Monday, March 19, 2018
Colleen P. Murphy (Roger Williams), CJ Ryan (Vanderbilt) & Yajni Warnapala (Roger Williams), Note-Taking Mode and Academic Performance in Two Law School Courses:
The use of laptops in law school classrooms has become fairly commonplace, especially in the last decade. Yet, studies in other higher education settings have found an association between note-taking mode and academic performance; specifically, using a laptop to take notes in the classroom is associated with negative academic performance outcomes.
This study endeavors to assess the relationship between note-taking mode and academic performance in the law school setting. We compare the academic performance of handwriters to laptop users in two required, doctrinal courses as well as the effect of a randomly assigned treatment, exposing roughly half of the students in our analysis to a memorandum explaining the possible pitfalls of using a laptop to take class notes. We find that handwriting class notes has a strong positive association with academic performance in these two law school courses, supporting findings of the benefits of handwriting class notes in other academic settings.
Our findings that second-year law students who handwrote their notes outperformed laptop users is consistent with the results of studies in other higher education settings. This study meaningfully contributes to the ongoing discussion about whether computer usage in the higher education classroom might be hindering academic performance, and in particular, performance on essay exams requiring conceptual applications. Future studies on note-taking mode and academic performance in the law school setting, with larger sample sizes covering multiple semesters, would be illuminating, not only to test the generalizability of our results but to challenge the trend of laptop use in the law school context.