Note-taking has long been recognised as an effective learning strategy, aiding in information retention and comprehension. But have you ever wondered why writing things down improves our ability to learn and remember? In this blog post, we will delve into the science behind note-taking and explore how the act of writing that down can enhance learning outcomes.

Writing things down helps you to remember

When we write information down, we engage in a process called encoding. Encoding involves transforming incoming information into a format that our brains can more easily store and retrieve. Writing notes forces us to actively process and summarise information, allowing us to filter out key concepts and reframe ideas in our own words. This process facilitates a deeper understanding of the material and enhances our ability to recall it later.

Visual and Kinaesthetic Learning

Humans are multi-sensory learners, and note-taking caters to different learning styles. Writing that down combines visual and kinaesthetic learning modalities. As we jot down notes, we engage our visual system by seeing the written words and our kinaesthetic system by physically manipulating the pen or typing on a keyboard. This multi-sensory experience strengthens neural connections, making the information more memorable and facilitating better retention. Bonus points if you’re using pretty colourful pens.

Taking notes keeps you engaged

Taking notes requires active engagement with the material you are listening to or reading about. By actively listening, summarising, and organising information while writing, we focus our attention on the key points and main ideas. This heightened attention prevents mindless passivity and helps us stay actively engaged with the subject matter. Actively processing information through note-taking stimulates critical thinking and facilitates deeper learning.

 

Writing things down makes it easier to refer back to

The act of reviewing and revisiting our notes serves as a form of retrieval practice. Regularly returning to our written material strengthens memory recall. When we revisit our notes, we engage in active recall, trying to remember the information before checking our notes. This process reinforces neural connections and helps cement the information in long-term memory. Furthermore, having well-organised and comprehensive notes makes future review sessions more effective and time-efficient.

Note-taking is not merely a passive recording of information; it is a powerful learning tool backed by scientific principles.  So, the next time you find yourself in a lecture, meeting, or studying session, or just think of something you need to do later, grab a pen and write that down.