Study strategies & student engagement using wikis: collaborative note taking with the Cornell method

Award Winner: 
2011 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Linda Hubble
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
St. Louis Community College-Meramec
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

This practice was implemented with a goal of motivating student preparation for class discussion prior to attending class. The Cornell method of note-taking is widely recognized as an effective strategy for studying. This strategy was designed as part of a class project to which each student or small groups of students would contribute notes taken from one chapter of their choice in the course textbook. All students would contribute a minimum of two discussion questions for each chapter due at the beginning of class each week.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

The required textbook for this course, Charlotte Huck's Children’s Literature: A Brief Guide, by Barbara Kiefer and Cynthia Tyson, lends itself very well to the structure of this class project because it is exactly ten chapters in length and I assign only the chapters that cover the literature genres to the students. I modeled the note-taking method for the first two chapters and demonstrated the steps for posting to the wiki. From the remaining chapters, students were then asked to select one chapter for which they would record notes with a partner or in a small group. All students were required to create a minimum of two discussion questions for each chapter due at the beginning of class each week. Points are awarded for the completion of both the chapter notes and weekly discussion questions.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

This practice was newly implemented this semester. I fully anticipate revisions to this process over the next few semesters as I am able to observe student participation and outcomes. Anecdotally, I have observed a higher level of unsolicited participation by a majority of students, in that I do not have to directly prompt individuals to respond to the discussion.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

This practice most closely embodies the ideals of Learning Effectiveness. My assessment of the general situation is that not very many students have been introduced to and held accountable for effective study strategies and habits. By incorporating one strategy for note-taking into a class project, students will have an opportunity to practice this skill in a collaborative manner and gain appreciation for the process. Sharing responsibility for creating a comprehensive set of notes for an entire text transforms a rather daunting task into a manageable activity that I believe most students would be willing to complete. Students also attend to their writing differently when the defined audience is expanded beyond the instructor. The end result is that all students benefit by having access to this information in the online environment and it can be downloaded or copied in a way that students can add their own summaries or ideas to the existing collection of information.

This practice is most certainly scalable to any reading assignment for any format of a blended or online course that provides a wiki tool within the LMS.

Student Satisfaction: I intend to deliver course surveys that inquire about student experience with the selection of online tools used in the course requesting feedback about the ease of use and the perceived benefit gained.

References, supporting documents: 

Donohoo, J. (2010). Real-time teaching. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54, 224-227.

Barefoot, B., Gardener, J. and Upcraft, M. (2005). Challenging and supporting the first-year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college. San Franciso: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Caverly, D. and Flippo, F. (2000). Handbook of college reading and study strategy research. New York: Routledge.

Nilson, L.B. (2003). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. (2nd ed). San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Other Comments: 

The inspiration for this strategy came from three sources:

1. My own daughter described how she had prepared four pages of typed notes in order to review for a test. When the instructor conducted a test review session, my daughter responded to the discussion using her notes and several students asked where she got those. She replied, "I wrote them." The other students asked if they could get a copy. The instructor actually volunteered to make copies, with my daughter’s permission, for other students.

2. Our institution recently became an “Achieving the Dream” institution and during a district-wide orientation meeting, Dr. Kay McClenney stated, “Students don’t do optional,” emphasizing the need to consistently challenge all students with rigorous academic experiences and hold them accountable for meeting these expectations. 

3. I encountered evidence that claimed less than 20% of college students participate in those activities that have been proven to increase academic success. A nominal percentage of students reportedly take notes from, postulate questions about and summarize their reading assignments (Barefoot, Gardner and Upcraft, 2005).


Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Linda Hubble
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