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The Vermont Cynic

Different note taking styles affect learning

Erin Powell, Cynic Correspondent

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The seats of a lecture hall fill up, the projector turns on, notebooks and laptops are opened and hundreds of students begin to take notes.

Taking notes is proven to boost memory, comprehension and the ability to draw conclusions and patterns between material, according to a June 2014 PBS article,.

But there is not merely one way to take notes.

“I usually just write down verbatim what the powerpoint says. I try to absorb what the professor says so my notes are a reference back to what I was looking at on the powerpoint” first-year Elizabeth Huckins said.

Often, the method of notetaking depends  on the student and the class.

“For some classes I take notes on the slides plus what I think is relevant that the professor is saying,” first-year Dan Brainerd said. “For other classes I just write what is on the slides because that’s all that is important.”

Note taking is not just about the content, but also how they look. Some notes may be written in beautiful looping script where others are more like chicken scratch.

According to first-year Keerthi Onkaram, neat handwriting can be a burden.

“I think it’s my downfall with note taking, because I try to make it so perfect,” Onkaram said. “But in the time it takes me to write down notes on one thing, the professor has already moved on.”

Though the main goal of notetaking is to improve retention of information, some students like first-year Emma Rainard, are self-conscious about their note writing habits.

“My handwriting is hideous,” Rainard said. “Sometimes if there is a cute guy sitting next to me I’ll hide my handwriting. Cause guys look over onto girls’ notes all the time. I gotta impress them.”

A PBS study found that“taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,’ and these efforts foster retention and comprehension,” and other research claims that handwriting can correlate to personality traits.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, graphology is the study of how character can be inferred from handwriting.

It is generally regarded as a pseudoscience similar to astrology.

Some beliefs of graphology include that large spaces between words indicate a value of freedom, or that light pressure in writing signifies introversion.

“I’ve heard that messier handwriting is because people’s thoughts are faster and they are smarter. I have no idea if that’s true,” Brainerd said.

Even if messy handwriting is a sign of intelligence, Rainard reiterates its undesirability.

“Every now and then I see someone whose handwriting is worse than mine,” she said. “I smile to myself because I don’t have the ugliest handwriting in the class.”

1 Comment

One Response to “Different note taking styles affect learning”

  1. Sheila Lowe on November 10th, 2017 8:15 pm

    The thing about graphology is, no individual characteristic (like messiness or spacing) is significant by itself. A handwriting professional always looks at the whole picture of writing before making any assessment. And btw, light pressure does not signify introversion!
    Still, as president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, I’m always happy to see handwriting discussed.
    http://www.ahafhandwriting.org

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The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883
Different note taking styles affect learning