Unformatted text preview: Learning Disabilities Research
Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16(3), 133–141
Copyright C 2001, The Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children The Effects of Strategic Notetaking on the Recall and Comprehension of
Lecture Information for High School Students with Learning Disabilities
Joseph R. Boyle
Virginia Commonwealth University Mary Weishaar
Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville
This investigation examined the effects of strategic notetaking on the recall and comprehension
of high school students with learning disabilities (LD) or educable mental retardation (EMR).
Twenty-six students with high incidence disabilities (LD or EMR) were randomly assigned
by grade and disability to either an experimental or control group. Using strategic notetaking,
students in the experimental group were taught to independently take notes while viewing a
videotaped lecture. Students who were taught strategic notetaking scored signiﬁcantly higher on
measures of immediate free recall, long-term free recall, comprehension, and number of notes
recorded than students in the control group who used conventional notetaking. The limitations
of the research and implications of this technique for classroom application are discussed. Notetaking during lectures serves two fundamental purposes:
it aids student understanding of lecture points and it serves
to preserve lecture information, in the form of notes, for
later study. Researchers (Aiken, Thomas, & Shennum, 1975;
Bretzing & Kulhavy, 1979; DiVesta & Gray, 1972; Kiewra,
1984) have long demonstrated that student notetaking during
lectures is advantageous for increasing comprehension and
improving later recall of information. For example, students
who took notes increased their attention to lecture material
(Kiewra, 1987), were actively engaged in lectures (DiVesta
& Gray, 1972), paraphrased and elaborated on lecture information (Suritsky & Hughes, 1996), sought to clarify their understanding of confusing points (Ruhl & Suritsky, 1995), and
increased their test performance of lecture material (Peper &
Taking notes not only allows students to become actively
involved in lectures; notes also serve as a written document
that aids students during review and preparation for tests
(Henk & Stahl, 1985). This aspect is particularly important
for secondary students with LD because research by Putnam
and others (Putnam, Deshler, & Schumaker, 1993) has shown
that in secondary content classes almost half of a student’s
grade was derived from test scores. Moreover, according to
these researchers, teachers reported that “their lectures were
the major source of information on which test questions were
based” (p. 340). Because lectures are the primary mode of Requests for reprints should be sent to Joseph R. Boyle, Virginia Commonwealth University, Division of Teacher Education, 1015 West Main
Street, P.O. Box 842020, Richmond, VA 23284-2020. learning in secondary classes and notetaking serves such a
vital link between acquiring information and earning high
grades (Putnam et al., 1993), it is essential that students with
LD become proﬁcient notetakers.
Despite the importance of listening comprehension and
notetaking in secondary classes for students with LD, these
students often exhibit deﬁcits in written language and other
related areas (Schumaker & Deshler, 1984). In the area of
written language research and students with LD (Graham
& Harris, 1993; Hughes & Smith, 1990), a preponderance
of evidence suggests that written language is one of the
most difﬁcult academic areas for students to master. From
the simplest writing skills, such as spelling, punctuation,
and legible writing (Hughes & Smith, 1990; Poteet, 1979),
to higher level strategic skills, such as detection of writing errors and planning for writing (Ellis & Colvert, 1996;
Graham & Harris, 1993), researchers have consistently documented written language deﬁcits in students with LD. Not
only do these lower level skills in themselves interfere with
notetaking, low level skills also interfere with higher level
strategic processing. For example, in 1992 when Suritsky interviewed students with LD, they reported that lower level
skills such as spelling and handwriting often slowed down
their writing speed, which further added to their problems
of keeping up with the lecturer. On a higher, metacognitive level Suritsky (1992) noted that students often reported
that they took notes in a verbatim fashion, an impossible
method for even the most proﬁcient, nondisabled student.
Moreover, when asked what strategies should be used to
take better notes, few students reported effective and efﬁcient
techniques. 134 BOYLE AND WEISHAAR: STRATEGIC NOTETAKING FOR HS STUDENTS In addition to these written language deﬁcits closely associated with notetaking, Suritsky (1992) and Hughes and
Suritsky (1994) reported additional deﬁcits in the area of
notetaking skills. From Suritsky’s (1992) research, students
with LD reported that they had difﬁculty deciding what information was the most important to record and they reported difﬁculty paying attention to the lecturer. In quantiﬁable terms, Hughes and Suritsky (1994) conﬁrmed student’s
self-reports. For example when compared to their nondisabled peers, students with LD overall produced fewer units
of recorded information (i.e., more incomplete notes) and
even when given explicit instructor cues about important information, recorded fewer of these “cued” lecture points. For
most students with LD, the overall effects of missing cued
information and recording incomplete notes has immediate
repercussions not only for their understanding of lecture information, but also for later effects on remembering and recalling information for tests.
