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Desirable Difficulties – Ways to Increase Student Retention

keyboard v. penSitting in class, taking notes — do students’ brains retain the same information whether they’re using a pen or typing? We may think writing is writing, but it turns out students who take notes on a laptop later perform worse on conceptual questions than students who write longhand.

If students have internet access in class and are multitasking then certainly we’d expect their comprehension level to decrease, but the authors of a new study turned off internet access on their research subjects’ computers and found that those who used laptops to take notes still performed worse.

Why? The researchers write, “Whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

It turns out that the benefit of taking notes by hand is an example of “desirable difficulty” — learning that requires students’ brains to work harder, resulting in increased retention of the material.

What are some other ways to introduce desirable difficulty into the classroom? Read the article The Surprising Secret to Better Student Recall.




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