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IES Grant

Title: Improving the Science Performance of Students with Learning Disabilities Through Strategic Note-taking
Center: NCSER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Boyle, Joseph Awardee: Temple University
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4/1/11–3/31/14 Award Amount: $906,430
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A120409

Previous Award Number: R324A110087
Previous Awardee: Rutgers University

Purpose: Secondary students with disabilities continue to receive science instruction in mainstream settings where the predominant mode of instruction involves students listening and taking notes. Despite increases in the number of students being included in regular education classes, most students with disabilities have difficulty in content areas such as science. Students with disabilities often lack the necessary note-taking skills (e.g., they typically record fewer total notes and fewer important lecture points) required to learn important science concepts. The purpose of this project is to develop an intervention aimed at improving students' note-taking skills and retention of science content. The researchers will develop and refine a strategic note-taking technique for use in general education or inclusive science classes for students with high-incidence disabilities.

Project activities: Through several iterations, the researchers will examine the feasibility of strategic note-taking based upon observations of student use, student and teacher input on measures of quality and quantity of notes, and academic achievement. The researchers will examine the accuracy of students' strategic note-taking and the intervention's promise for improving students' recorded notes, recall accuracy, and comprehension skills. A number of data sources will be used to develop the strategic note-taking intervention: focus groups, interviews, and comparisons of these students' notes with their peers' notes. The researchers will also analyze data from summative and formative measures such as student performance on immediate free recall, long-term free recall, pre- and post science content, weekly quizzes and chapter tests, and scores on state achievement tests in science. In the final year, the researchers will conduct an experimental pilot study with the final intervention in 40 classrooms.

Products: Products of the project include a fully developed strategic note-taking intervention for students with disabilities. This includes a teacher training manual with student materials, videotaped and scripted science lectures, and a teacher training video on how to train students to use strategic note-taking. Products also include publications and presentations on the research progress and results.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting for this project is middle schools located in central New Jersey.

Population: Approximately 100 7th and 8th grade students with high-incidence disabilities and their teachers (20) will be included in the study. Students without disabilities are also included for comparison and social validity during the development process.

Intervention: The intervention to be developed and refined is a strategic note-taking intervention for use in general education or inclusive science classes for students with high-incidence disabilities. The research team will draw upon research on working memory during writing and note-taking tasks to teach students with learning disabilities how to improve their note-taking skills during science lectures and help students improve their understanding of science content.

Research Design and Methods: Needs assessment will be conducted to establish current levels of performance for students with learning disabilities and students without learning disabilities. The needs assessment will focus on the quality and quantity of students' notes, recall and comprehension, and handwriting and motor skills. After establishing baseline performance, the researchers will use videotaped and scripted lecture presentations to provide students opportunities to practice strategic note-taking. Students' notes will be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively to determine the accuracy and completeness of notes recorded. Based on the data from students during the note-taking sessions, the strategic note-taking intervention will be iteratively revised in preparation for a small-scale experimental study in 40 classrooms during the final year of the study.

Control Condition: In the pilot study, the comparison group will be students with disabilities who do not receive the note-taking intervention.

Key Measures: The researchers will collect data using a number of different measures. Measures will include tests of students' immediate free recall and long-term recall after exposure to specific science lectures. Handwriting and motor skills measures will include the Test of Handwriting Skills-Revised, Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency 2, and the Writing Tool-Skill. Students' notes will analyzed to determine the percentage of cued lecture points, non-cued lecture points, total lecture points, and vocabulary. The researchers will also conduct retrospective interviews with students to assess cognitive strategies used while taking notes.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use a number of data analytic techniques during the development and refinement of the strategic note-taking intervention. Transcripts of student interviews will be coded for evidence of cognitive themes that affected note-taking performance. Students' notes will be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively to determine the accuracy and completeness of notes recorded. The pilot study will compare the quality and quantity of notes, immediate free recall, and comprehension scores of traditional note takers and the strategic note-taking group by conducting multivariate analysis of variance.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Boyle, J.R., Forchelli, G.A., and Cariss, K. (2015). Note-Taking in Content Area Classes. Preventing School Failure, 59(3): 186–195.

Boyle, J.R., Rosen, S.M., and Forchelli, G.A. (2016). Exploring Metacognitive Strategy use During Note-Taking for Students With Learning Disabilities. Education 3–13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education. doi:10.1080/03004279.2014.929722

Rosen, S.M., Boyle, J.R., Cariss, K. , and Forchelli, G.A. (2014). Changing how we Think, Changing how we Learn: Scaffolding Executive Function Processes for Students With Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 20(4): 165–176. doi:10.18666/LDMJ-2014–V20–I4–6145