Organized note-taking during and after class helps students retain information, improve grades, and prepare them for higher education, according to a writing expert at Salt Lake Community College.
Taking notes requires actively engaging with the topic of the lecture by listening and summarizing, said Clint Gardner, program manager at SLCC’s Student Writing and Reading Center. Roadblocks to taking notes include writing slowly, not paying attention, or relying on memory.
Regardless of the reasons, said Gardner, poor note-taking interferes with higher levels of learning, and students should learn how to take better notes now to prepare for the future.
Gardner advises students keep handwritten notes by transcribing them after class.
“I know that sounds like a lot of work, but there are two benefits to transcribing: You get to review the material again, and secondly, you can put them in an order that makes sense for you,” he said. “It is a lot like revising a piece of writing.”
Classmates can also meet after class to compare accuracy and share information they may have missed during the lecture, said Gardner.
While some students worry about organizing information, others feel like they just can’t write fast enough. For students who struggle with writing slowly, Gardner advises recording lectures.
“Out of courtesy, you should ask your professor if it is okay to record, of course,” he said. “The Disability Resource Center also has resources for students who may struggle with note-taking.”
Knowing what information to note presents another challenge.
“I write stuff down that I feel like is easily forgettable,” said Isaac Hann, a history major at SLCC.
Details within the bigger picture and sub-points are easily forgotten pieces of information that help a student retain the main topic of the lecture.
Many SLCC students plan to attend a four-year university, and poor note-taking habits do not translate to long-term success, whether academically or professionally.
“Relying on your memory can get you into trouble, especially when what you have to remember is really complex, or has so many details or moving parts that you can’t keep them straight,” said Gardner. “One benefit of the technology of writing, is that it allows us to remember things without having to store the information permanently in our brains.”