Students are often encouraged by their teachers to take notes during class or while they are reading textbooks. Taking notes helps students remember information from the lesson. Some teachers require their students to complete structured note taking, while others leave it up to the individual students. Structured note taking offers both advantages and disadvantages to students.
One of the biggest advantages of using structured note taking is organisation. In structured note taking, the information is organised in a specific way. For instance, notes may take an outline approach, in which a main idea is noted, followed by bullet points that cover ideas associated with the main idea. Students can also use mapping techniques, in which the main idea is placed in the centre of the page and related ideas branch off around it. Related ideas can also have their own related idea branches.
Especially when a teacher provides the structure for students to follow, students are better able to focus on what is important in the lesson. For instance, if the teacher tells the class what the main idea is, students are then able to figure out which ideas are related to the main idea and should thus be noted. Once students become familiar with the way in which the teacher wants them to take notes, note taking becomes much easier.
The purpose of taking notes is to help students gain a firmer understanding of the material the class covers. Some students are able to gain this understanding through simple reading or listening, but others need the additional mental effort of writing down what they read or hear to better retain the information. Organising the information through structured note taking can help the brain keep the information straight in regard to how it all relates together. However, this method does not work well for everyone.
Not all student learning styles work well with structured note taking. While it may seem that a student's notes are not organised and are hard to follow, the student likely has a good idea of what is on the page and how it is organised. If a teacher requires structured note taking among all students, even those who are uncomfortable with it, those students who used less organised methods may find it easier not to take notes at all. This can cause their grades to suffer.
It often takes more time to create structured notes than to take notes in a less organised manner. Over time, a student may become more comfortable and be able to create these structures more quickly. However, when a student has only a limited amount of time in class or to read through a portion of a textbook, the time it takes to create structured notes may not be feasible. To get around this issue, a student can take notes line by line and then organise them into a structured format when he has time later.