Take Better Notes: The Relationship Between Time and Memory

Many students come to the Office of Learning Resources (OLR) at Weingarten (WLRC) looking for strategies and tips on how to take better notes.

While the jury is still out on whether handwritten or typed notes are better, what we do know is that what matters more than how you take notes is what you do after with your notes.

Even if you are a student who is prepared for class and takes incredibly detailed notes, within 1 day of class, our minds forget nearly 75% of what we learned:

  • See the graph below for a visual representation of Time vs. Memory:

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  • If we don’t return to our notes until the week before the exam, we have already forgotten much of what we have learned. Instead of actually studying, we are stuck relearning the material.
  • The good news is that there is a simple solution to make sure you retain much of what you have learned during class:

Actively review your notes within 24-36 hours of class!

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  • By taking the time to review notes for just 30 minutes within 24-36 hours of class, you can reinforce what you learned and prevent this memory loss.
  • Make sure you are actively reviewing your notes (don’t just re-read or skim your notes, it’s too easy to just glaze over what you originally wrote).

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Here are some tips for how to actively review your notes:

  • Create an active recall study sheet:
    • On a blank sheet of paper, spend 5 minutes writing down everything you can from class and your readings. Then go back to your notes to fill in the gaps)
  • Annotate your notes in a different colored pen
  • Synthesize your notes into a study guide or summary
  • Use the Cornell method
  • Create a Concept Map
  • In a vocabulary-heavy class, create flashcards or a Quizlet

The hardest part of this strategy is actually fitting this review time into your schedule!

  • I recommend making this a habit by scheduling time to review your notes from the last class before you start your reading for the next class or before you begin your related homework.
  • Making this a routine will go a long way in improving your learning, strengthening your memory, and increasing your grades.

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By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

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Secret Study Spots: Houston Hall – Reading Room

Houston Hall

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Location:

  • 3417 Spruce Street

Building Hours:

  • Monday – Friday- 6:30 AM – 1:00 AM
  • Saturday – Sunday- 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM

Houston Hall may not be a secret spot on campus, but it can sometimes be overlooked as a convenient study spot. It’s centrally located, and it has food and snack options in the basement (always good to have close-by when you need a study break!). As the first college union building in the country, Houston Hall has a grand feel about it, taking you back to some of your favorite scenes from Harry Potter.

 

Today, we are going to review the HH106 Reading Room on the first floor, just off the lobby, but there are plenty of other spots to study in Houston Hall. Let us know if you have a favorite!

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         The HH Reading Room is comfortable and spacious. It’s a perfect spot for you to do some reading or homework during your shorter 1-2 hour breaks on campus in between classes. If you are trying to do some reading, I would recommend bringing headphones to help you focus. While it is not noisy, people are passing through.

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Our Review:

Noise level:

  • Moderate

Perks:

  • The big chairs are comfortable so that you can relax while you are reading and studying, but not too comfortable so that you fall asleep.
  • There are tables for group work.
  • The high ceilings, woodwork, and fireplaces really give you that grand, Ivy League feel, which can perhaps be an inspiring environment for you to work in.
  • There are a lot of food options downstairs for when you need a break!
  • It’s conveniently located in the center off campus, just off Spruce Street.
  • The building opens early and stays open late!

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  • Be sure to check out different spots on campus to find what works best for you.
  • Remember, different study spots may be better for different subject areas and disciplines.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for where to study on campus!

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

6-Hours per Week for Solving Problem Sets

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Take-Away:

For better grades and more intellectual growth, consider spending at least 6 hours across a week cracking your brain on your p-sets before the TA explains it all at recitation.

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The 6-Hour Minimum

  • Unfortunately, many students give up to soon on their problem sets before getting the answers at recitation.
  • By putting in sufficient hours trying to solve problems, you will be engaged in active learning of the concepts the professor has identified as key to the course.
  • For most students, 1-2 hours a week of this kind of active learning won’t cut it. Even 4-5 probably won’t.
  • 6 hours is a minimum that is also likely to fit with the other demands on your time.

So try 6 hours a week, in 60-90 minute chunks.

  • For example:
Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Relax! 11-12:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 10-11:00AM:
  Problem-solving Problem-Solving   Problem-Solving Problem-Solving Recitation

Why a Minimum of 6 Hours?

  • Some learning instructors recommend at least 6 hours a week to their students because, for many students, this represents an increase in time that substantially improves conceptual grasp of key course ideas.
  • The idea of improving your learning by spending more time on problems is consistent with a robust literature on expertise.1 The superiority of some performers over others is a predictable result of more hours on deliberate practice.1 This is true in athletic, musical, and intellectual pursuits. 1
  • Deliberate practice is working hard on difficult skills that are central to your area of mastery. 1
  • What fits the definition of deliberate practice better—working problems, or listening to answers?

