Using Sketchnotes in the Classroom

One part of my working life is teaching college students Human Resources.  This semester I have five sections of an introductory course.  There are learners from all years, but over 75% of the class are first year students in their first semester of college.  

In the past, I’ve found it hard to get people in the habit of note-taking.  Sometimes students will arrive at class without paper or a pen and other times they’ll open laptops for ‘notes’ but then spend their time surfing sports scores or updating their FB status.  

I decided to be proactive this year - I implemented a no computer rule with exceptions granted only in special circumstances and I’ve also changed what I’m doing during the lectures.  I have re-organized my slide deck to be more logical (it is amazing what just a few header slides will do to bring order to material!), I’ve created and distributed note-taking sheets that contain my section headings for the module (these have been surprisingly popular) and I craved out some seminar time in the first week to teach visual note-taking. 

Sketchnote 1 Updated.jpg

What I offered was ‘Simple Visual Note-taking’.  I shared a sketchnote I made of the lecture that week (right), covered the basics (lettering, connectors, containers for information and some simple figures) in a few slides and then had them practice by watching a Three Minute Ted Talk (Matt Cutt’s Try Something New for 30 Days) and share their results.  They all tried it - some found it liberating and others said immediately that it wasn’t for them.

This week, only a handful of students weren’t taking notes during the lectures - a huge improvement over last year. Research tells me this should lead to greater understanding of the information and, ultimately, better retention.  Their first mid-term is in ten days so I’ll have some evidence after that about whether this is making a difference. I’ll keep you posted.

If you are curious, I used the following resources to help inform the seminar:


Julie StittComment