On Tuesday night a fellow Instructional Development Consultant (IDC), and I met with seven Part Time BCIT instructors to take them through the instructional Skills Workshop (ISW). The ISW is a long standing tradition at BCIT and provides and opportunity for new and experienced instructors to come together and explore how to improve their teaching and learning practice. Any time you have faculty coming together to talk about teaching and learning you can be assured that there will be lots of questions and this past Tuesday night was no exception. Since we had limited time to respond to all the questions and request for additional information, I am compiling the following list of links to videos, articles, interview, related resources and a few personal summaries in response to the insightful questions from the workshop participants.


John Medina demonstrates what happens when you attempt to multi-task. This video is part of the supporting material for Medina’s excellent book Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

In this talk Clifford Nass of Stanford reveals that we are not only NOT able to multitask he also reveals that those who do multitask the most are poor multitaskers and also have lesser developed social skills. Nass’ research and article Cognitive control in media multitasked reveals that heavy media multitaskers are poor at multitasking. This was one of the most covered and cited papers in the social sciences in the last 12 months. Nass passed away recently at the age of 55.

The NPR interview The Myth of Multitaksing Nass explains how inefficient it is to multitask and how heavy multitasks become chronically distracted.

Research has revealed that 98% of us are not able to multitask but there are those around us who fit into the 2% who can actually multitask. In the New Yorker article Multitask Masters Marina Konnikova reports on the research of David Stayer who has looked into these supertaskers and who has also found that when people find out that there is a very small number of people who can supertask they believe that they fall into this category. Unfortunately, for most us who believe we are these special people, research has also revealed that the better someone believes that they are at multitasking the more likely they are not.

Peer Instruction & Eric Mazur

In the following youtube video, Confessions of a Converted Lecturer, Eric Mazur explains how he came to understand that lecturing alone was not helping his students to learn and how he uses peer instruction to move his students from memorization to understanding.

The Harvard Magazine article, Twilight of the Lecture, summaries Mazur’s work and development of the peer instruction method.

The blog Turn to Your Neighbour is perhaps on the best sites to learn about all aspects of peer instruction.

Note Taking Question

What helps you remember more: taking notes by typing on a laptop or tablet or writing your notes out by hand?

The general discussion in the room revealed that many people preferred taking notes by hand which corresponds to results of the Mueller/Oppenhiemer study The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. This study revealed that since students can type much faster than they can write there is a tendency for students to mindlessly transcribe large volumes of notes. In contrast, with hand written notes a student must focus more on the concepts than on the transcription. The authors pointed to additional research in their literature review suggested summarization and conceptualization resulting from handwriting notes added in retention and deeper understanding.

The authors also speculated as did many other bloggers who reposted the summary results that if one could combine the efficiency of typing with the conceptualization of handwriting that taking notes with a laptop or tablet could contribute equally to memory retention. While I have no reason to doubt the Mueller/Oppenhiemer study that is currently popular in the blogosphere I am always hesitant to trust the “most popular” opinion and I explored further to see if there were any additional studies that provided an alternative perspective.

I did manage to find a recent undergraduate research project by Ian Schoen of Pitzer College that directly compared typing notes and handwriting notes in both the lecture and textbook study. In his senior thesis Effects of Method and Context of Note-taking on Memory: Handwriting versus Typing in Lecture and Textbook-Reading Contexts Schoen found that although the survey participants preferred taking notes by hand, his research revealed that typing notes in a lecture produced slightly higher retention scores.

Article Abstract:

Both electronic note-taking (typing) and traditional note-taking (handwriting) are being utilized by college students to retain information. The effects of the method of note-taking and note-taking context were examined to determine if handwriting or typing notes and whether a lecture context or a textbook-reading context influenced retention. Pitzer College and Scripps College students were assigned to either handwrite or type notes on a piece of academic material presented in either a lecture or textbook context and were given a test to assess their retention. The results demonstrated that there was a significant main effect for typing notes such that typing notes produced higher retention scores than handwriting notes. The results also indicated that there was an interaction between method of note-taking and context such that the lowest scores were achieved in the condition in which participants hand0-wrote notes during a lecture. In total, these findings suggest that typing as a method of note-taking may by an influential factor in memory retention, particularly in a lecture context.

Read the full article…

Taking notes is better than not taking notes is the one fact consistent in all the research on this topic. It is also clear that much more research will need to be conducted to provide a more definitive answer on this issue. Until the research is in, one’s personal preference should also play a significant role in deciding just how to take notes.

Free is a lie

May 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

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