    3.95   1.27    4.50       .63   4.18     1.33
    understanding Science concepts.

Q 2 Science is my favorite class this 3.71    1.05    3.53   1.07    3.59      1.46   3.12     1.62
                                                 Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques        22

Q 3 Science was my favorite class    2.71    1.36   2.95    1.65   3.00    1.58   2.65    1.77
    last year.

Q 4 If I write things down in my      3.88    .78   3.37    1.38   4.53     .80   4.00    1.22
    notebook I will study them later
    for quizzes and tests.
Q 5 I can write things down so that 4.00     1.00   3.72    1.32   4.44     .81   3.76    1.52
    I know for sure that I understand
Q 6 Learning science vocabulary is 3.63      1.20   3.00    1.11   4.00     .94   3.65    1.22
    easy for me.

Q 7 I am confident (not worried)   3.88       .93   4.00     .88   4.25    1.00   3.47    1.28
    that I will do well in Science
    this year.
Q 8 When I don’t write things down 3.00      1.27   3.72    1.27   3.31    1.62   3.76    1.39
    I forget them.

Q 9 I remember things better when 3.82       1.07   3.84    1.42   3.12    1.69   3.47    1.64
    I hear or see them than when I
    write them down.
Q 10 I write quickly enough to be 2.71       1.36   2.68    1.29   3.41    1.91   2.76    1.64
    able to listen to the teacher,
    record a fact, and understand it.

Q 11 I write neatly enough to be     4.29    1.16   4.63     .60   4.65     .70   4.53     .80
    able to read and understand
    what I wrote later on.

    Means and standard deviations of items on the survey are shown in Table 6. The attitudinal

measure included 11 Likert-style questions with responses ranging from 1-5 including “I

REALLY disagree” as the lowest possible answer category and “I TOTALLY agree” as the

highest possible answer category. Pre-intervention data were collected during the first week of

school and compared to post-intervention responses to determine if students’ opinion of science,

in general, and/or note-taking, specifically, had changed. In August, Class 1 responses averaged

highest (M = 4.29) for Q 11 and lowest (M = 2.71) for Q 3 and Q 10, while Class 2 responses

averaged highest (M = 4.65) on Q 11 and lowest (M = 3.00) for Q 3. In October, Class 1
                                                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques            23

responses averaged highest (M = 4.63) for Q 11 and lowest (M = 2.68) for Q 10, while Class 2

responses averaged highest (M = 4.53) for Q 11 and lowest (M = 2.65) for Q 3. Evidence

suggests very little change in attitudes for students from the beginning to the end of the study.

    Many students had confidence in their own writing legibility and did not consider it to be a

hindrance to understanding ideas throughout the study. While Science was not always considered

a favorite class the prior academic year, the general opinion during the study remained positive

and dropped more (around .5) in Class 2 than in Class 1. Students in Class 1 showed an increase

in agreement with Q 1 from August (M = 3.59) to October (M = 3.95) while Class 2 showed an

increase in disagreement with the same statement from the beginning of the study (M = 4.50) to

the end (M = 4.18). Student responses for Q 9 varied the least from August to October, indicating

that students’ categorizations of themselves as auditory and visual learners or as verbal learners

had changed very little.



    Is the gain in achievement in a sixth-grade Science class greater with traditional teacher-

guided verbatim note-taking or with the presentation of bulleted phrases on the SmartBoard

paired with a summarizing strategy? Results of this study indicated that students in the first

semester of Advanced Earth Science benefited more from verbatim note-taking than from the

summarization of new information. The responsibility of choosing important facts to record and

study lies on the teacher rather than the students due to the lack of background information from

elementary school science classes.

    As in Stencel’s (2001) work, students tended to respond positively to highly structured

teaching methods. In contrast to the work of Kabayashi (2006), although neither class had mean
                                                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques             24

scores indicating group mastery, verbatim note-taking was the more successful strategy for

improvement from the pretest to the posttest. While somewhat in synch with the findings of

Marzano et al. (2001), students in the summarizing section probably had no idea what

information to focus on, since almost every topic may have been somewhat brand new to them.

They possibly had too few notes to study and were at a disadvantage in terms of tests and


    Results of the current study suggest that in order for students to effectively understand

abstract Earth Science concepts and vocabulary, direct teaching and guided note-taking are


    Is the time required for the teacher to prepare notes on the SmartBoard more than that

required to prepare verbatim notes from the text? Like Debevec et al (2006), the researcher was

interested in comparisons of preparation time required for each condition. Unfortunately, results

were inconclusive due to lack of data. Pre-written transparencies for the verbatim notes were

reused from previous years and thereby required no time at all to produce, and the amount of

time to produce multimedia presentations for Class 2 was not consistently recorded. Often

presentations for several topics and additional classes were being prepared simultaneously, so to

single out the time required for just one was not possible. In any case, having utilized it in the

study and for other classes, the researcher considers the technology more as a help in the

classroom than a nuisance.

     What positive or negative changes occurred in student attitudes of note-taking and Science

class when the two conditions are used to introduce new content? The consistency of student

responses on the attitudinal measure indicated that student opinions on their own note-taking and

science ability were stable at this grade level, that the class or content was generally more
                                                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques           25

appealing to them in the middle school level that at the elementary level, learning vocabulary

was considered easy, and that note-taking is an important learning strategy for this subject.

