Note-taking in lessons or lectures is common and plays an important role in learning, however the increasing adoption of educational technology in school classrooms has resulted in greater use of electronic devices to take lesson notes.
The authors were particularly interested in their conceptual understanding. In simple terms, facts are information that can be memorised, while concepts are more abstract and require more understanding. Thus, concepts are particularly important for learning.
Factual recall and understanding of a history and a biology lesson were assessed using multiple choice questions (MCQ). MCQ tests were carried out both immediately after each lesson and one week later.
They found that when children were tested straight after the lesson, there was no difference in conceptual understanding when they handwrote or typed notes. In contrast, after a week delay, children who handwrote their notes had a stronger conceptual understanding than those who typed their notes. This advantage for handwriting over typing is generally in line with studies in adults.
Handwriting is slower than typing, so learners need to shorten the notes by processing the information and organising it – this is likely to aid learning, according to Professor Edmonds. However, she added that it is not as simple as handwriting being good for learning and typing bad – some software allows electronic notetaking that is more flexible and allows drawings, mind maps and other features that are possible when handwriting.
Professor Edmonds hailed her co-author’s work, “Simon [Horbury] graduated from our MSc psychology with a distinction. He developed the idea for this study during an assessment on our developmental psychology module in which students had to prepare a poster in a group on a topical research debate. It was a really impressive piece of work and I encouraged him to continue these ideas into his dissertation work.”
“The School of Psychology is fortunate to have such outstanding academics and students working together on ‘firsts’ in research in positive and dynamic ways, with the potential to shape educational experiences and attract global interest,” said Professor Aneta Tunariu, Dean of the School of Psychology at the University of East London.