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Using Notes to Record What you Learn

As an adult learner, a very useful skill is the ability to make a record of what you hear or read -- note taking. Effective note taking requires that you prepare for the assignment by understanding your motivations or reasons for taking notes -- exam preparation, learning a new job skill, general information, etc.

A good note taker also will prepare by eliminating distractions and staying focused on the speaker. This means also eliminating any physical distractions, such as sitting near a window or at the back of the room where you find it difficult to hear or see. Lastly, being prepared means you have something to write with and to write on -- a good supply of paper and two or more pens or pencils.

Effective note taking results in self-communication. You are writing or talking to yourself. You are probably the only person who will ever read your notes. Therefore, don't be concerned about neatness, spelling or grammar. Use whatever words, symbols and pictures will result in effective communication.

Notes highlight important information and pay less attention to less important information. Therefore, you need to know how to identify important or relevant information. Listen to the speaker's voice inflections or volume. Often, these speaking mannerisms denote key concepts or ideas.

Generally, if the instructor writes information on the blackboard or creates some graphic or visual, it's probably important, and thus it should be included in your notes. Don't hesitate to ask questions of the speaker for clarification of relevant information. Remember, you can't write everything you hear. You must have the ability to select what is important.