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Note Taking

Lecture note-taking influences the academic success of all high school and college students (Stahl, King, & Henk, 1991). As Spires and Stone (1989) point out, students will "increasingly have to depend on their ability to take notes in order to be successful in the classroom."

Ornstein (1994) believes that all students would benefit if teachers deliberately trained their students in note-taking techniques, especially the lower-achieving students. Bakunas and Holley (2001) suggest that note-taking skills should be taught to students in the same manner that they are taught writing or computer skills.

Studies about the effect of note-taking on achievement recognize that there are two distinct categories of note-taking (Meyer, 2001). The first category suggests that the notes themselves are valuable because 1) help the learner rehearse the lecture content and (2) can serve as a memory device that can help the student to remember parts of the content that were not included in the notes themselves.

The second category suggests that the act of taking notes is important because it 1) increases attention and concentration, 2) encourages students to process the material at a deeper level, and 3) provides a means of connecting new learning with prior knowledge (Carrier & Titus, 1981). These two categories imply that note-taking can boost achievement by acting as a product (the first category) or as a process (the second category). In this project we will investigate the impact of increased writing speed and written output on both the product of note-taking as well as the process of note-taking to enhance scholastic achievement.

Some experimental studies on student achievement have been inconclusive regarding the benefits of note-taking training. However, these studies have had serious methodological weaknesses and have not consistently involved meaningful training sessions that incorporate practice and evaluation of the note-taking skills (Boon, 1989). For example, a study by Bretzing et al (1987) involved 15 minute training sessions before the testing and provided only general note-taking tips. Another study by Peck and Hannafin (1983) showed students a videotape how to take notes more efficiently. A study by Meyer (2001) allocated one class unit for note-taking training. Research on the effects of pre-training on note-taking and information recall found that training in note-taking must involve long-term, systematic instruction and continuous practice (Dunkel,1985).

Bretzing, Kulhavy and Caterino (1987) and Peck and Hannafin (1983) conducted similar research to gain insight into this issue. In all of these studies, one or more experimental groups received special note-taking training, while one or more groups received no formal training. The results of Peck and Hannafin's study found that the uninstructed note takers actually performed better on all three tests. Peck and Hannafin suggested that the results were a product of an "interference effect" in which the process of note-taking itself interfered with the retention of information.

In our view the "interference effect" was a result of insufficient training as opposed to what Peck and Hannafin believed a negative impact of note-taking on learning. Students were inadequately trained in the product which caused an adverse effect on the note-taking process.

In addition, an evaluation of over 340 NSF project directors of 13 possible innovations in undergraduate teaching found cooperative learning was ranked highest. Collaborating on projects students must accurately capture the spoken information and share their notes efficiently with other students in their research groups. The EasyScript methodology can provide a seamless exchange of sharing information to address this issue. Importance of note-taking for students with disabilities

Boyle and Weishaar (2001) in their study of high school students with disabilities concluded that improved note-taking skills contribute to increasing students' comprehension, short-term and long-term recall. They extended the academic note-taking training in their study from 15 minutes to two 50 minute sessions. Instructed students scored significantly higher on measures of immediate recall, long-term recall and comprehension, and number of words recorded. It's reasonable to assume that if a speed note-taking is incorporated into academic note-taking and a sufficient practicing and reinforcement is provided, it will increase the number of words recorded which will have a significant impact on comprehension, immediate and long-term recall.

As evidenced by various research studies, students with disabilities are not effective note takers. Students with disabilities do not possess a sufficient writing speed to take down spoken information and, even when they do take notes, are frequently unable to read them after the lecture (Suritsky, 1992), mostly because their notes are illegible. Students with disabilities either avoid taking notes, rely on note takers or teachers to assist them with guided lecture notes after class (Beckley, 1996).

Although these accommodations are helpful, and even necessary, it is important for students with disabilities to learn how to effectively take notes from lectures. Suritsky and Hughes (1996) have found that students with disabilities are passive learners, and note-taking is one way to actively engage them in the learning process.

We believe that students with disabilities will derive an additional benefit from speed note-taking because they record fewer units of lecture information than their non-disabled peers (Hughres & Suritsky, 1996).

Using Abbreviations for Note-Taking

Lecture learning is prominent in college classrooms. Armbruster (2000) reported that college students usually spend about 80% of class time listening to lectures. If lecturing is the instructor's sacred cow, then lecture note-taking is the students' "pet calf" (Titsworth & Kiewra, 2001). The problem is that students typically record incomplete notes--usually 20-40% of the important lecture ideas (O'Donnell & Dansereau, 1993). In addition, approximately 80% of what is not noted is forgotten after two weeks and it is of vital importance that note-taking skills are taught (Boon 1989). Ladas (1980) found that a significant gap between lecture speed delivery and writing speed makes a negative impact on number of units of information recorded, attention and concentration span, and comprehension of the class material.

