Guided notes consistently linked to better outcomes in 13 studies

iStock_000021886001XSmall (1)Many teachers mistakenly assume their students are taking good notes of classroom discussions and lessons. But, often students lack the organizational and study skills to do this independently, says a recent study in Preventing School Failure.

Guided notes can improve the quality of note-taking and help increase student listening and participation during classroom discussion, according to this review of 13 studies. Guided notes are handouts prepared by the teacher that contain a map or outline of the lecture. The teacher leaves critical information blank that the student must complete. This critical information may consist of key facts, definitions, important concepts, and so forth

“The investigations that were included in this review revealed that guided notes consistently produced better outcomes than traditional note taking for a diverse range of students across K-12 and college settings,” the researchers report.

“This included improved test scores, improved accuracy of note taking, and, at least in one investigation, increased student responses during class.”

332 K-12 students in 13 studies

The 13 studies that met the researchers’ criteria for the review included a total of 332 K-12 student participants. Seventy-nine students had disabilities. Most (66%) had learning disabilities while 32% had emotional/behavior disorders and 3% had intellectual disabilities.

The studies looked at the impact of guided notes on quiz, exam or test scores, accuracy of note taking, student satisfaction with guided notes and with the number of student responses to teacher questions in class (verbal or written) compared with students who took notes without guided notes.

Guided notes probably benefit students because they are not preoccupied or distracted by trying to both determine which information in a lecture is important while also trying to accurately record this information, the researches write. If students have deficiencies in one or both of these behaviors, that could potentially have negative effects on student performance. Also, the students’ preoccupation with taking notes might interfere with them asking and answering questions or offering their ideas, the researchers write.

One strategy that teachers could use to improve the quality of independent notetaking is to begin the school year using guided notes, followed by a fading and reduction period during the following weeks. Teachers can use guided notes in combination with other instructional strategies such as response cards and choral responding or other modalities of instruction such as graphic organizers.

“As more students with disabilities are included into general education and university classrooms, there is a need for strategies that allow these students to reach the same goals as their typical achieving peers,” the researchers write.

“A Review of the Effectiveness of Guided Notes for Students who Struggle Learning Academic Content,” by Todd Haydon et al., Preventing School Failure, 2011, Volume 55, Number 4, pps. 226-231.

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