Theses Doctoral

The Lecture Note-Taking Skills of Adolescents with and without Learning Disabilities

Oefinger, Lisa Marie

Specific learning disability is by far the most prevalent of the 13 special education categories recognized under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA), consisting of approximately 2.5 million students and comprising 42% of all children receiving special education services in public schools (Cortiella, 2011). Research suggests that learning disabilities (LDs) are chronic conditions with lifetime implications (Morris, Schraufnagel, Chudhow, & Weinberg, 2009), and by high school, students identified with LDs are reading at an average of 3.4 years below grade level (Cortiella, 2011). Such profound reading deficits result in pervasive academic difficulties, as compared to their non-disabled peers. Thus, students with LDs are at a substantial disadvantage for accessing the curriculum (Cortiella, 2011; Shaywitz, 2003). Not surprisingly, students with LDs are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to pursue postsecondary education, and twice as likely to be unemployed (Cortiella, 2011).
In light of the drastic impact LDs have upon students and their academic success, schools must make concerted efforts to provide research-based supports for students with LDs in order to minimize these disadvantages. Research suggests that improvements in note-taking may be one way to increase academic achievement, and thus the prominence of lectures, coupled with the established benefits of lecture note-taking, provides unique intervention opportunities to target special education students.
The purpose of this study was to compare the lecture note-taking skills of adolescents with and without LDs by exploring the role of cognitive processes speculated to impact note-taking ability and proficiency. While existing research identifies discrepancies between the quality of notes recorded by students with and without LDs, little is known about the underlying cognitive processes causing these differences. Building upon this previous research, with consideration to the unique characteristics of students with LDs, this study investigates the following cognitive processes theorized to impact the note-taking skills of adolescents with and without LDs: (1) handwriting speed, (2) listening comprehension, (3) sustained attention, and (4) background knowledge.
The researcher hypothesized that 1) NLD students would outperform LD students across all independent and dependent variables, 2) LD status, listening comprehension, handwriting speed, background knowledge, and sustained attention would significantly predict notes, 3) LD status, listening comprehension, handwriting speed, background knowledge, sustained attention, and notes would significantly predict multiple-choice test performance, and 4) the prediction pattern for the LD group would be the same as the prediction pattern for the NLD group.
Participants were recruited from two northeast high schools, located within the same urban school district, and specific selection criteria were identified for the LD and NLD groups. All students selected for the LD group were required to have an IQ score of 70 or above, based on the most recent psychological assessment. Additionally, all potential participants completed a screening session to assess their reading comprehension skills and confirm their appropriateness for the assigned group. The final sample included 70 adolescents with a mean age of 16.1 (SD= 1.23).
After the screening, all participants completed two sessions in small groups within a ten-day period. During the first session, participants were asked to (a) view a video-recorded lecture while simultaneously taking notes on the lecture content, (b) complete a demographics questionnaire, (c) review their lecture notes, (d) complete a measure of handwriting speed, and (e) complete a multiple-choice test based on the lecture content. In the second experimental session, participants were asked to (a) complete a measure of listening comprehension, (b) complete a measure of background knowledge, and (c) complete a measure of sustained attention.
Consistent with hypothesis, results of the study indicated that NLD students significantly outperformed LD students across all measures. However, contrary to hypotheses, LD status was the only significant predictor of notes' total. Additionally, LD status, handwriting speed, listening comprehension, and background knowledge predicted test performance. When the LD and NLD groups were analyzed separately, none of the independent variables predicted notes' quality. Interestingly, handwriting speed predicted multiple-choice test performance for the LD group, but listening comprehension and background knowledge predicted multiple-choice test performance for the NLD group.
Overall, compared to their NLD peers, LD adolescents struggled significantly across all independent and dependent variables, and given the outcomes, it appears as though LD status mediated the relationship between the cognitive variables and note-taking.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
School Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Peverly, Stephen T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 3, 2014