Fisher and Harris (1994) found that students perform note-taking more efficiently when they are allowed "to encode information" using abbreviations. McKeachie (1994) suggests that abbreviating of spoken information leads to an increase to the number of words in working memory and improvement of subject retention. Boyle (2001) concluded that use of abbreviations decreases hands and eyes engagement and enable to record spoken information more efficiently.

Moreover, abbreviating the spoken word increases the attention and concentration span, and provides more time for students to comprehend class material. They can process spoken information into written form faster and it enhances retention of the information and can lead to improvement in overall organization of their notes. In addition, a higher writing speed allows more time to pay attention to handwriting legibility and style to make notes legible and readable. Importance of note-taking for students with disabilities.

EasyScript Concept

EasyScript takes a unique approach in abbreviating words by assigning them to five categories and creating one basic rule for each category. As a result, abbreviating words of any given vocabulary can be reduced to five rules equal to the number of categories and the learning curve is significantly reduced. This represents a considerable advantage over any system which assigns a unique abbreviation for each word because larger vocabularies will require adding more rules and abbreviations. Since all existing systems have a limited number of abbreviating rules they cover only a limited number of words forcing creation the user-made abbreviations. The number of EasyScript categories remains unchanged regardless of the size of the vocabulary and this provision enables users to abbreviate any word of English vocabulary and will eliminate "user made" abbreviations.

EasyScript Abbreviating Rules

Words are assigned to five categories such as simple, prefix, suffix, prefix/suffix and compound. As a result, five basic rules are needed to abbreviate any word of a full English vocabulary.

Suffix Category Example

A list of suffixes and their corresponding 1 letter abbreviations is created, a suffix word is divided in two syllables the root and suffix (men tion - ed, adv ertise - ment), an abbreviation is formed by taking 3 first characters out of the root and replacing the suffix with one letter (examples: mentioned - mend, advertisement - advm). Any number of suffix words can be abbreviated by this rule. Prefix and prefix/suffix words are abbreviated with the same approach.

Memorization level and cognitive load is reduced because 1) user needs to memorize one rule and a list of suffixes for the entire suffix category as opposed to memorizing unique abbreviations for individual words, 2) learning time of 5 abbreviating strategies is significantly less than memorizing individual abbreviations for a full English vocabulary, 3) the EasyScript rules can be applied to translate an abbreviation to a readable form which reduces the transcription time as opposed to reconstructing the word from randomly created abbreviations. In addition, the EasyScript method allows users to customize abbreviations by selecting abbreviating symbols suitable to their individual style and application.

A brief example of EasySript is illustrated below:

Longhand Text - We submit a list of services available for your special filing. (53 characters)

EasyScript Text - W smit a lst o sers avab fr y spel filg. (30 characters - reduction in writing by 43.4%)

EasyScript half-day seminar has been taught to a wide range of learners in many settings including: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bridgewater State College, Newton Public Schools, Massasoit Community College, Quincy College, Walpole High School, Assabet Valley Vocational School, U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Affinity Health Plan, CNN/Turner Broadcasting, John Hancock Insurance Co., Bell Atlantic, Fleet Bank, Texaco, Inc., Brigham and Women's Hospital, U.S. Postal Service, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and others.

Evidence of compiled seminar evaluations from 1990 to present indicates that 90% of participants consistently found the EasyScript method by a wide margin easier to learn and use than any existing system.

  • No need to spend months learning traditional shorthand and speedwriting.
  • No extensive rote memorization is required.
  • EasyScript method is easy to learn and use.
  • 90% user satisfaction since 1990.
  • User-friendly rules to tailor to your style and application.
  • ComputerScript software transcribes abbreviations into readable text.
  • EasyScript Express is a top-selling book in US and abroad.
  • EasyScript and ComputerScript use identical rules.
  • Recommended by Fortune 500 companies, schools and government agencies.
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"Bridgewater State College has been offering the EasyScript since the fall of 1990. We found that people of almost all walks of life were among of participants.

In the beginning, we were a bit skeptical that in such a short period of time a speedwriting method could be learned. From the course evaluations and comments from the participants including our faculty staff, the course does achieve the stated objectives. Participants were able to learn a complete speedwriting method and attain a writing speed up to 40 wpm.

Also, participants who had learned Gregg Shorthand or conventional speedwriting prior to taking the EasyScript course commented that by a wide margin the EasyScript method was much easier to learn, retain and apply. In addition, a number of participants have recommended EasyScript program to their employers and they in turn have conducted the EasyScript program for employee training.

We recommend the EasyScript program without reservation and will continue to offer it in our curriculum." - Bridgewater State College, Mary Delgado

For more information about EasyScript and ComputerScript, please click here.

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