Stephen T. Peverly, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology and Education, Director of the Ph.D. Program in School Psychology, a Fellow of Division 16 of the American Psychological Association (School Psychology), and Honorary Professor of Cognition and Education at the Universidad del Norte, in Barranquilla, Columbia. Over the past 20 years his research has focused on cross cultural investigations of the development of young students’ math skills and the cognitive, affective and motivational processes that underlie reading comprehension and studying, especially lecture and text note-taking.
Note-taking is a pervasive and important academic activity. Among college students, research suggests (a) almost all take notes (94 – 98%) and, (b) taking and studying notes is related to good test performance (d = .75). We know very little, however, about the cognitive processes related to the quantity and quality of notes taken or the relationship of these processes and notes to good test performance. In a series of studies on lecture and text note-taking, we investigated the relationship of recording speed (e.g., handwriting speed), attention, language understanding, working memory, and other skills, to notes and test performance among college, high school and middle school students (some studies included comparisons of students with and without disabilities). Our work indicates, with some caveats, that quantity and quality of notes are related primarily to recording speed, language understanding and sustained attention. Further, notes significantly predict students’ performance on tests that measure memory for what they have heard or read but they are not significantly related to tests that measure inferences. Only measures of language understanding and background knowledge were significantly related to tests that measure inferences.