P19 – Earopeners and Eyecatchers: Listening skills and note-taking strategies in today’s first- year college students

Room A – TUESDAY 14:15-15:15

One hour paper

Joke Vrijders and Pieterjan Bonne

Artevelde University College Ghent

Joke Vrijders has been a language policy officer since 2006 and was joined by Pieterjan Bonne in 2012. They train lecturers in diverse study programmes and guide students towards academic success by focussing on their language proficiency. On an institutional level, they are involved in the development and execution of strategies, the design and implementation of new educational tools for language screening, remedial teaching and continuous professional development.


A broad study set up by Artevelde University College Ghent mapped problems students experience with whole-class teaching (listening skills and note-taking), how first-year students cope with this and how lecturers can didactically support them. Participants will be shown research results, didactical tips and experience a screening tool to sensitize first-year student.


The classroom and note-taking experience are much different for today’s college student than it was two decades ago. Whereas students back then had to listen to lectures and write down whatever they thought was important, students nowadays are provided with a syllabus, a textbook and PowerPoint slides packed with information (Boye, 2012). Students struggle to see main and side issues in all the material, while lecturers find it increasingly difficult to encourage note-taking in their ‘digital native’ students. Yet, both listening skills and note-taking are a crucial part of successful learning (Armbruster, 2000; Boye, 2012) in which especially first-year students experience difficulties. For most of them whole-class teaching in large groups in higher education is completely new.

The paper consists of two parts.

In the first part we would like to present the results of a broad study (Bonne, Van Kerckhove and Vrijders, 2014) which was conducted in two university colleges in Flanders, one university and one adult education centre. The study surveyed the listening skills of over 1000 students during whole-class teaching. A combination of a questionnaire (quantitative research) and focus groups (qualitative research) was used to pinpoint problems and to show how lecturers can deal with them. The data was analysed over the whole population and then split up according to number of years in higher education (first-year vs. older students).

The research results on listening skills show that students are still open for whole-class teaching, when used appropriately. Most crucial here is the professor (cf. Hattie, 1987). Students clearly expect lecturers to add structure, to guide them through the content and, above all, to be enthusiastic about their course (cf. Hattie e.a., 1996). Students also tend to stop paying attention when classes are not relevant (for/according to them) or get too abstract. A professor whose style matches these criteria can easily engage more than 80% of the students.

For first-year students, whole-class teaching in higher education is more challenging. Half of the first-year students feel classes go to fast (46.5% as opposed to 26.8% of older students) and have trouble to combine listening and note-taking (49.8%). Yet firstyears tend to cope better with the form than older students. They rate classes as less boring (-31%), have less trouble focussing (-16%, -25%) and take more notes (+18%).

The research results also show the beliefs of college students on note-taking. Although lecturers report a lack of student note-taking skills, more than 90% of students see their notes as a necessary tool for higher education (cf. Armbruster, 2000). Students who take notes do so because they have to invest less time studying afterwards (58.3%) (cf.Hom e.a., 1993), it helps them to pay attention (64%) (cf. Di Vesta and Gray, 1972) and they remember the content better (87,1%) (cf. Kiewra, DuBois, Christian, & McShane, 1988).

In the second part we would like to present 6 practical recommendations or ‘ear openers’ for lecturers and students. Each participant will receive an English version of the checklist with these ‘ear openers’ and see a demo of an online tool to screen listening and note-taking skills in order to sensitize first-year students.

In the end, we would like to discuss the experiences of the participants. How can you improve listening skills? How can you transfer note-taking as a coping strategy for firstyear students? (cf. Kobayashi, 2006) How can you reinforce effective and accurate notetaking? Do you offer Powerpoint slides beforehand or not? How can we support students? Etc.Bibliography

 Armbruster, B. B. (2000). Taking notes from lectures. In Rona F. F., & Caverly, D. C. (Eds.), Handbook of college reading and study strategy research. Mahwah, NJ. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

 Bonne, P., Van Kerckhove, A., & Vrijders, J. (2014). Ear Openers for teacher trainers and their students. [Unpublished internal document]. Gent: Arteveldehogeschool, Brugge: Howest.

 Boye, A. (2012). Note-taking in the 21st centuy: tips for instructors and students. USA: Texas Tech University. Consulted online www.depts.ttu.edu

 Hom, C., Bruning, R., Schraw, G., Curry, E., & Katkanant, C. (1993). Paths to success in the college classroom. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18 (4), 464-478.

 Di Vesta, F., & Gray, S. (1972). Listening and note taking. Journal of Educational Psychology, 63 (1), 8-14.

 Hattie, J. (1987). Identifying the salient facets of a model of student learning: A synthesis of meta-analyses. International Journal of Educational Research, 11, 187–212.

 Hattie, J. A., Clinton, J. C., Thompson, M., & Schmitt-Davis, H. (1996). Identifying expert teachers. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Association for Research in Education.

 Kiewra, K. A., DuBois, N. F., Christian. D., & McShane, A. (1988). Providing study notes: Comparison of three types of notes for review. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(5), 522-532.

 Kobayashi, K. (2006). Combined effects of note-taking/-reviewing on learning and the enhancement through interventions: a meta-analytical review. Journal of Educational Psychology, 26, 459–77.

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