As suggested by the literature, a number of approaches
(e.g., providing students with notetakers, modifying the lecture style of the speaker, etc.) can be taken to help students with LD compensate for their notetaking deﬁcits. First,
instructors could provide students with notetakers who would
record notes for them. Although this method is commonly
used for students with LD, its main drawback is that these
students assume a passive learning mode during the lectures,
thereby missing the beneﬁts of being actively involved in lectures (Ruhl et al., 1990). In addition, students who assume
this passive mode of learning may ask fewer questions about
confusing information (Ruhl, Hughes, & Gajar, 1990) and
may encode few units of information to long-term memory because they are not actively processing information
(DiVesta & Gray, 1972). Second, instructors could modify
their method of presentation, such as speaking at a slower
rate, pausing more frequently during lectures, providing students with outlines or copies of their notes, and providing
more verbal and nonverbal cues for important lecture points
(Suritsky & Hughes, 1996). Although these techniques would
be helpful for all students, general education teachers are often reluctant to make changes in their teaching or presentation
mode (McIntosh, Vaughn, Schumm, Haager, & Lee, 1993;
Schumm & Vaughn, 1991). In fact, most general education
teachers often have to cover vast quantities of information in
order for students to smoothly transition to more advanced
courses (Bulgren & Lenz, 1996; Schumm & Vaughn, 1991;
Schumm, Vaughn, Haager, McDowell, Rothlein, & Saumell,
1995), an effort that would be hampered by having to slow
down their presentation modes. Third, a more efﬁcient approach to notetaking would be to teach students with LD
notetaking strategies and techniques. Teaching these “student
approaches” would be initially time intensive for teachers;
however, these techniques can be used over a long period of
time and often will generalize to multiple settings, such as
general education classes, making the initial time investment
worthwhile. In addition, these student approaches would not
require general education teachers to make many adjustments
in their lecture style or content.
A review of the literature has revealed few student notetaking techniques and strategies to enhance the skills of
students with LD. Of the strategies offered for students with LD, Suritsky and Hughes (1996) have suggested two speciﬁc learning strategies: AWARE and LINKS. According to
Suritsky and Hughes (1996), an investigation of the AWARE
strategy found that it was effective at increasing the number
of cued lecture points in notes and overall completeness of
notes for nine college students with LD.
Other notetaking techniques have been reported in the
literature and two, the columnar format and guided notes,
have been empirically investigated and found to be effective
for students with LD. The columnar format has been suggested by Saski, Swicegood, and Carter (1983) as a possible
method to improve the notetaking skills of students with LD
during lectures. However, this technique was not empirically
assessed during lectures; instead it was used by students as
they read passages (Horton, Lovitt, & Christensen, 1991).
While the results show that this technique was effective at increasing comprehension, its effectiveness during lectures has
yet to be assessed. The only other research-based notetaking
technique was guided notes (Lazarus, 1991). In this investigation, six high school students with LD were trained to
use the guided notes format while listening to tape-recorded
lectures. According to the author, once students were trained
to use guided notes, they exhibited greater gains on tests than
when using their conventional notetaking technique. Lazarus
also noted greater gains when students used guided notes in
conjunction with a short review period.
As evidenced by the literature, only two techniques
(guided notes by Lazarus (1991) and the AWARE strategy by
Suritsky and Hughes (1996)) have been reported as researchbased notetaking techniques for students with LD to use during lectures. While other notetaking techniques have been
suggested, the dearth of published, research-based, studentoriented techniques or strategies is surprising in light of the
evidence emphasizing the importance of notetaking skills for
junior and high school students with LD (Putnam et al., 1993).
Because of the need to examine notetaking techniques that
promote active engagement during notetaking for students
with LD during lectures, this study sought to assess the effects
of strategic notetaking on the performance of high school
students with LD. More speciﬁcally, we sought to determine
the effects of strategic notetaking on immediate free recall
measures, long-term free recall measures, comprehension
measures, and overall length of notes for students with LD.
