The Office of Faculty Development

Note Taking

Note-taking is a skill that can be critical in the retention and success of undergraduate students.  Meta-analysis of effects on learning suggests that note-taking has a relatively strong effect on student learning outcomes (Marzano 1998).  

As with any skill, note-taking needs to be learned and developed over time.  Since there are usually no courses in “note-taking” in K-12 institutions, students should be explicitly supported in developing this skill in discipline-based courses (Kiewra 2002).  Considering that writing conventions and academic language vary significantly from the field of study to the field of study, it makes sense that students will learn a significant amount of their note-taking strategies during coursework.  By explicitly planning to support students in their note-taking, more equitable opportunities for academic success will be accessible to all students.

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    Examine selected research on multiple representations.

    Marzano, R. J., Pickering, Debra., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works : research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    Marzano, R. J. (1998). A theory-based meta-analysis of research on instruction (Vol. 10). Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory.

    Jansen, R.S., Lakens, D., & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (2017). An Integrative Review of the Cognitive Costs and Benefits of Note-Taking. Educational Research Review. 22 (November 2017), 223-233. in new window)

    Haydon, T., Mancil, G. R., Kroeger, S. D., McLeskey, J., Lin, W. J.  (2011). A Review of the Effectiveness of Guided Notes for Students who Struggle to Learn Academic Content.  Preventing School Failure,  55(4), 226-231. in new window)

    Holland, B. R.  (2017, November 27).  Beth R. Holland. Note Taking Editorials - Groundhog Day All Over Again in new window)

    Kiewra, K. A. (2002). How Classroom Teachers Can Help Students Learn and Teach Them How to Learn. Theory into Practice41(2), 71–80. in new window)


    Ready to apply note-taking supports to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    List ideas or strategies for application and outline of implementation steps.

    1. Take the time to frontload.  Teach students how to take notes for your course.
    2. Provide your own notes for student use.
    3. Invest some time to create advance organizers(opens in new window) or guided notes(opens in new window) for some of your class activities, lectures, or independent reading.
      1. Effective textbook reading is another acquired skill that students need to be successful academically.  Advance organizers can be used to support students in developing strategies to identify key ideas and analyze information from textbooks.
    4. Ask past students for exemplar student notes from your course or field and share these with your students on Blackboard or during class.
    5. Consider assigning note-taking as a graded assignment.  
      1. This should be viewed as an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback to students about their note-taking strategies as well as their understanding of the content.
      2. This should be low-stakes.
      3. This should not be used as a strategy to enforce compliance with a demand that they take notes
    6. Demonstrate and have students engage in a variety of note-taking strategies.  Consider:
      1. KWL Charts (opens in new window)
      2. What do you notice?  What do you wonder? (opens in new window)

    Comparison and relationship models such as Venn diagrams and concept maps(opens in new window).