The Black Dot vs The Highlighter

As college student, we have all had that one class that is required for graduation that we aren’t the most interested in. Most of us have a hard time retaining information for that particular subject. So, what would you consider the most effective way to retain the information you need to be successful throughout the course? There have been many research studies conducted on study habits and IMG_9773.JPG the effects a study habit has on the student’s ability to retain the information. Perhaps, the worst study habit a student can partake in is highlighting, and the best would be studying information in intervals along with adequate rest. But are these practices beneficial for a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket? I decided to find out.

Many students at GT are seen in class highlighting or using a bullet point method when taking notes, but which is the most beneficial and how do they affect the student’s ability to retain information if they are not interested in the subject matter? I’m sure any student at GT would agree that lectures are 50 to 75 minutes of information overload that result in sleepless nights to complete homework assignments. What if the reason we can’t retain the information is because of the way we organize the important aspects of the information given?

IMG_9781.JPG I gave two GT students the same packet of information to learn over the course of two days. One student was instructed to highlight all the important information within the packet, and the other student was instructed to use the bullet point method. Exactly one week later, the two students were given an additional packet with new information to learn using their same methods of organizing the important information. At the end of week 2, the students were asked to provide as many facts as they could from packet one. Both students could recall a great sum of information, but the student who used a highlighter could only summarize. The student who used the bullet point method could recall more detailed information. When asked why he thought this may be the case, he said it was more repetition. He claimed that using the bullet point method allowed him to read, recite, determine what was important to remember, and write the information, and that made the information stick with him. Clearly, my two person study needs to be replicated, but in the meantime my advice to kick the highlighter to the curb and use the bullet point method.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58.

Photos by Rakiya Winton

Rakiya Winton
RaKiya Winton is a student at Georgia Institute of Technology studying industrial engineering. She also has a degree in mathematics. She enjoys working in the aerospace industry to find new ways to improve processes.