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The case for handouts

How much do you remember from your last meeting or training session? There’s a story in the New York Times Magazine about a new technology called Livescribe. As someone who recorded lectures and then fill in class notes from the recording, a pen that records the audio lecture and automatically links it to handwritten notes is revolutionary.

Years of research demonstrate a strong correlation between academic achievement and detailed note taking. The best students are able to take notes and mentally process the information. They take the information and process it through working memory, while integrating it with what they already know to determine most important points.

Even the most intelligent, fast note taker has difficulty keep up with a speaker.  So do we all need “smart pens?” Buried in the article are two important concepts that go beyond technology. Further research by Kiewra at the University of Nebraska looked at teachers who provide handouts with concepts along with blanks for students to fill in during the lecture. They found that “students using partial notes capture a majority of the main concepts in a lecture, more than doubling their usual performance.”

The second set of research looked at using handouts of the lecture notes. Findings? “Those who heard the lecture and took (their own) notes scored 51 percent on a subsequent test, while those who only read the instructor’s notes scored 69 percent.”

What does all of this research have to do with organization development? Every organization I’ve been involved with has meetings and many have training departments. Giving complete handouts that can be reviewed before and after the meeting or presentation, taking and distributing good meeting notes, and even simply providing a written agenda that covers the key points with space to fill in the discussion have the potential to improve understanding and communication.

Read the entire article: The Pen That Never Forgets and let me know what comes to your mind about how to implement these ideas in your organization.

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