Wednesday, 15 October 2014

to provide instructor's notes to students or not: that is the question.

Today is a guest post about whether or not to provide students with the instructor's notes. I have had student requests for this in the past but have always resisted on the grounds that it is the process not the product that promotes student learning. Giving students my set of notes does nothing to encourage the construction of their own knowledge structure. However, similar to Jeffery Stowell at  Eastern Illinois University, I do provide students with copies of the slideshows that I use during class because they are incomplete - I develop them during the course of the class. Students have indicated that this allows them to to stay on course during the class while still needing to be engaged with the flow of the conversation.

Below is what Jeffrey provides his students at the beginning of the courses he teaches. It provides a scholarly rationale for why he does not give students a complete set of notes. This was posted on the discussion forum and was forwarded to me by a Psychology colleague . When I read it I contacted Dr. Stowell requesting permission to repost it here. He gladly gave his blessing.

"Why I Provide Partial PowerPoint Notes"
Jeffrey R. Stowell
Eastern Illinois University

1)      Students with partial notes (before the days of PowerPoint) did better on an essay exam than students who received full notes (Annis, 1981). In contrast, students who were provided a text outline of PowerPoint slides did more poorly than a comparable class without the outlines (Weatherly, Grabe, & Arthur, 2003). However, in a study looking at full versus partial PowerPoint notes, there was no difference in quiz or exam scores (Stark-Wroblewski, Kreiner, Clause, Edelbaum, & Ziser, 2006), which was similar to results by Vandehey, Marsh, and Diekhoff (2005) who found no effect of providing full notes on grades or attendance compared to providing partial notes or student-generated notes. Comparing partial PowerPoint notes to no instructor-provided notes, there was no difference in student attendance or grades (Bowman, 2009).  Yet, another study showed that students assigned to receive partial PowerPoint notes did better than those receiving full notes on conceptual exam questions (much like mine) and final grades (Cornelius & Owen-DeSchryver, 2008).  Although students like having PowerPoint notes available (Frank, Shaw, & Wilson, 2009), there appears to be no significant benefit of providing full lecture notes compared to partial notes. In fact, providing full lecture notes may have harmful effects on attendance or grades.  An additional review of the benefits of providing partial notes is found on page 74-75 of the book "Applying Science of Learning in Education" (

2)      Partial notes are a nice balance between instructor- and student-generated notes.  Students who come to class can take additional notes on material not included in the PowerPoint outline. Regardless of the detail provided in the notes, attending class will generally result in a higher grade for the course.

3)      Also, please consider that the PowerPoint slides contain copyrighted materials that I may not be authorized to share publicly.


Annis, L. F. (1981). Effect of preference for assigned lecture notes on student achievement. Journal of Educational Research, 74(3), 179-182.

Bowman, L. L. (2009). Does posting PowerPoint presentations on WebCT affect class performance or attendance? Journal of Instructional Psychology, 36(2), 104-107.

Cornelius, T. L., & Owen-DeSchryver, J. (2008). Differential effects of full and partial notes on learning outcomes and attendance. Teaching of Psychology, 35(1), 6 - 12.

Frank, J., Shaw, L., & Wilson, E. (2009). The impact of providing web-based PowerPoint slides as study guides in undergraduate business classes. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 37(2), 217-229.

Stark-Wroblewski, K., Kreiner, D. S., Clause, C. B., Edelbaum, J., & Ziser, S. B. (2006). Does the generation effect apply to PowerPoint handouts? Psychology and Education: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 43(2), 28-37.

Vandehey, M. A., Marsh, C. M., & Diekhoff, G. M. (2005). Providing students with instructors' notes: Problems with reading, studying, and attendance. Teaching of Psychology, 32(1), 49-52.

Weatherly, J. N., Grabe, M., & Arthur, E. I. L. (2003). Providing introductory psychology students access to lecture slides via Blackboard 5: A negative impact on performance. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 31(4), 463-474.