The Importance of Recording and Representing Knowledge

The tools have changed, but the skills are still just as crucial

By Scott Sterling

You would think that needing to understand how to record and represent knowledge has lost importance in the age of smartphones, BYOD, and tablets. After all, to record knowledge, a student only has to tap the “record” button.

That practice might accomplish one goal (having access to that knowledge at a later time), but it doesn’t engage the students in thinking that can actually benefit the other learning processes. When employed correctly, recording and representing knowledge can help students process, understand, and retain new content, as well as aid in summarization tasks.

Before the new college and career readiness standards, summarization was treated at face value, meaning that it was adequate for students to simply repeat what they just heard or read. Now, summarization is needed to engage higher order thinking skills. Comprehension is demonstrated if the student can put the events in their own words. Analysis occurs when the student can boil down the main message and apply it to other aspects of their knowledge.

New book from
Learning Sciences International

Recording & Representing Knowledge: Classroom Techniques to Help Students Accurately Organize and Summarize Content

By Robert J. Marzano and Ria Schmidt


Recording & Representing Knowledge: Classroom Techniques to Help Students Accurately Organize and Summarize Content

If you guessed that note taking is central to recording knowledge, you’re correct. The good news is that plenty of note-taking techniques force students to engage in higher-level skills. If you’re not familiar with advanced techniques and activities for students to acquire, organize, and retain content knowledge, they are covered in the book Recording & Representing Knowledge, from Learning Sciences Publishing:

  • Summary Frames
  • Informal Outline
  • Free Flowing Web
  • GIST
  • Combination Notes
  • And many, many others


Note taking is the primary method of linguistic recording and representation, but what about nonlinguistic recording, using pictures or symbols? Integrating these techniques can help broaden the appeal of a lesson. Students who prefer more visual modalities or ELL students who require language support, as well as nonacademic classes like art and music, can benefit from this methodology.

What are considered nonlinguistic techniques?

  • Graphic organizers (nearly infinite varieties are available)
  • Mnemonic devices (millions still remember the order of rainbows by ROY G. BIV)
  • Pictures and animations (kids love Pictionary)
  • Drama productions, especially charades or miming


Perhaps the best technique is to give the students minimal direction. People like to take notes in their own way. You can demonstrate methods, but don’t require one. Meanwhile, if you tell your students, “Find a way to represent what just happened in the story without using words,” they might come up with a nonlinguistic technique you’ve never even thought of. In the “real world,” their boss might not give much direction when they are asked to analyze something. They will need to choose the best format.

Some teachers might think that introducing more rigor into their classroom calls for advanced techniques and fancy technology, but most tasks that require students to interact with knowledge still come down to two skills: recording new knowledge and finding a way to represent that knowledge in its most efficient, effective form for the chosen purpose.

What’s your favorite note taking technique or graphic organizer? Why is it so effective? Share your thoughts with your colleagues in the Comments section.

For more learning techniques and analysis on the topic of reasoning, check out the latest book in the Essentials for Achieving Rigor series, Examining Reasoning, now available in the Learning Sciences bookstore.

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