So often in English Language Arts and in History, we cling to outlines as a way of distilling many pages of text, and of checking that students slogged through the information, waded through the boldface words, latched onto the headings and subheadings, and somehow made sense of the reading. I have known for a while that this is not the most useful way to help students make sense of their reading, but haven’t had a better plan beyond the Cornell Notes and key point outlines (or, better yet, cloze note outlines!). Robinson and Kiewra suggest using a visual display that gets at the relationships between elements, and support coordinate, within-concept relations, rather than relying on a linear relationship for all learning (which is what we get in an outline). It makes sense, too, to use a relationship-based organizer for prewriting. My whole department relies on outlines for getting students ready to write essays. I wonder what would happen if we moved to having students create visual maps and models instead of a simple, linear outline.
What I'm reading:
- Robinson, D., & Kiewra, K. A. (1995). Visual argument: Graphic organizers are superior to outlines in improving learning from text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(3), 455–467.