In this particular study, we decided to count the number of
words rather than information (or idea) units (IU). Our reasoning behind this was that past research (Kiewra & Fletcher,
1984) has shown that there was a signiﬁcant correlation between the total number of words recorded in notes and test
performance. In addition, we decided to count vocabulary
words to ensure the validity of our word count.
Subjects and Design
The sample (Table 1), as described by recommendations set
forth by the 1993 Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD)
Research Committee (1993), consisted of 26 high school students, 22 of whom were categorized as learning disabled (LD) LEARNING DISABILITIES RESEARCH
Characteristics of the Control and Experimental Groups
(N = 13)
LD Mean Full Scale
EMR Mean Full Scale
Wide Range Achievement Test:
LD Mean Reading Score
EMR Mean Reading Score
LD Mean Math Score
EMR Mean Math Score
LD Mean Writ. Lang. Score
EMR Mean Writ. Lang. Score
LD Mean CBM Idea Units
EMR Mean CBM Idea Units
(SD) Experimental Group
(N = 13) 11
(1.0) ∗ Scores from 3-minute writing sample—number of idea units.
Note. EMR is deﬁned as signiﬁcantly subaverage general intellectual
functioning existing concurrently with deﬁcits in adaptive behavior and
manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affect a child’s
LD is deﬁned as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological
processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written,
that manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write,
spell, or do mathematical calculations (IDEA Regulations, 34 C.F.R. 300.7). and 4 of whom were categorized as educable mentally handicapped (EMR). All of the students were enrolled in a special education English or science class. Using an experimental group-control group design (Kerlinger, 1986), students in
10th through 12th grade were randomly assigned by grade and
disability to either a control or experimental group, with each
group comprised of 13 students. The original sample size consisted of 29 students, but through attrition was reduced to 26,
due to nonattendance during training and testing sessions.
The sample included only those students who were identiﬁed as LD or EMR by the local school district and Illinois 135 State Board of Education guidelines. Students identiﬁed
as LD had documentation of a signiﬁcant deﬁcit between
achievement and IQ scores, as speciﬁed in 23 Illinois Administrative Code Part 226 (2000). Similarly, students identiﬁed as EMR displayed subaverage IQ and adaptive behavior
scores. We did not question the categorical label assigned to
the students, but instead relied upon the district for properly
identifying students as either LD or EMR.
In order to ensure that both the experimental and control
groups (no treatment group) were equivalent, an initial t-test
was conducted. The results from this initial analyses found no
signiﬁcant difference between the two groups on IQ scores,
nor were there any signiﬁcant differences between the two
groups on (pretreatment) writing sample scores.
The students attended a large high school (approximately
2,000 students) in a rural district bordering a large metropolitan area in the Midwest. Each special education classroom
was staffed with a special education teacher and a paraprofessional, both of whom were present throughout the study.
The teachers did not directly participate in any component of
the training. The investigators conducted all training throughout the study.
Two videotaped lectures were used in this study, one for training and the other for the testing session. As a control for student’s prior knowledge, lecture topics were drawn from Scientiﬁc American magazine. (The articles were about desert
frogs and Sican metal workers.) We assumed that students
did not have knowledge of these topics. The videotaped lectures ranged from 26 to 30 minutes in length and began by
the instructor introducing the topic and informing students
to begin taking notes on his cue. The lectures were presented
at an average rate of 110 words per minute on one 25-inch
color television monitor. The videotaped lectures simulated
typical high school lectures in that they were all presented by
the same lecturer and, with the exception of a few vocabulary words on the board (10 per lecture), they were auditory
The independent variable was strategic notetaking. (An abbreviated version of the strategic notetaking form is presented
in Figure 1.) In this study there are two levels of the independent variable. The ﬁrst level includes students who received the strategic notetaking and the second includes those
students in the no-treatment group. Strategic notetaking involved training students to use this “cued” form. Because
using metacognitive skills, such as organizing information
and combining new with prior knowledge, are believed to aid
comprehension during learning (Palincsar & Brown, 1984),
the written prompts for the notetaking form were developed 136 BOYLE AND WEISHAAR: STRATEGIC NOTETAKING FOR HS STUDENTS FIGURE 1 An Abbreviated Strategic Notetaking Form. using this theory. In this way, students could use these “metathinking” skills to become more actively involved during
