Mixed Results on Note-Taking by Hand or Laptop

February 7, 2019

A study in the journal Educational Psychology Review (abstract available here) returns to the issue of whether students learn more from taking notes by hand or on a laptop. The study attempted to replicate and in some ways expand a 2014 study that found that taking notes by hand to be superior. The results were not conclusive. "Some trends suggested longhand superiority; however, performance did not consistently differ between any groups," the study found. Further, a meta-analysis of the research found "small (nonsignificant) effects favoring longhand." Based on current results, the new study says, "concluding which method is superior for improving the functions of note-taking seems premature."

While studies like these are used regularly to push the debate over whether to ban laptops in class, an article from Inside Higher Ed in 2017 quoted experts saying that it is more important for instructors to help all students become more effective learners (laptops or not) than to debate laptop use in class.

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