STRATEGIES AND PERCEPTIONS OF FIELD NOTE-TAKING: INSIGHTS FROM A GEOTHERMAL FIELD LESSON
In a qualitative study of an introductory geothermal field lesson, we characterise the content and perceptions of students’ note-taking. We examine students’ note-taking strategies to uncover and develop ways to assess ‘successful’ strategies. The data consisted of observations of the 1 hour geothermal field lesson, hard-copy notebooks, and post-lesson student focus group interviews (n=16). Students (n=42) varied considerably in previous geosciences experience in the field. The note-taking task for both cohorts (taught by a different instructor) was fundamentally the same, but was not scripted, resulting in lecturer differences.
Through comparison of the lesson (the transcript) to the students’ notes two obvious strategies emerged: students preferred to write in their own words (defined in this study as uniqueness; U), others preferred to write verbatim what the lecturer said (low U), some had really complete notes (completeness; C), others missed important observations (low C), and some students achieved both strategies (multi-strategy; high U and C) or neither (low U and C).
Several factors influenced the students’ notes: previous field experience, lecturer differences, and gender. Students with more field experience tended to have higher U and this was corroborated by focus group data with students indicating that they field experience helped them to “know what to look for”. Lecturer pedagogy also impacted the students’ note-taking as one lecturer included lots of peripheral information (their students had lower U scores) and the other reiterated “to think for yourself” and “write in your own words”. Lastly, female students generally achieved higher C scores than male students. Females used more words in their note-taking (verbosity) and this likely led to higher values achieved.
Based on the results of this study, we suggest breaking down complex field lessons into simple and manageable parts so that student’s cognitive functions are not overwhelmed by the task at hand.