lectures. A number of notetaking studies support this theory
(i.e., during notetaking students should actively generate relationships among parts of the information and between information and one’s prior knowledge), particularly for nondisabled college students (Bretzing & Kulhavy, 1981; Kiewra,
1985; Peper & Mayer, 1986). As students used the form to take notes, they were instructed to read each prompt and relate it to a lecture point (see
Figure 1); thereby aiding the students with note generation
and depth of processing (Bretzing & Kulhavy, 1981; Kiewra,
1985; Peper & Mayer, 1986). Speciﬁcally, the ﬁrst portion of
strategic notetaking requested students to quickly identify
the lecture topic and relate the topic to their own prior knowledge. In doing so, students are able to make a connection LEARNING DISABILITIES RESEARCH between new and previously learned information, making
the new information more “meaningful”; thereby storing it
in long-term memory (Peper & Mayer, 1986). The next step
requested that students cluster together three to seven main
points with details from the lecture as they are being discussed. By clustering ideas together, it was our belief that
students would more efﬁciently encode this information to
long-term memory and prevent information decay (Hughes,
1996). Similarly, we believed that summarizing (or categorizing) in the next step would aid students at encoding and storage of information in long-term memory (Kiewra, DuBois,
Christian, McShane, Meyerhoffer, & Roskelley, 1991). The
steps of naming three to seven new main points and summarizing immediately after naming these points was repeated
until the lecture ended. The last step, writing ﬁve main points
and describing each, was intended to serve as a quick review
of the lecture. This last step was included because other studies have supported the use of “review” to enhance encoding
of memory to long-term storage. (See Kiewra (1985) for his
review of notetaking research.)
Recorded Units Per Recall Measure and Notes
As mentioned earlier, student productivity was assessed by
the number of words recorded. As used by other researchers
(Hartley & Marshall, 1974), we felt that this method would
result in a more accurate measure of productivity. As a
safeguard to ensure that students were writing words that related to the lecture, we also counted the number of vocabulary
(or reference) words used by each student on the immediate
and long-term free recall measures and student notes. Their
vocabulary words were compared to the vocabulary words
used in the actual lecture notes and students were awarded
one point for each vocabulary word match. As with the word
count, each vocabulary word was awarded one point even if
the student wrote the same word more than once.
The four dependent variables used to assess the effectiveness
of strategic notetaking include: an immediate free recall (IFR)
measure, a long-term free recall (LFR) measure, a comprehension test (CT), and the number of words found in students’
An immediate free recall measure was used promptly after
students viewed the videotape to assess their knowledge about
the lecture topic. Upon completing the videotape, students
were instructed to place their notes out of sight and use blank
paper to write down as many facts, vocabulary, and lecture
ideas as they could within a ﬁve-minute time period.
An independent rater scored all IFR measures and counted
the number of words. Using the IFR measures, a second rater
randomly selected one-third of the completed IFR measures
and scored each in the same manner as the ﬁrst rater. Interrater
reliability was calculated to be 0.97 for the IFR measures using the total number of words and 0.94 using the total number
of vocabulary words.
Long-term free recall measures (LFR) were administered
to assess long-term knowledge about each lecture topic. Two 137 days after viewing a videotape, students completed an LFR
measure. Like the IFR measure, students were instructed to
write down as many facts, vocabulary, and lecture ideas as
they could within a ﬁve-minute time period.
Interrater reliability was also assessed for the LFR measure. Using one-third of the randomly selected LFR measures,
interrater reliability was calculated among the two raters and
found to be 0.97 using total number of words and 0.95 using
the total number of vocabulary words.
The comprehension test for the lecture consisted of 18
multiple-choice questions derived from the lecturer’s notes.
In order to avoid ceiling effects, the level of difﬁculty for
the comprehension test was set high. Immediately following
each IFR measure, students were administered the comprehension test. Using an answer key, each test was scored by
an independent rater and random spot checks revealed 100%
Finally, the notes taken by students during the lecture were
assessed by an independent rater. Similar to the reliability
procedures used with the IFR and LFR measures, one-third of
student’s notes were randomly chosen and assessed. Interrater
reliability was calculated to be 0.98 using total number of
words and 0.95 using total number of vocabulary words.
