During my second year of study to earn a Masters in Counseling Psychology I had to take a class called Psychopathology. At most schools, this is the class where you memorize DSM-V, how to diagnose different mental illnesses, and form treatment plans. We did all these things, however my professor was particularly interested in the psychoanalytic view of how psychopathology forms so in addition to doing mock-interviews, written exams, quizzes, research papers, and treatment plans we also had the task of turning 50 chapter summaries of psychoanalytic literature on the topics of psychopathology and on the psychoanalytic understanding of transference and countertransference as a diagnostic tool.

a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form
This 50-page paper is by far the most dreaded paper of the entire course of study at my graduate school, but thankfully the grace that I have experienced to learn within my learning style was extended to this paper. Instead of typing out summaries and reactions to all 50 chapters, I was allowed to “graphic record” my work. In place of paragraphs and bullet points, I was able to represent the information I was reading in a way that made sense to my own mind. It was able to include quotes important elements of the reading, illustrations, and create graphs and diagrams that demonstrated, visually, the information I was reading.

a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form
As a graduate student of psychology it is helpful to study under teachers and professors who understand how brains learn. For example, during the orientation portion of my first year of graduate school, we were actually told to bring paper and pen to class to take notes, not laptops. Of course people still bring laptops (mostly to buy stuff off Amazon, surf  Facebook, and write papers for other classes) but by and large laptops are not particularly common in the classrooms at my school. This handwriting-friendly culture actually made it much easier when I began to realize how important handwriting is not only for my own learning process but for everyone. As has recently been reported by CNN and NPR handwriting facilitates learning in a very different way that than typing on a computer. Being able to create these papers by hand helped me metabolize the information in a very different way, a way that made sense to my own brain. I’m still not totally bought into the psychoanalytic orientation towards psychology, but I learned what I was supposed to learn and one year later, remember it surprisingly vividly.

a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form

How Long Does it Take?

This is the most common question I get asked. Yes, it takes longer than typing a paper, however, I don’t get distracted by other tabs open on my screen or alerts popping up, so that actually saves a little bit of time. From start to finish one of these pages can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, depending on the information I’m reading, how heavy it is, and a lot of other factors including how playful I am with color and illustrations. I am adding a time-lapse video of me writing a paper in sketchnote form below.


a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form

What do you Call This?

I’m not entirely sure this has a name yet. It’s somewhere between a sketchnote and doodles, I sometimes call them doodle notes and sometimes just think of them as small format graphic according. Graphic recording is a service I consult for with clients sometimes ought events and conferences, but I usually do it on large pieces of paper on the wall. Similar to following a speaker, these doodle note papers are just me graphic recording a chapter as the author progresses through the information he is presenting in the text. This is another reason I don’t mind that these take a little longer than typing a paper, the practice graphic recording is valuable time spent doing something I do well and want to improve at.

a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form
a visual learner student's paper turned in in handwritten sketchnote form

The four pages above are summaries of articles on ego distortion, fear of breakdown, “transference in the total situation”, and Robert Caper’s “a mind of one’s own in paranoid schizoid object relations.”

 

 

allowing students to turn in handwriten papers can improve memory retention allowing students to turn in handwriten papers can improve memory retention allowing students to turn in handwriten papers can improve memory retention
Do you write all your papers this way?

This is another question I get asked frequently, and the answer is no. This format works well for graduate school where a portion of the writing is, at least in my program, simple reflection or key point summarization professors use to hold students accountable for doing the reading. I still do all my normal academic writing in the traditional format, typed on the computer with sources and traditional formatting.

a handwritten graduate level academic paper a handwritten graduate level academic paper a handwritten graduate level academic paper a handwritten graduate level academic paper a handwritten graduate level academic paper

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