Scaffold Academic Integrity with Note Taking Strategies

Discussion about academic integrity often centers around strategies for during and after the assessment process, such as remote proctoring and plagiarism checkers. Teaching a variety of note taking skills proactively addresses many underlying causes related to academic dishonesty such as, fear of failure, not understanding the material, lack of practice with the material, and failing to read/view the content. Sketchnoting is one easy strategy many higher ed students may benefit from using, especially when listing to Zoom materials or reading online course materials.

Sketchnoting, or visual note-taking, is an effective and fun way to take notes using doodles and text. It has many other benefits such as increased focus and engagement in class, improved comprehension and memory retention, helps develop creative thinking skills and allows students an alternative way to display their learning and make connections to course content. It has a calming and relaxing effect too!

Although sketchnoting originated in k-12, the benefits are also applicable for higher ed students–including helping with ‘Zoom Fatigue,’ Student Agency and Building Relationships (Gobir, N., 2021)

Note taking, whether through traditional strategies or visual note taking, first engages students in content through their initial review of course content in order to select the relevant (one of the higher order thinking skills). Taking notes also means students see the information again as they record it. The physical actions of recording notes engages students more actively than a passive review of content. Even if students resort to copying notes from tools such as Quizlet, they still go through those steps of reading/viewing, selecting the relevant, and recording it in their own words and/or symbols. Here is a good resource for students on the benefits of note taking.

person taking notes while looking at cell phone

Viewing content on a smart phone while notetaking on a different device or pen and paper gives more flexibility to students, helping to close potential gaps in device quality and internet access. Besides, it’s easier than toggling between two different windows on a device for web-hosted content! Students using pencil and paper can snap a picture of them for submission.

If students submit notes early for feedback, instructors have a more robust window into the students’ thinking about the content than multiple choice options provide. If students submit their notes with a multiple choice assessment, instructors can cross-reference students’ scores with notes for understanding as well as academic integrity.

Fred Heck uses a variation of visual note taking, concept mapping, in his online physical science course at Ferris. For grading efficiency and increased student success with expectations:

  • Dr. Heck modeled how to create a concept map through a video recording.
  • Then, he provided students with a PowerPoint template listing directions, grading information, and put each unit and concept map title on individual slides. (example here)
  • As students progressed through the course, they added their concept maps as an image into the appropriate slide.
  • Dr. Heck reviewed the portfolios at three checkpoints during the course rather that weekly which gave him the best of both worlds by being able to see all the sketches with reduced grading time.
  • Student success and satisfaction with this aspect of the course was so high this strategy was incorporated into some of Dr. Heck’s face-to-face courses!

Teaching large course or survey/overview course? Combine the jigsaw approach with #sketchnoting or the one-page note strategy, helping students curate your content for later access on assessments or in the field.

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