   While the work of Wilson and Korn (2007) refutes the idea of a universal short-attention

span, it is possible that the students in the study were distracted or overwhelmed by the amount

of information being presented and were subsequently unable to multi-task effectively to the

degree required for summarizing, as indicated by higher mean scores for students in the verbatim

condition. Sixth graders have not been exposed to the kind of science study that is traditionally

found at the middle and high school levels but very rarely in elementary schools. Science-only

teachers may have more enthusiasm for the subject, more experience teaching it, and maybe

more education in the subject, so sixth graders arrive at a deficit in science that they may not

have in reading or math, which may be more popular and well-addressed subjects in their

previous schools. The science vocabulary used by teachers may be different as well, resulting in

a difficult transition from elementary to middle-school science classes.

Factors Influencing Implementation

    While the researcher attempted to observe everyone closely, it was impossible to monitor

each student in the experimental (Class 2) group during note-taking. As discussed by Boyle

(2007) difficulties in multi-tasking exist more prevalently in some groups than others, including

students with emotional and behavioral problems. Several students resisted waiting for the

completion of the presentation to record information, though they had been informed that

recording facts verbatim would interfere with the experiment they were participating in. The

researcher’s attention was occasionally on the use of the new and somewhat daunting technology

than on stopping students from recording information exactly as it appeared on the SmartBoard.
                                                   Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques           26

    While students in neither class as a whole scored at what the researcher considers an

acceptable proficiency level, it is possible that there are other factors at work besides the note-

taking strategies addressed so far. Frustration with the technology at times may have been a

distraction for the students in the summarizing group. In addition, as in the work of Raynieri et

al. (2006), the underachievement of the summarizing group may be a result of a mismatch of

teaching and learning styles for the teacher and the students. The summarizing group included

included far fewer males than the verbatim group, and it is possible that the learning styles of the

females in that class were not being addressed and so had a greater effect on the mean score of

the class than if there had been a more balanced gender grouping.

Implications and Limitations

   While evidence exists that highly able students achieve more when grouped with others like

themselves (Vantassel-Baska & Brown, 2007, Neihart, 2007), students screened for high scores

on the CRCT in Math are not necessarily prepared for advanced content in Science. The classes

were not assigned in the same manner, as there were twice as many gifted children in the

verbatim class than in the summarizing class. It is the intention of the researcher to use the

results of this study to further encourage screening of students for the Advanced Content

program on the basis of each academic area separately and to either put all the gifted students in

one class or to evenly divide them among the two classes.

    As in most studies of this nature, further research is needed to identify the most effective

components of guided note-taking for Science students at the middle school level. While the

researcher is confident that verbatim note-taking is a key element, development of the ability to

summarize must not be ignored. Depending on the make-up of the class and learning styles

present within, the best method may be to incorporate elements of both strategies, or to vacillate
                                                  Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques           27

between them on a regular basis. In an ideal world, students would be able to differentiate the

most appropriate method for themselves, a task even college students are notoriously unable to

do. Perhaps scheduled pauses, such as in the work of Davis and Hull (1997), would allow for

processing of information and help students avoid overload. If a longer class period were

provided this strategy would certainly become an option.
                                                  Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques         28


Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., Ihrig, D., & Forstadt, L. (2006). Attributional choices for

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                                      Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques   31

                                 Appendix A
Summary of New Information                     Name: _______________

                                               Date: ________________
Today’s topic is: _________________________

Summarize today’s big idea here:

List and explain any major vocabulary (1-3 words) important to
      understanding the topic here:

Draw a graph or graphic organizer that goes along with this topic here:
                                       Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques   32

Record any questions you have about today’s topic here:

                                Appendix B
                           Earth Science Pretest 1
Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques   33
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                                                          Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques   46

Appendix C
Questionnaire for Ms. Bowen’s College Class Project

Student number: _______ Gender: M                or   F      Age: _______          Date: ___________
                                        Circle one

Please fill out the blanks above. You will not be graded on this, but you will be helping your
teacher do a better job for you. Thanks.

Below are some questions about Science class. Circle the best answer. Use this scale:
               1              2                  3                4                5
           I REALLY                 I sorta           I am not sure.     I sorta       I TOTALLY
             disagree.             disagree.                                       agree.     agree.

a. Note-taking is important for understanding               1       2      3           4   5
       Science concepts.

b. Science is my favorite class this year.                  1       2      3           4   5

c. Science was my favorite class last year.                        1      2            3   4      5

d. If I write things down in my notebook I will                    1      2            3   4      5
         study them later for quizzes or tests.

e. I can write things down so that I know for               1       2      3           4   5
       sure that I understand them.

f. Learning science vocabulary is easy for me. 1                    2      3           4   5

g. I am confident (not worried) that I will do                     1      2            3   4      5
       well in Science this year.

h. When I don’t write things down I forget them. 1                  2      3           4   5

i. I remember things better when I hear or see 1                    2      3           4   5
        them than when I write them down.

j. I write quickly enough to be able to listen to the              1      2            3   4      5
         teacher, record a fact, and understand it.
                                              Comparisons of Note-Taking Techniques   47

k. I write neatly enough to be able to read and 1         2    3      4       5
        understand what I wrote later on.
                                         Appendix D
                                  Earth Science Posttest 1
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