Friday, November 25, 2016

Cognitive Effort during Note-taking

I recently came across an interesting paper by Annie Piolat, Thierry Olive, and Ronald T. Kellogg, called ("Cognitive Effort during Note Taking". I found it highly interesting. Three points especially caught my attention: (i) "studies suggest that nearly all non-linear note-taking strategies (e.g. with an outline or a matrix framework) benefit learning outcomes more than does the linear recording of information, with graphs and concept maps especially fostering the selection and organization of information. As a consequence, the remembering of information is most effective with non-linear strategies" (295), and (ii) "Retrieving and organizing ideas during a text composition are still more effortful than selecting the information that will be recorded. Searching a new and ‘creative’ solution (i.e. the text written down) requires more resources than taking notes, even if the notes often present content characteristics different from what has been heard or read" (303). And (iii) " Using computer technology to manage information through the click of a mouse can actually increase cognitive effort, judging from these results. It may be that the use of these technologies is less practised than reading and handwriting. Similar results were obtained by Kellogg and Mueller (1993), however, who found that writing by longhand was less effortful than using a word processor even for skilled typists" (304).

On the other hand, I did not find the conclusion of the paper surprising;
The observations reviewed here indicate that, from a cognitive perspective, note taking cannot be conceived of as only a simple abbreviated transcription of information that is heard or read. Rather, on the contrary, it is an activity that strongly depends on the central executive functions of working memory to manage comprehension, selection, and production processes concurrently. Indeed, the severe time pressure of note taking requires that information is both quickly comprehended and recorded in written form. It is a unique kind of written activity that cumulates both the inherent difficulties of comprehending a message and of producing a new written product. Yet, it differs in many of its characteristics from the usual linear and conventionally presented written texts.
In my judgment, the paper is well worth reading carefully, even if your interests are more practical than theoretical.


Randall Short said...

Thanks for introducing the article. I look forward to reading it.

Note that your link is missing "h" (should be

MK said...

Thank you very much for pointing out the error. Fixed it.

Kyle Curia said...

I find it interesting that non-lines notes seem to be more beneficial than linear ones. I suppose that's because they are the product of synthesis rather than recording. I might have to adjust some of my habits. I'm not sure what that means to me though (mind-maps, or cards, or categories, or even sketchnoting).