A trial attorney takes notes in three colors: black for reliable information, blue for “this needs checking,” and red for false statements. Another attorney read the textbooks but never took notes during law school — he paid attention in class and asked questions that included repeating the premise to check his perceptions.
An artist takes class notes in colors and draws pictures to illustrate concepts. An aural learner records all her classes and listens to them again — at least twice (usually in the car). I am a kinesthetic learner who takes copious notes but rarely reads them. It’s as if the words go up the pen, up my arm, and lodge in my brain.
Learn Your Homework
1. If you don’t already know your Learning Style (oral, visual, aural, and kinesthetic), find out. NOW.
2. Learning styles are often a combination of more than one style. For instance, while the artist (above) took notes, she also used colors and lines to connect concepts, as did the first attorney.
3. Figure out how you can adapt your Learning Style to best advantage
4. Lay in a supply of whatever you need that supports your Learning Style:
a. extra batteries for a recording device;
b. a fully charged phone so you can take pictures of board work and/or diagrams;
c. the right kind of paper or spiral notebook (I prefer one of two types: college ruled notebook paper and composition books or graph paper; I use the little squares to section off or emphasize different types of data);
d. black or blue pens or pens with bright inks; pens with fine, medium, or broad point; gel, ballpoint, or fountain pens;
e. mechanical pencils with your favorite hardness of lead;
f. or plain, old-fashioned, #2 yellow pencils.
What materials do you need for your personal Learning Style?
If you like taking notes on your laptop, do the research. Some professors do not allow computers in class. Be prepared, just in case.
Do not underestimate the value of using pens/pencils/papers that you like.
Treat yourself to a supply of your favorite writing tools and papers.
What’s your thing? Indulge yourself on this point.
It’s inexpensive and so worth it.
NOTE: I did not indulge in a $975 Montblanc Meisterstuck. I do, however, use pens from my personal collection. Why? Because it feels so very good in my hand and I like the way ink flows on the page. My favorite is a vintage Shaeffer fountain pen Daddy gave me when I was in the fourth grade, polishing up my cursive handwriting.
Lynn Ellyn Robinson is an author, blogger, and vintage pen enthusiast who mentors graduate students (mainly in counseling and psychology). After retiring from teaching troubled adolescents in locked psychiatric facilities, she managed a law firm and was a Child Custody Investigator for the court system. She writes about the main areas in which graduate students need to develop skills if they are to do well.
Thank you for reading! This article is part of the series 4 Arenas to Succeed in Graduate School which I am posting in response to to Shaunta Grimes and the Ninja Writers’ BYOB (Blog Your Own Book) Challenge. Visit her website here.