Laptop? Or the good old pen and paper?

We are so sorry it has been a while since we last updated our News section! It has been really crazy here at Dolph Business School with some new developments on the horizon. We can’t wait to be able to share it with you all soon! In the meantime, we came across this really interesting article – about note taking – that we think you might find interesting!

The way you take notes affects your learning

Do you usually take your notes on your laptop? Or do you prefer the good old pen and paper? This recently published study in Psychological Science by Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how note-taking by hand or by computer affects your learning.

As laptops become smaller and more portable, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there’s a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way. The research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it’s so easy to click over to Facebook or Twitter during a dry lecture. Surprisingly, the fact that it is slower to take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run.

There are two hypotheses as to why note-taking is beneficial in the first place. The first idea is called the encoding hypothesis, which says that when a person is taking notes, “the processing that occurs” will improve “learning and retention.” The second, called the external-storage hypothesis, is that you learn by being able to look back at your notes, or even the notes of other people. Because people can type faster than they write, using a laptop will make people more likely to try to transcribe everything they’re hearing. So on the one hand, Mueller and Oppenheimer were faced with the question of whether the benefits of being able to look at your more complete, transcribed notes on a laptop outweigh the drawbacks of not processing that information. On the other hand, when writing longhand, you process the information better but have less to look back on.

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,” Mueller tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.” Mueller and Oppenheimer cited that note-taking can be categorised two ways: generative and non-generative. Generative note-taking pertains to “summarising, paraphrasing, concept mapping,” while non-generative note-taking involves copying something verbatim.

First study

For their first study, they took university students and showed them TED talks about various topics. Afterward, they found that the students who used laptops typed significantly more words than those who took notes by hand. When testing how well the students remembered information, the researchers found a key point of divergence in the type of question. For questions that asked students to simply remember facts, like dates, both groups did equally well. But for “conceptual-application” questions, such as, “How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?” the laptop users did “significantly worse.”

Second study

The same thing happened in the second study, even when they specifically told students using laptops to try to avoid writing things down verbatim. “Even when we told people they shouldn’t be taking these verbatim notes, they were not able to overcome that instinct,” Mueller says. The more words the students copied verbatim, the worse they performed on recall tests.

Third study

In the third study, when they tested the external-storage hypothesis, they gave students the opportunity to review their notes in between the lecture and test. The thinking is if students have time to study their notes from their laptops, the fact that they typed more extensive notes than their longhand-writing peers could possibly help them perform better. However, the study proved that the students taking notes by hand still performed better. “This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external storage as well as superior encoding functions,” Mueller and Oppenheimer wrote.

Having said all that, in some cases it really depends on the course you are taking. If you are currently studying an accounting or bookkeeping course, there is not much done that isn’t on a computer these days. So while a pen and paper will be great for taking notes, you will still be doing the majority of your work on a computer.

You can read more about the full study here.

Source: NPR

We hope you are all not overwhelmed revising and preparing for your exams! Remember, if it does get too overwhelming, a break could just be the thing you need!

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