Adult Learner

Systems Change



Effective note-taking during lectures or reading directs learners' Attention to the relevant information, helping them identify key concepts, understand links between ideas and retain information better in their Long-term Memory. Having information stored in one place also allows learners to revisit it later, for review and reflection, and to reinforce the learning. Providing structures and cues for note-taking fosters better organizing of information and also reduces cognitive load. Explicitly teaching learners how to take notes and equipping them with skills and techniques to use Metacognition, to make effective decisions around which strategies to use for which kind of information, is crucial. This is important because incomplete or inaccurate notes can be counter-productive.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Note-taking can be introduced in learning spaces as a set of skills to be developed and as a pedagogical tool. Note-taking strategies could be linear such as outlines or SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review), as well as more non-linear and visual such as mind-mapping, story and concept maps, or a mix of both. Coaching learners to pick the right format based on the kind of information and the purpose of note-taking boosts their ability to use note-taking effectively as a skill. Teaching techniques such as using abbreviations or icons can also foster better note-taking, especially for writers who need more processing time.

Instructors and developers can design their lectures and modules to prioritize note-taking. Providing an outline of the information presented, or templates for guided-note taking, can facilitate better organizing of information and channels learners' Attention to important information while reducing pressure on their Working Memory and Short-term Memory. Partial notes, especially in online spaces where a certain format is given and students are required to fill out the rest, can support learning, especially for struggling learners. They can also be used as a formative assessment tool.

Another way to encourage note-taking is to include it as a part of the lesson plans and modules. When students are given the opportunity to revise, add to, or rewrite their notes during deliberate pauses in lectures or during independent reading periods, they tend to retain more information. They can also be asked to collaborate with partners or in small groups to revise the notes and fill in the gaps.