Research suggests hand-writing notes improve retention

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Photo Credit: Lydia Thron | Daily Texan Staff

Although use of computers for note-taking purposes at the University is up to each professor’s discretion, research shows that students who take handwritten notes typically perform better than those who use a computer.

According to a study, which the Chronicle of Higher Education released last week, out of 95 students who responded, 86 percent of them said they paid the same or more attention in class without using a laptop. 

Management Information Systems professor Clint Tuttle said test results in his Business System Development class showed that students fared better on exams when they wrote their reference sheets by hand as opposed to digitally making and printing them.

“I let them bring in a resource sheet … but they have to write it,” Tuttle said. “One semester, I allowed people to copy-paste from my notes and stuff like that, and a bunch of people brought digital sheets. [Students] did a little worse because they didn’t force themselves to write it all out.”

At the beginning of each semester, Tuttle used to employ a no-technology policy, only allowing students to use laptops after the first exam. 

“By not giving them the crutch of the laptop, like, they had to work a little harder to focus,” Tuttle said. “Once they did it … they just stuck with it.”

Note-taking style depends on individual students, said Ruben Cardenas, government and communication studies junior. He said using printed versions of the professors’ PowerPoint slides and writing alongside each slide is his method for both note-taking and studying.

“That’s how I learned how to study — just writing out my notes because it reinforces what I’m learning and I’m seeing it again in my mind,” Cardenas said. “I get better grades doing that, but to someone else, it may be different.”

Journalism professor Robert Jensen said using technology for notes can be useful in lab-based classes.

“The laptop and the smartphone is a tool we use in journalism, so they’re incorporated much more easily [in class],” Jensen said.

Jensen also said using laptops in lectures may distract other students.

“Using a laptop in the classroom is not only frequently undermining [one] particular student’s ability to focus, but it also undermines other students,” Jensen said. “It’s an effect on the atmosphere of the class, [which is] a collective experience.”