Increase learning by taking notes by hand

How often do you write these days? I type almost everything, to the point where my handwriting (which was never exceptional) has gotten noticeably worse.

Yet while typing may be convenience (and necessary) in the business world, is it the best course for students who are working to learn and retain information? Perhaps not, according to a study published in Psychological Science.

The two scientists who ran the study found that when taking notes via computer, students tend to focus on trying to capture information verbatim, but when they are taking notes longhand, they must process and summarize – thus learning the information as they write.

As far as note-taking in general, there are two main benefits to learning. First is the “encoding hypothesis,” by which the person learns and retains the information due to processing and recording what they are learning. The second is the “external-storage hypothesis,” where the person learns by looking back and reviewing notes.

As the study examined the effects of typing vs. writing notes on each of these learning processes, it found a significant difference based on the type of question asked. For fact-based questions where students must simply remember a date or event, both groups performed equally. However, for “conceptual-application” questions where students must interpret and explain data, those who hand-wrote their notes had a significant advantage.

If your child is using a computer to take notes, check out this article and the study – perhaps encouraging him/her to pick up a pen or pencil will help reduce study time and/or improve grades!


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