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It’s a SNAP: Student Note-taking Achieves Performance

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering Problem-based and Active Learning

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1046.1 - 26.1046.7



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Paper Authors


Dennis A. Silage Temple University

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Dennis Silage received the PhD from the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Temple University, teaches electromagnetic field theory, digital data communication, digital signal and image processing and embedded processing systems. Dr. Silage is past chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Division of ASEE, recipient of the 2007 ASEE National Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2011 ASEE ECE Division Meritorious Service Award.

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It’s a SNAP: Student Note-taking Achieves PerformanceConventional pretests coupled with posttests have been touted as a valuable tool for theassessment of educational objectives. However, such a strategy seems to provide little or nointervention or permanent change in the learning techniques of the undergraduate engineeringstudent. What does an instructor want the student to do? Some important tactics would be forthe student to read the text and references before and after the lecture, think about the contentand be engaged with the course material.There seem to be students who do not adequately read the text and reference materials inpreparation for formal examinations. Some students even use the examination time to ‘read thetext’, searching somewhat aimlessly for formulas and concepts to solve the problem at hand.Homework problems do not serve the same purpose because, if collected, many studentsmindlessly copy the work from others.The Student Note-taking Achieves Performance (SNAP) concept builds on the rapid assessmenttechnique of pretest and posttests but utilizes weekly exercises. As conceived and executedSNAP is a short (15 minute) open notes but closed text and reference quiz. SNAP is predicatedon the learning processed expressed as the anonymous proverb: I hear and I forget; I see and Iremember; I do and I understand. Thus the student’s requisite handwritten notes become acompilation of reading the text, hearing the lecture and self-organizing the course contents andare an aid to learning.The SNAP quizzes are complete engineering analyses from formula and concepts written in theirown notes to gauge their understanding. The SNAP quiz then is a rapid assessment of thestudent’s preparation and continuously organizes their thoughts throughout the course as part ofthe engineering method. The SNAP quizzes also provide thoughtful discussions in the lectureand are a valuable preparation for the formal examinations in the course.Direct assessment of this pedagogical approach in diverse upper-division requisite courses inelectromagnetics, embedded systems and digital communications has been obtained for nearly adecade by having selected topics taught and formally examined without the SNAP concept onesemester, followed by the same topics with the utilization of the SNAP concept in the followingsemester. An indirect assessment has been by extensive interviews of alumni who are engagedin digital communication design and application. Their feedback has been used to improve thepresentation of the concepts in the course but also to assess the contribution of the SNAP conceptto pedagogy in engineering education.Kiewra, K. A. (1984). Acquiring effective notetaking skills: An alternative to professionalnotetaking. Journal of Reading, 90, 299 -301.Einstein, G.O., Morris, J., & Smith, S. (1985). Note-taking, individual differences and memoryfor lecture information. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 522-532.Angelo, T.A., and K.P. Cross. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook forCollege Teachers, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.Litzinger, Thomas A, Wise, John C, Lee, Sang Ha (2005). Self-directed Learning ReadinessAmong Engineering Undergraduate Students. Journal of Engineering Education 22, 122-128.Makany, T., Kemp, J., & Dror, I. E. (2009). Optimising the use of note-taking as an externalcognitive aid for increasing learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 619-635.

Silage, D. A. (2015, June), It’s a SNAP: Student Note-taking Achieves Performance Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24383

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