Top tips for note making

26 April, 2021

The pandemic has caused us all to be increasingly reliant on interactive, screen-based learning and knowledge gathering. Although technology has been really helpful, there is a risk of losing the skill of writing our thoughts fluently and therefore losing the art of evaluating a subject effectively.

In 1895, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted some of the first experiments on memory, recall and spaced learning that still hold up today. He developed the forgetting curve, which shows how information is lost quickly over time if there is no strategy or effort to retain it.

More recently, research by Princeton University and the University of California found that if you need to remember something, you should write it down. They state that “writing notes by hand is much better for long-term memory of ideas, or conceptual information”.

The need for you as learners to be attentive and inquisitive in class, and to make good notes, is very important. Vocational qualifications are no longer just hands-on training courses but a balance of academic study, practical skills and the personal development which can help you, as you enter the changing world of work.

Here are some top tips for note making that will help you to learn and retain more knowledge.

Rather than simply writing notes, you need to re-read them, review, reflect and connect the dots within the topic. Better organisation of notes will lead to better knowledge retention.

Preeti Vohra, one of our IT lecturers here at Activate Learning explains:

“I realised that when students first join our Technology faculty, they are often not used to descriptive writing, and note making does not come naturally to them. I identified that note making was an area that required additional focus and effort.”

“I found that out of 25 students, only four learners actually wrote meaningful notes. The rest had focused on less relevant information with the very minimum text being written.

“A good way to improving note making is to share. I asked the cohort to exchange and compare notes with each other, add information which would make it more meaningful and include any missing information to their original notes.

“This also helped students to include more appropriate headings and questions within their notes.”

Preeti’s note-taking interventions have helped our students achieve distinctions and merits in the past with exams. To reiterate, Preeti’s top tips for note making are:

  1. Analyse notes thoroughly
  2. Review the notes consistently review these
  3. Highlight the key terms and make a side section of key terms
  4. Include important examples
  5. Questions and any doubts should be written while making notes and followed up later

So there you have it! It’s never too late to implement these into your current schoolwork and it’s useful information to keep in mind as you start with us in September!