Should Middle School Students with Learning Problems Copy and Paste Notes from the Internet? Mixed-Methods Evidence of Study Barriers

In the experimental phase of this mixed-methods study, 49 middle school students receiving special education services took notes from the Internet under either a written notes or a copy-and-paste notes condition. Immediate, cued-recall measures of factual learning showed that students who wrote their notes were better able to recall what they had noted, although recall was low for all students. However, after a one-week delay (which included two classroom opportunities to study their notes), students who pasted their notes performed significantly better on two different measures of factual learning than students who wrote their notes. Follow-up student interviews and analyses of notes revealed a robust explanatory theme: many written notes contained barriers to learning (e.g., illegible handwriting, spelling errors, and/or indecipherable paraphrases), which likely reduced the benefit of study time. Implications for instructing this population of students to use copy and paste while gathering information on the Internet are discussed.

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Published in Research in Middle Level Education Online, 2009