Note-Taking Guides in Training

Man_taking_notes-PXHereTaking notes during class is a tried and true method to improve information retention. Developing a note-taking guide or workbook is a great way to encourage your students to take notes during class. A good note-taking guide is more than the traditional presentation handout with three slides on each page and lines in the right column. A good note-taking guide requires active participation by students to record and receive all the information. It takes time to develop a good guide. It begins as you plan your lesson. Here are some tips and ideas to make a great note-taking guide for your students.

Using your slide deck is a great place to start. You can simply replace key text with underscores to create blank spaces for students to complete. If you select the two slide per page option, the slide is large enough for the student to write their answers. If you develop great slides, the kind with pictures and little text, using the fill-in-the-blank method will not work. A little creativity, however, allows you to incorporate pictures into your note-taking guide and still provide a space for the student to insert keywords for retention. The SMART Goals page is an example of using this idea. Using pictures in your workbooks reinforces the ideas from your slideshow. You need to creatively find ways so students will insert the keywords to help them remember the meaning of the picture.

There are times when text is necessary such as introducing laws, rules, definitions, or quotes. Replacing keywords from the text with blank spaces is a great way to ensure students record the key ideas from messages requiring lots of text. Often, students who do take notes in a traditional notebook try to copy every word of every slide. When they take notes this way, they miss the supporting information spoken by the instructor. The blank space replacement method permits enough writing to reinforce important messages from the slide, and also allows the student to listen to the explanatory message from the teacher. Providing some additional space allows the student to record connections they make from the information to their experiences.

Copy the high points of your lesson outline into a separate word processing document. Using this method provides the same information as slides, but allow you to reduce the information in the workbook. Fill In The Blanks.jpgIt also is a great way to provide a note-taking guide if your slides do have lots of pictures instead of text. Go back and delete important points and replace them with the blank line. The blank lines send a message to students that the missing information is important. Having the high points puts students on notices about the general direction of the training. They know when important information is coming and are understand what the main ideas are versus the supporting ideas. Another method is to provide the category of information and then place an empty numbered list below the heading.

Training classes should have learning activities sprinkled throughout allowing students to practice what they learned. Use individual, collective, and small group activities. The note-taking guide is the perfect place to insert worksheets, instructions for exercises, or a place to record reflections of the learning activity. Frequently individual worksheets become separated from students notes. When they return to the notes later in their lives, they lose the benefit of the lessons learned during the classroom exercises using worksheets. If those learning steps are part of the class workbook, they are available to students days or years later when they reflect on finer points of the training that they want to remember at that later time.

As you prepare the note-taking guide, you will find it tempting to include everything from every slide in your presentation. Do not do it. I took a two-day class some time back. The students were provided with copies of the slides later. There were over 300. I have a two day class on professional decision making I teach. There are less than 80 slides. The note-taking guide allows students to note the most important learning points from your lesson. No one is going to easily find the information they are looking for by reviewing 300 slides. When I attend a training, I try to limit my class notes to one or two typed pages per hour of class time. With that number in mind, you should aim to only have one or two workbook pages for students for every hour of class. This number does not include any worksheet activities. If the class I took with 300 slides had information from each slide in the note-taking guide, the document would probably be 150 pages. Notes should be a summary of what is learned in class. A 150-page notebook is not a summary.

goal setting cycle.jpgFlow charts showing processes and decision points are great for inclusion in note-taking guides. The page includes all of the steps and decision points but excludes text. Include text for the most critical points so students have that information after class. Leaving most of the steps empty however requires the students to pay attention and fill in the blanks. When they leave class, they have a model of the whole process. The remember more of the process because they wrote it down in the note-taking guide. They can return to it anytime and review the process improving the quality of their work without supervision in the future. Their behaviors conform to the organization’s expectations which is the point of conducting training.

Developing a note-taking guide for training is a way instructors encourage students to take notes during class. A well designed note-taking guide serves as a workbook by including adequate space for structure and unstructured note-taking, forecasts what points will be made during the training, includes worksheets for use during learning activities, provides pictures with meaning, process charts for student completion, and improves lesson retention. Students structured notes to refer to in the future to share their learning with others, and to refresh their learning. An ideal note-taking workbook is one or two pages for every hour of training exclusive of any learning activity worksheets. The guide is not a copy of the slide deck used in the presentation, rather it complements the slide deck. A well designed note-taking guide improves learning but takes time to develop. Development begins as you work on your lesson plans. Your students will leave class thinking you are the profession expert you professed to be when you provide a quality note-taking guide.


Image Credits

Person Taking Notes:  PXHere.com-no attribution information.

Workbook page examples: Author from examples of his note-taking guides.

The RSA language is from NH.gov.