Strategies and perceptions of students’ field note-taking skills: Insights from a geothermal field lesson

Jacqueline Dohaney, Erik Brogt*, Ben Kennedy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Field note-taking skills are fundamental in the geosciences but are rarely explicitly taught. In a mixed-method study of an introductory geothermal field lesson, we characterize the content and perceptions of students’ note-taking skills to derive the strategies that students use in the field. We collected several data sets: observations of the field lesson, hard-copy notebooks (n = 42), and interview data (n = 16). Our analysis of the notebooks revealed note-taking strategies on two dimensions, consistent with earlier findings in the literature: students’ ability to write in their own words (uniqueness; U), and the amount of necessary information recorded (completeness; C). We propose several factors that influenced the students’ notes: lecturer differences, previous field experience, and gender. Two different lecturers (1 and 2) taught the lesson on two different days. The note-taking task covered similar content but was not scripted, resulting in lecturer differences. Lecturer 1 included rich peripheral information, and the other reiterated the need “to think for yourself” and “focus on observations” (resulting in higher U scores for lecturer 2’s students). We also found that students with “high” previous field experience had higher U scores. Interview data corroborated this finding, indicating that field experience helped students to “know what to look for.” Lastly, female students generally achieved higher C scores than male students. Females used more words (verbosity), and this likely led to higher values achieved. To improve note-taking skills, we suggest breaking down complex field lessons into simple, manageable parts to manage students’ cognitive load.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-249
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cognitive load theory
  • field teaching
  • geothermal geology
  • note-taking
  • student perceptions


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