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Effective Note Taking

I ran across a great round-up of research on note-taking this morning, in Nik Peachey’s EdTech & ELT Newsletter. The author, Jennifer Gonzales at Cult of Pedagogy, goes through what seems to be the best practices in note-taking today, with links to studies to support her points. As you may suspect, students learn better when they take notes by hand, and they do even better when educators give them time to consolidate their notes, and when they provide students’ with guided note-taking pages. Scaffolding, peer-work, and other methods are also helpful.

The challenge, I’ve found, is in getting students to actually do note-taking. Guiding them through how to do it, showing them fun videos on the Cornell method, making note-taking a part of the participation grade, and so forth only go so far. The students coming through my classroom in the university ESL prep department seem to think taking a picture of the whiteboard with their phones counts as note-taking, if they even do that. When I used to teach elective classes in Seoul, I had great success with note-taking because I made all my tests open-note. For ESL classes, that’s a hard sell to the administration.

As always, the struggle continues.

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Do Children Need Homework?

dogatehomeworkHomework is a topic of serious debate among educators and education stakeholders, with little consensus. From my own experience, I clearly remember Korean parents demanding that we give their 6 and 7 year-olds hours of homework each night. We tried to tell them that their kids needed to spend time playing in order to develop things like executive function and a host of other skills. Nope, they weren’t having it. Their tiny little guys and girls needed to become fluent in English and homework was the an intricate part of that. Madness.

This article talks about some research on the topic. Looking at a dataset from a large number of countries, it finds that homework is nearly ubiquitous, though the amount varies wildly. What interests me in this research is that there is little or no correlation between high test scores and the amount of homework assigned. In the Netherlands, for example, there is very little homework most nights, but their students perform extremely well on tests.

The article also noted that the drive for data, the increasing significance of standardized tests, packed curricula, and a host of other factors push teachers to dump work on students not because the teachers think it is meaningful, but because they feel they have to. That’s not a great reason.

This study wasn’t able to look at the quality of the homework or indeed many factors. However, I think it is one more interesting nail in the coffin of daily, look-busy homework.

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