The study was conducted over four sessions. During the ﬁrst
two sessions, experimental students were trained using the
ﬁrst videotaped lecture. On the third session, experimental
and control students together viewed the second videotaped
lecture, recorded notes, and completed the IFR and comprehension measures. The control group was provided with lined
(blank) paper and instructed to use conventional notetaking
procedures to record notes from the videotape. On the other
hand, the experimental group was provided with the strategic notetaking form and instructed to record notes as they
were trained during the previous two sessions. On the fourth
session (two days later), experimental and control students
together completed the LFR measure.
Strategic Notetaking Training
During a 50-minute training session, the primary investigator followed a scripted lesson and trained students how to use
the strategic notetaking form. Throughout the training, the investigator provided a brief description of strategic notetaking,
modeled the technique, and guided students through practice
portions of the videotaped lecture while providing appropriate feedback. At the start of the session, the investigator
explained to students how the strategic notetaking form was
developed and its purpose. Next, the investigator reviewed
all the strategic notetaking sheets, pointing out the crucial
prompts on each page. Following this description, the investigator turned on the videotape and began modeling the
use of strategic notetaking by writing notes on the form and
by using a “think aloud” technique to verbally convey his
thoughts to students. At the end of the ﬁrst lecture portion,
the investigator stopped the tape and explained to students 138 BOYLE AND WEISHAAR: STRATEGIC NOTETAKING FOR HS STUDENTS what he had written on the notetaking form. During this time
the instructor pointed out to students how he recorded words
and phrases and how he did not record the lecture verbatim.
He also pointed out to students that he was not concerned
about spelling or grammatical errors, as long as the notes
were written legibly. After soliciting questions, students were
instructed that they should now ﬁll in the form as the next
section of the videotaped lecture was played. Once students
completed this next section, the videotape was stopped, questions were solicited, and student responses from their written
notes were discussed. This procedure was repeated until the
conclusion of the videotaped lecture.
During a second, 50-minute, training session, experimental students again used the same videotape and a new strategic
notetaking form, except the videotape was not stopped until
the end of the lecture. As the videotape was played, the
investigator encouraged students to continue recording notes
even though some students were recording notes at a faster
pace than others. The purpose of this training session was to
acclimate students with the speed of the lecture and improve
their ﬂuency at using strategic notetaking. At the end of the
lecture, the investigator reviewed student notes for accuracy
and completeness and verbally reinforced correctly recorded
Because more than one dependent variable was used in conjunction with the independent variable, a Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was the preferred data analysis
technique (Stevens, 1992). Average student scores were compared using this analysis. The recall scores were expressed as
number of written words per measure and the comprehension
scores were expressed as percentage points (i.e., if students
correctly answered 12 out of 18 questions, they would earn a
score of 67%).
Total Number of Words
Using IFR measures, LFR measures, comprehension scores,
and number of words from notes, the analysis yielded
statistical signiﬁcance with Wilks’ Lambda = 0.20, F(4,
21) = 21.59, p = 0.00. Because overall signiﬁcance was
obtained, univariate analyses of variance (ANOVA) were conducted to determine the signiﬁcance of each variable used in
the overall MANOVA.
Table 2 displays the average scores for both the experimental and control groups of the ANOVAs. The average score on
the IFR for the experimental group was 37 words (SD = 24.7),
23 more words than the control group (14 words, SD = 11.2),
and statistically signiﬁcant at the 0.05 level. The second variable, LFR, was found to be signiﬁcant with an average experimental group word length of 22 (SD = 16.8), compared
to an average control group word length of 4 (SD = 5). On
the third variable, the comprehension test, a signiﬁcant difference was found between the experimental group (37.4%, TABLE 2
Results of Univariate ANOVA Using Total Word Count
Measure and Group
Immediate Free Recall:
No. of Words in Notes:
∗ Signiﬁcant Mean SD F df Power ETA2 37.5∗
11.2 9.5 1,24 0.84 0.28 22.2∗
4.9 14.3 1,24 0.95 0.37 37.4%∗
13.4 4.6 1,24 0.54 0.17 61.8
30.5 64.8 1,24 0.99 0.73 175.4∗
21.5 at .05 level. SD = 10.9%) and the control group (27.1, SD = 13.4%).
Finally, on the last measure, number of words from notes,
as we expected, the experimental group signiﬁcantly outperformed the control group (176 words (SD = 61.8) versus 21
words (SD = 30.5)).
