New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more. Across three experiments, Mueller and Oppenheimer had students take notes in a classroom setting and then tested students on their memory for factual detail, their conceptual understanding of the material, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information. Half of the students were instructed to take notes with a laptop, and the other half were instructed to write the notes out by hand. As in other studies, students who used laptops took more notes. In each study, however, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops.
What drives this paradoxical finding? Mueller and Oppenheimer postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning. Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture. Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information. Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content."
Great read. It is well worth reading the whole article. This will be part of my first week of class in the fall.
My annotations are about to photobomb your essay.
Sian Beilock, a psychologist who has studied and written about choking, argues that when we’re under a tremendous amount of pressure, anxiety over the prospect of failure floods the prefrontal cortex and overwhelms the brain’s capacity to do what should be second-nature.
"If we’re doing a task that normally operates largely outside of conscious awareness, such as an easy golf swing, what screws us up is the impulse to think about and control our actions," Beilock [says]. "Suddenly we’re too attentive to what we’re doing, and all the training that has improved our motor skills is for naught, since our conscious attention is essentially hijacking motor memory."
There’s also evidence that the brain’s hemispheres play a role in making us over-think. Automatic performance behaviors seem to be controlled by the right hemisphere, and “rumination” by the left. Because the right hemisphere controls movements of the left side of the body, one study found that athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand before competing were less likely to choke. The squeezing somehow helped activate the automatic portion of the brain on the right."
The psychology of why we – and even Olympic athletes – choke.
Still, autopilot might prevent us from choking, but it also prevents us from improving.
Pair with this beautiful meditation on courage and the fear of failure.
There is fascinating stuff here for teaching. Perhaps this can explain some test anxiety for students who perform well in class, but not on tests.
All to often, because students tend to write for an audience of one, they miss out on this important part of craft. This type of thing has been echoed by a number of authors.
Thanks to Austin Kleon for this great find.