What’s the point of working for 6 hours on problems I’m not solving?

  • The point is that you are still learning when working on the problem, even when you are not solving it!2

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But the TA will explain it clearly. Why not wait?

  • No doubt difficult concepts make more sense as or after they are explained. However, the instructor’s question will not be, “Do you understand these ideas as they are explained?”
  • The question will be, “When I give you a new and more complex problem than you’ve seen so far, can you solve it? Under time pressure?”
  • Can you confidently answer, “yes!”?
  • If you want to be more confident that you can answer “yes” to that question, try putting in six hours across a week on your p-sets before recitation. See if the conceptual learning you attain gives you reason for greater confidence.

But what if I don’t have 6 hours?

  • Then spend as many hours as you can before seeking help.  And maybe consult with a Learning Instructor to explore your use of time.

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References:

  1. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363.
  2. Richland, L. E., Kornell, N., & Kao, L. S. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15(3), 243–257. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0016496

By WLRC Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

Pondering Priorities

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“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

    ~  Andy Warhol

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I spend a lot of my time here at your learning center working with students who are in a steel cage death match with time management.  And you don’t need to be a learning specialist to see the reason is clear.  

Graduate, professional and undergraduates here at Dear Penn, from our 12 graduate and professional schools to our four undergraduate colleges, across divisions and departments and other seemingly arbitrary lines of demarcation, will all, at some point, come face to face with the grim, irreducible non-expanding 168 hour week.  

Granted, your humble blogger returns to the 168 hour week like any monomaniac returns to his obsession.  (That’s my problem, not yours.)  But the 168 hour mark does give us a necessary point of perspective when it comes to deciding what gets done, in what order, and when.

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Even if you’re already good at “getting it all done” there is something to be said for taking a closer look at your priorities, not just for the sake of some calendar-based time allotment but to answer a bigger picture question:  What am I doing, anyway?

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It happens to all of us, sooner or later.  We get grooved into academic and/or career tracks.  We find ourselves devoting time to pursuits from which we derive less and less pleasure.

We get bored.

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We also get confused.  We confuse priorities andresponsibilities.  We confound our own priorities with the expectations of others.  We fill our time with busy-ness for no other reason than busy is the coin of our 21st century realm.  

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We get to this spot of confusion legitimately.  Our responsibilities shape our priorities, just as the expectations of others prioritize for us, even if only in the short term.  And in today’s labor market, if you’re not really busy you better at least look busy or you may suddenly have many, many free hours to ponder all sorts of things.

All I’m suggesting is take a couple of those hours and spend them thinking through your priorities.  Ask where they came from.  And decide if something needs to change.  You owe it to yourself.  

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Scheduling Self-Care

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            Now that we are entering our mid-semester period here at the University of Pennsylvania, it is easy for us as students to start feeling busy and pressed for time. Sometimes the first thing we cut out in our schedules is the time we make for ourselves. In reality, as our schedules get busier and our workloads get heavier, it is more important than ever to keep time in your schedule for yourself!

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It might sound ridiculous to schedule your ‘relaxation’ time, but if we don’t make it a priority and set aside time for self-care, on our busy days it won’t happen. Making self-care part of your everyday routine will make you a better, happier, and healthier student, friend, and person.

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            Self-care can be defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (Michael, 2016). For each of us, these activities can vary. However, because we spend so much time in front of computer and electronic screens as part of our workloads, I recommend taking a break from the screens when scheduling your self-care time (This means binge-watching a show on Netflix doesn’t really count as self-care). Here are some suggestions for ways you might want to self-care:

  • Head outdoors! Some fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for yourself. Go for a walk around campus and appreciate the foliage on campus as we head from summer to fall. Or head down Spruce Street to the South Street Bridge and walk on the trail along the Susquehanna River.
  • Participate in some physical activity. Whether you like to go for a run, head to the gym, or take an exercise class, getting your blood pumping and your body moving is good for your physical, mental, and emotional heath.

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  • Find some quiet time! Campus and college life can be busy. We can feel like we are constantly surrounded by people and that we always need to be ready to go, appearing like we have it all together. Find a quiet space to journal, meditate, do yoga, or reflect on your week. The peace can do wonders for your health, even if it is just for 15 minutes.

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  • Do something creative! Whether you enjoy crafts, music, or coloring, doing something creative helps us use our whole brain. Even if your definition of art is filling in an adult coloring book, make time during your week for it!
  • Get enough sleep! Make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Do this in addition to your 30 minutes of self-care during the day. All the studying in the world won’t help you reach your potential if you’re not getting enough sleep. Athletes know this. It is time students remember it too!

self care sleep night

  • How do you take care of yourself? Comment with your suggestions! We will discuss more about self-care topics as the semester goes on.