Total Number of Vocabulary Words
Using IFR measures, LFR measures, and number of words
from notes, the analysis yielded statistical signiﬁcance with
Wilks’ Lambda = 0.34, F (3, 22) = 14.29, p = 0.00. Because
an overall signiﬁcance was obtained, univariate analysis of
variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine the signiﬁcance of each variable used in the overall MANOVA.
Table 3 displays the average scores for both the experimental and control groups of the ANOVAs. The average
score on the IFR for the experimental group was 10 vocabulary words (SD = 6.2), compared to 5 (SD = 3.4) vocabulary
words (average) for the control group, and was statistically
signiﬁcant at the 0.05 level. On the next variable, LFR was
found to be signiﬁcant with an average experimental group
vocabulary word count of 7 (SD = 6.5), compared to an average control group vocabulary word count of 1 (SD = 1). On
the last measure, number of vocabulary words from notes, as
expected, the experimental group signiﬁcantly outperformed
Results of Univariate ANOVA Using Vocabulary Word Count
Measure and Group
Immediate Free Recall:
No. of Words in Notes:
∗ Signiﬁcant at .05 level. Mean SD F df Power ETA2 10.5∗
3.4 8.1 1,24 0.78 0.25 6.9∗
1.0 9.5 1,24 0.84 0.28 59.9∗
11.9 41.8 1,24 0.99 0.64 LEARNING DISABILITIES RESEARCH the control group (60 vocabulary words (SD = 24.8) versus
11 vocabulary words (SD = 11.9)).
Power and Effect Sizes for Both Univariate Analyses
Of interest, we included the power and ETA squared (effect
size) coefﬁcients for each variable. Power is an important
variable to consider because it represents the probability of
correctly rejecting a false hypothesis (Kerlinger, 1986). Similarly, ETA squared is also of importance because, taken together with power and sample size, it represents the strength
of the independent variable or the proportion of variation
explained by the treatment in an experiment (Keppel, 1991).
In Table 2, for three of the variables, IFR, LFR, and notes,
a power analysis yielded large power. For IFR, LFR, and notes
the power ranged from 0.84 to 0.99. However, on the comprehension measure, medium power was found (0.54). Similarly
high power coefﬁcients (range = 0.78 to 0.99) were found
using the three variables, IFR, LFR, and notes in the second
univariate analysis (Table 2). In addition to high power levels,
a statistical analysis revealed large effect sizes using partial
ETA squared. Tables 2 and 3 display the partial ETA squared
coefﬁcients which range from 0.17 to 0.73. According to
Cohen (1977), using partial ETA squared, coefﬁcients of 0.14
or larger represent a large effect size.
The strategic notetaking technique used in this investigation
was demonstrated to be more effective than conventional
notetaking by initially prompting students to record more
notes, produce more words on both recall (IFR and LFR)
measures, and improve their comprehension of lecture information. We hypothesized that the positive effects on the
long-term recall and comprehension test probably occurred
because students were forced to chunk information during
the lecture (e.g., name three to seven new main points with
details) and because they were asked to summarize lecture
points during one of two steps of the notetaking procedures
(e.g., quickly describe how the ideas are related or write
ﬁve main points of the lecture). We feel that manipulation
of lecture points, through these two metacognitive processes
of chunking and summarizing, aided encoding of information during notetaking, resulting in more lecture points being
stored in long-term memory or lecture points being stored
more efﬁciently in long-term memory.
In terms of the strength of strategic notetaking at producing substantial changes on ITR, LFR, length of notes, and
comprehension, large effect sizes were found for all measures, along with medium to high power. From the results,
observed differences indicated that strategic notetakers performed from twice (word count) to ﬁve times (vocabulary)
better than conventional notetakers on the IFR measure and
strategic notetakers performed on average ﬁve times better
than conventional notetakers on the LFR measure. From student notes, the total number of notes taken (i.e., using total
words and vocabulary words) also ranged from six to eight
times that of conventional notetakers. 139 One disappointing ﬁnding was observed in terms of comprehension test scores. The mean difference on test scores
between the two groups was small—10%—and the scores
were low—37%—for the experimental group. We can only
hypothesize that the difﬁculty level of the test may have suppressed student performance. One researcher in the area of
test development, Sax (1989), has warned that when item
difﬁculty is extremely “hard,” the items may not effectively
discriminate between students’ scores. Still another possibility may have been that students had difﬁculty or were unable
to read the test questions, resulting in poor test performance.
