Do students learn better if they take notes by hand rather than taking notes on their laptop? New research suggests that the answer might be “not necessarily.”
In 2014, a study by Mueller and Oppenheimer concluded that students taking notes on a laptop were less likely to deeply process what they were hearing (and, therefore, less likely to remember it later) because they were more likely to type up an exact transcript of what the lecturer said. Claiming that laptops engender a lack of student processing which led to shallower learning, the study provoked a series of essays by professors like this one who instituted laptop and device bans as a result.
But a new replication study casts doubt on the conclusiveness of Mueller and Oppenheimer’s findings. The study does show a slight advantage to taking longhand notes, but the researchers found results to be inconclusive. Performance on a retention test didn’t significantly differ whether students took longhand notes, laptop notes, or — surprisingly — no notes at all.
This study provides an important dimension to the fraught debate around whether or not to ban or restrict device use in classrooms, which some instructors have argued unfairly marginalizes students with disabilities.
What’s your laptop or device policy? Do you prefer to take notes by hand or to use a device? Let us know what you think!