Students Do Better To Take Notes By Hand

When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,” [Pam] Mueller tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.

James Doubek, “Attention Students: Put Your Laptops Away” (HT: Belut Yasar)

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Similarly, it is better for professors to write on the board rather than flip through text in PowerPoint.

    • Joel,

      Interesting you should write this. I wrote on the board (chalk, then a white board) for years but students insisted on powerpoint slides, so I capitulated. I still lecture but it’s true, there is much more information on a powerpoint that I would have written by hand. It’s essentially an outline of the course. I upload it to the school’s course info site so they can download and use it for exam prep. I think it helps them to see where we are and to reinforce what I’m saying but it can also be a distraction.

      I haven’t forbidden computers in class but I do present the same case summarized in this article. Most students, in my courses, have gone back to taking notes by hand.

      I agree that too much material on slides and flipping though them too fast, would not be helpful. I try to leave the slides up for a few minutes at a time.

    • I’d be interested to see if there’s research that supports this. I’m inclined to believe it, but I’d still like to see some research.

      When I present with powerpoint, I try to leave my slides simple and uncluttered, and say a lot more than is on the screen. (And of course avoid the cardinal sin of simply reading text off the screen)

  2. That is fascinating. I currently type in my Church History class and I spend much time fretting over whether I’m getting everything instead of processing the information.

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