Charlotte Mbali

  • Note-making as Active Learning

    Charlotte Mbali, Centre for Higher Education Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

    Research Seminar

    Themes: Learning and Teaching Methods

    An orientation lecture on note-making was utilized in 2003 to investigate how incoming students envisage note-making their University studies. Results of an on-the-spot survey, of 2 groups of more than 600 each, across disciplines, on their written list of 3 statements of purpose each, revealed a hierarchy of purpose corresponding to active learning categories (Marton & Saljo1976a and b, 1984; Ramsden 1992)

    • To revise for tests and exams
    • To take down key ideas from lectures
    • To record key ideas from books/texts
    • To help me see patterns in ideas/facts
    • To use when I do assignments
    • To help me decide what I think of ideas
    • To discuss with fellow-students
    • To make an action list of things to do
    • To note details of books and web-sites to follow up.

    This exercise has since been repeated with a smaller group of postgraduate Chinese students studying in UK when it was also possible to elicit their free-expression statements of purpose. It was also done with the audience of lecturers at the Cape Town SAADA Conference presentation on this topic. Follow-up research in the first part of 2004 will entail a survey of first year lecturers’ views, by semi-structured interviews, on how note-making should be used, with some evidence, if it can be collected, of how their students actually make notes. Some comparison of discipline practices may be possible to feed into ongoing international discussion about disciplinary differences (Hativa 1995; Neumann 2001). Depending on progress, it may be possible to extend the research to lecturers of students in more advanced years of their degree.


    • Hativa, N. and. Marcovich., M. (1995). Disciplinary Differences in Teaching and Learning: Implications for Practice. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
    • Marton, F. &. Saljo., R. (1976a). "On qualitative differences in learning: 11 Outcome as a function of the learner's conception of the task." British Journal of Educational Psychology 46(115-126).
    • Marton, F. & Saljo, R. (1976b). "On qualitative differences in learning: 1 Outcome and process." British Journal of Educational Psychology 46: 4-11.
    • Marton, F. &. Saljo., R. (1984). Approaches to Learning. The experience of learning. F. H. Marton, D. and Entwistle, N. Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press.
    • Neumann, R. (2001). "Disciplinary Differences and University Teaching." Studies in HIgher Education 26(2): 135-146.
    • Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London, Routledge.