In 1999, the National Research Council published a major study: “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School.” The results confirmed what most forward-looking educators already understood: In order to learn, students must reprocess information in their own conceptual framework. And that starts with note-taking — a skill most students have very little training in before college.
“Educators refer to this as, ‘metacognition.’ It’s the crucial difference between just copying information and the higher level skill of interacting with it,” says Aaron Peacock, director of assessment at Montgomery Township School District in New Jersey. The district stresses the importance of “interactive notebooks” in hopes of better preparing students for college.
Whether using the formalized Cornell method or an idiosyncratic style, the key is to make sure to provide room on the page to express thoughts on the material and to formulate questions. This forces you to process the material in your own words — perhaps the key function of learning.
“This interactive notebook concept has just exploded,” says Peacock. “The idea is to work with our present understanding of how the mind works. To incorporate new knowledge, we need to connect it to our personal framework — how we see the world and interact with it.”