The Process and Steps to Effective Note-taking… a skill that improves with active practice and involvement!

Welcome to the note-taking and active learning presentation…
The goals of this workshop are:

  • To provide an awareness of the “process” involved in effective note-taking
  • To encourage an “active learning approach” for effective note-taking and learning
  • To provide links to online note-taking methods

Here’s a brief activity to get you started:

Please take a few minutes and
List three to four activities you have done to help yourself with note-taking.

Now, carefully look at your list, and next to each step determine if the activity was done

  • Before class,
  • During class or
  • After class.

If you are lacking activities in the before and after category, or want to explore in-class note-taking methods this workshop may provide some valuable techniques, and change the way you view note-taking ability.

  • Effective Note-taking is a process!

This workshop will introduce you to the PROCESS of Taking Effective Notes!!!

Effective learners prepare in several ways…

Let’s start with Part I

Before Class…How to Prepare for Lecture

  • Map or outline main topics, subtopics, and vocabulary in bold print (shown below)
  • Leave space for details and examples…this will be completed following classroom lecture and during your textbook reading.

Chapter Title



Bold Print Vocabulary

Mapping or outlining is recommended because effective learners

  • narrow down important new information: topics/ sub-topics/ bold print vocabulary
  • compare this information to material previously learned
  • question what is not familiar

Effective learners also prepare their mind for the next level of information, that is,

  • textbook reading and taking notes during class lecture.

Textbook reading and class lectures/discussions are meant to introduce and clarify new information… this is learning in progress.

When new information and concepts are organized to aid understanding, the
mind is motivated and engaged in learning!

Read through the following concepts for an example of a before class activity. This example is from a General Psychology textbook

Chapter Title: Memory

(Check if the author/s have color-coded main topics and sub-topics)

Sensory Memory

  • Iconic Memory
    • Partial-report technique
  • Echoic Memory

Short-Term Memory (Working Memory)

  • Encoding in Short-term memory

    Types of Processing – effortful processing

    automatic processing

  • The Duration of Short-Term Memory
  • The Size of Short-Term Memory


  • Working Memory: A New View of Short-Term Memory

    Phonological loop

    Visuospatial sketch pad

    Central executive

Long-Term Memory

  • Encoding in Long-Term Memory


    Depth of Processing

    Self-reference effect

    Encoding Specificity

This example had used underlining for the main topic, a bullet for subtopics, and vocabulary has been indented. The goal is to be creative and involved during this activity!

(Cited information has narrowed down 10 pages of a psychology text…)

Let’s review before moving on to in-class and taking notes.

Once the new topics and concepts are organized

  • Read aloud the concepts
  • Try to visualize the sequence of events or concepts mentioned
  • Prepare the mind for the details to follow. The details now have a place to go.

Remember you are not at the memory level of learning…
class lecture (note-taking) and textbook reading introduce the material.

Goal of “Before Class Activity”……… to organize information so details and understanding will follow.

Part II………During class Note-taking

The following links are recommended to learn ways to improve in-class note-taking:

  • How to use The Cornell Note-taking System and How and When to use additional methods based on content and lecture format. Visit www.sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/notetaking.systems.htmlto explore:
    • The Cornell Method
    • The Outline Method
    • The Mapping Method
    • The Charting Method
    • The Sentence Method

Part III…………..After Lecture

This is a critical stage… research consistently supports the “Spacing Effect”; that is, more material is generally recalled when practice is distributed over several sessions. The contrast also holds true in that less material is generally remembered if learned in a single extended session. (Baddeley, 1982).

Therefore… “after lecture strategies” to enhance understanding and memory (and your note-taking ability) include:

Return to the prepared outline and compare to your lecture notes
Fill in examples/ definitions
Use your own words as appropriate (we remember our own wording)
Note if topics are missing
Add additional topics covered in class to your original outline/ study guide.

Working with the material in this way will prepare you for the continuous learning cycle:

Before Class

  • Map textbook chapter

During Class

  • Use Cornell two-column format or alternative methods (Outline, Mapping, Charting, Sentence) for note-taking
  • Use effective listening techniques

After Class

  • Compare lecture notes to your chapter outline/map
  • Add additional topics/subtopics as needed
  • Compare information to material previously learned
  • Read concepts aloud
  • Visualize and talk through the material in your own words

Once you have initiated the Before/During/After Class Cycle of Learning you may feel more in control of your learning. Thank you for visiting the Note-taking and Active Learning Strategy presentation. We hope you are inspired!

Please contact cfelice@tunxis.edu (August through May) for follow-up or clarification.

For more information, contact the Academic Success Center at 860.773.1530 or tx-asc@tunxis.edu.