One limitation was that we did not counterbalance the
training and test videos. Counterbalancing the training and
treatment variables might have reduced any treatment effects
from practice. A second limitation concerns the possibility
of the Hawthorne effect on those students who received the
strategic notetaking training. It might be possible that any
training received would have increased notetaking and recall
performance. Future studies should examine these limitations
and attempt to address them by providing equal attention to
the control group.
On the other hand, the results from the present investigation corroborate results from previous research that used
college students with and without disabilities. Our ﬁndings
concur that activities, such as strategic notetaking, which
engage students during notetaking result in improved notes
(Boyle, 1996; King, 1992; Ruhl & Suritsky, 1995), improved
recall (Boyle, 1996; Ruhl, Hughes, & Gajar, 1990; Ruhl &
Suritsky, 1995), and improved comprehension on tests (King,
1992; Ruhl et al., 1990).
In addition, our results parallel the results of Lazarus’
(1991) study in that high school students with LD who used
a student-oriented notetaking technique improved comprehension, albeit small, of lecture information. On the other
hand, our study differs from that study in two distinct ways.
First, rather than using audiotaped lectures as Lazarus did, we
used a videotape lecture during practice and testing sessions,
which more closely resembles an actual lecture. Second, the
guided notes used by Lazarus required content-speciﬁc cues
on the notetaking form whereas strategic notetaking’s generic
form makes it easily applicable to different content areas and
requires little teacher preparation.
During our training of students with LD, we received feedback from them about the technique that may be helpful to
educators. For instance, students reported that the informal
poststudy interview technique was at ﬁrst difﬁcult to use and
that they would probably improve their performance further
if given extended practice using this “new” notetaking technique. As a result of these comments, we suggest that students
should be taught to use this technique with a number of lecture
topics before actually incorporating it into their own classes.
Although this technique at ﬁrst may seem cumbersome, it is
possible that once students master this technique they could
then be taught to fade out the use of the forms and incorporate only the written prompts during notetaking (Weishaar &
Boyle, 1999). One way to do this would be to have the instructor write the strategic notetaking prompts on the board
and then refer students to these prompts as the students take
notes. Another suggestion would be to have students write the
prompts on a notecard that could then be used as a reference 140 BOYLE AND WEISHAAR: STRATEGIC NOTETAKING FOR HS STUDENTS while taking notes. Other modiﬁcations are possible (Boyle,
in press) that could assist students wanting to use this technique in general education classes. Moreover, because this
technique was effective with lecture material, it holds great
potential as an effective technique for students to increase
comprehension during other types of learning tasks, such as
reading textbook material. As with any new technique, however, suggestions concerning generalization should be empirically tested to determine the effectiveness and feasibility
of notetaking during actual learning tasks.
Future research may want to examine several aspects
of strategic notetaking, or similar notetaking techniques, to
identify the speciﬁc components that are responsible for enhancing understanding and recall of lecture information. As
King (1992) has indicated, there may be certain generative
components that are useful with different types of learning
tasks (i.e., long-term tasks such as an essay exam versus shortterm memory tasks such as constructing a research paper).
Also, future research may want to examine the effectiveness
and feasibility of a review period following notetaking. Moreover, questions still remain concerning the generalizability of
strategic notetaking with “real” lectures taken from content
areas and presented by classroom teachers. Finally, because
students have difﬁculty noting important information from
lectures, future research should examine this aspect of notetaking with the aim of developing different techniques that
could assist students.
In conclusion, because notetaking skills are essential for
high school students, strategic notetaking provides them with
a method for increasing their short-term and long-term recall,
while at the same time using metacognitive notetaking skills.
We feel that this technique, as possibly modiﬁed by results
from future research, has implications not only for students
with learning disabilities, but also for any student who has experienced difﬁculty taking notes. Even though conventional
notetaking skills may be sufﬁcient for some students to pass
some of their courses, we feel that a small initial investment
of time learning this notetaking technique could help many
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This note was uploaded on 01/28/2010 for the course CMSY 103 taught by Professor N/a during the Fall '06 term at Howard County Community College.
- Fall '06