Friday, August 12, 2011

Guided notes support learning of all students

Guided notes are teacher developed handouts that provide a framework for students to take notes during a lecture.  This framework requires students to be actively engaged in the lecture by filling in important information throughout the lecture.  In addition, guided notes enhance lecture content and help students organize information.

Students who take accurate notes and use them as a review prior to a performance assessment consistently receive higher scores than students who simply listen to the lecture and then read the text.  Guided notes help increase student engagement because they require students to listen, watch, think, and write.  As a result, student notes are more complete and accurate.

The most common concern regarding guided notes is that they make it too easy for kids or that educators who use guided notes are "spoon feeding" students.  This concern reflects an uninformed view of the advantages of guided notes and the educational research that supports the use of guided notes as an instructional tool.  Guided notes help students organize material, prioritize content, stay on task, and encourage questions.

There are specific guidelines that should be followed if a teacher wishes to use guided notes to support student learning.  Such guidelines include ample space for students to write, not requiring students to write so much that it slows down the pace of the lecture, using power point or other overhead device to project any content that students must write in their notes, and opportunities for students to practice problems and receive feedback from the instructor during the lecture.

Lecture is a the most common instructional tool in middle and high school.  It makes no sense that with the widespread use of this tool students are left to guess what is important or come up with their own strategy.  Using guided notes provides a structure for students that takes the guesswork out of deciphering the important elements in the lecture.  After all, if the goal of each teacher is to help the students master the content's essential understandings, why would we not tell the students what those understandings are and help them master them?  Why make them guess?

Heward, William.  Guided Notes:  Improving the Effectiveness of Your Lectures.  U.S. Department of Education.  Ohio State University Partnership Grant.  nd.

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