Remember to make time for yourself every day during this semester. Doing so will make you a better student in the long-run. Scheduling self-care isn’t being lazy or saying you’re not tough enough to handle your work load. What it shows is that you care about yourself and well-being. It will make you a better student and person in the long run!

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Reference:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/08/10/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Super-Secret Study Spots: Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center Edition

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I know what you’re thinking. Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is not a secret study spot. I’m here to let you in on a little VP secret: there are two new spaces within our beloved library that opened this fall. The hours for these new rooms are the same as most of the rest of VP:

  • Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight
  • Friday 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m. – midnight

Read on to find out more about these great new spaces!

Moelis Family Grand Reading Room (first floor)

  • Noise level: Silent
  • Perks: The swivel recliners in the front of the room are perfect for study breaks.
    • This room truly is grand. A beautiful cloth tapestry lines one wall, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the other sides of the room.
    • This room also features plush blue chairs at every table to make your study time a comfortable experience.
  • The Moelis Family Grand Reading Room is sound-proof and totally silent. If you’re looking for a space to really buckle down and focus, this is your spot.

The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading Room (fifth floor)

  • Noise level: Quiet
  • Perks: Comfortable seating in front, study carrels in back. Perfect for any occasion!
  • The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading room is now a card-access room designed to meet the needs of graduate students.
  • This newly redesigned room features space for both independent and group study, and there is a lactation room available as well.
  • In addition to the new features, this room is also home of football memorabilia from the class of ’37. The glass display case features three footballs and several uniforms that give a feel for what live at Penn was like 80 years ago.

Class of 37

While you’re over at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center checking out the new spaces, don’t forget about our other favorite VP spots including:

Each separate space at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center has different advantages, so make sure to check them all out to decide which one works best for you.

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, WLRC Learning Instructor

 

Schedule Your Semester to Ensure Success!

Perhaps you are a new undergraduate, professional, or graduate student at PENN, and you want to make sure you are starting off strong at the beginning of the semester. Or, maybe you are a returning student who wants to make this year better than the last. Whatever your status or motivation is, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center is here to help!

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One of the biggest ways that you can ensure success as a graduate or undergraduate student is to make sure that you are planning strategically for your long-term course requirements this semester. Some of our handy tools are our SEMESTER CALENDARS, which are available in BLUE for Undergraduate students and GREEN for Graduate students:

Even if you can’t stop in for a walk-in or full-hour appointment, make sure you stop by our offices to pick up one of our coveted semester long calendars!

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Helpful strategies for using Weingarten’s Semester Calendars:

  1. During these first two weeks of school, take time to review your syllabi. Using your syllabi, write in all the dates for your papers, projects, and exams on your large semester calendar. This large overview calendar should be reserved for big projects, papers, and exams (not everyday homework and class times). Even if you already use a calendar system like iCalendar or have a paper planner, it is important and helpful for you to write everything for the semester in one place. Having a visual outline of the semester will help you plan and make sure you are keeping up to date with your assignments and obligations.
  2. Next, fill in any personal obligations, celebrations, or events for this semester. If you have friends visiting, mark it on the calendar. Planning any trips or getaways? Make sure to put it on your calendar!
  3. Add in events like extra-curricular obligations, long-term work assignment due dates, campus performances, and athletic events to your calendar. Now, you should have an outline of everything you have coming up this semester.
  4. Now you can go to your personal planner and schedule out your assignments and worktime week by week. The long-term semester calendar is important, because it can help you avoid potential conflicts. For example, “I see that I have a book critique and presentation due at the end of October, but I am also going to be out of town two weekends in a row for personal obligations. Now, I know that when I am scheduling out my time during the first two weeks of October, I need to make time to complete the book review. I can’t push it off until right before it’s due because I will be out of town (and that isn’t a great way to get work done anyway). If I hadn’t taken the time to layout my semester, I might have missed that.” Here’s an example:

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We hope that this helps you start your semester off on the right foot!

If you have more questions about how to structure your time to ensure success, be sure to call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center to set up an appointment to meet with a Learning Instructor to help you develop a personalized plan. You can come in for a first-come, first-serve Walk-In Session or make an Individual 1-Hour Appointment with one of our Learning Consultants by calling (215) 573-9235. We’re conveniently located at Stouffer Commons, behind the Wawa on 38th and Spruce. Click here for Location and Hours.

Good luck this semester! Happy Studying!

 

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. “I just began my first year as a doctoral student in the Reading/Writing/Literacy program in the Graduate School of Education. Prior to returning to school here, I was a high school English teacher and instructional coach in Detroit, Michigan.