Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman share their tips for students on taking good lecture notes.
Most college students think they're pretty good at note-taking. And yet, not one in 10 students takes a good set of notes. Here are 10 tips for taking excellent lecture notes—from the professors' perspective:
1. Write more, not less. You should be writing for most of the lecture. Rule of thumb: 15 minutes = 1 page of notes.
2. Write down the professor's ideas, not yours. Some students lard their notes with their own questions, reflections, opinions, and free associations. But the point of taking notes is to get a good rendition of what the professor is saying. That's what'll be on the test. Leave your own thoughts for afterward or for your personal journal.
3. Forget about complicated note-taking "systems." There's no need to use the Cornell Note-taking System, Mind Mapping, or the "five R's of good note taking" (whatever they may be). It's more than enough just to simply number the professor's points (and perhaps have a sub-number or two). Worrying about systems will just slow you down and can distort the actual "shape" of the lecture.
Extra Pointer. Be sure to set off subordinate points in your notes (that is, points that somehow contribute to the lecture but are not on the main path). Indent, and clearly identify, any illustrations, examples, comparisons, and interesting (though not central) asides. And whenever a professor uses a technical or unfamiliar term, be sure to write down—in the best case, word for word—the prof's definition of that term.
4. Adjust your attention span. You're used to rapid-fire content. The three-minute YouTube video, the IM, the text message, the Facebook "poke," and—worst of all—the 140-character Twitter. All of these are quick and dirty bursts of content. But the professor's points are often developed over 15- to 20-minute segments. Train yourself to focus—and to write—for longer intervals.
5. Pay special attention to the beginning and the end. Often the most important points of the lecture are the first two minutes and the last two minutes, right when many students are text-messaging or packing their bags. Be sure to carefully write down these introductory and summary comments that express the professor's idea of the key points of the lecture.
4-Star Tip: Give each lecture a title. That'll force you to locate the single most important point of that presentation.
6. Look for verbal clues. Professors are under pressure to flag the most important points with phrases like "the key point is ...," "it's especially important to note ...," and "one should keep in mind that ..." Look for these indicators of the cornerstones of the lecture. And try to write down—word for word, if you can—what follows them.
7. Focus on the structure of the lecture. Every lecture has a plot: a central point with a series of steps that build up this point. Keep focused on the plot—and its subplots—and try to capture it in your notes. Continually ask yourself: What is the overall point of the lecture and how does each individual point help develop the overall plot?
8. Beware of PowerPoints. PowerPoints (and things written on the board) are usually quite sketchy outlines—reminders to the professors of what to say. Make sure you write the explanations of these outlines in your notes. Come test time, you'll be behind the eight ball if all you have in your notes are these prompts the professor uses.
9. Take notes at all class activities. Discussion sections, review sessions, individual meetings in office hours—all these should be "noted." You never know what might come in handy come test or paper time.
Finally, and most importantly:
10. Always do it for yourself. Don't outsource your note-taking to your friend, to the professional "lecture notes" (sold at the campus store), or to your note-taking group. Taking notes for yourself is the single best way to engage in—and remember—the lecture. Not to mention, it'll actually get you to go the lecture, which is an achievement in itself.
Recently, I sat on a plane next to a guy who worked in management at a national company with over 14,000 employees in more than 1,100 locations. He had an undergrad degree in engineering and a MBA acquired a number of years before. We had a long discussion of various management theories he had seen in practice at his company as well as classic and current books on management by Blanchard, Covey, Drucker, Maxwell, and others.
He was more than able to keep up his end of the conversation and did his professors and university proud.
I wonder how many of our students would be able to converse intelligently on the topics they are learning in class. Some do not seem to realize that they are going to be expected to know this stuff after graduation.
Mike Wagner, President of White Rabbit Group and an expert on branding, has agreed to guest speak in my Leadership class tomorrow at the University of South Florida. The MBA students are in for a treat.
In the meantime, he shares three great suggestions on how to create your "classroom brand."
I'm looking forward to hearing what advice he gives to the students.
David Foster Wallace made a commencement speech in 2005 to the graduating class at Kenyon College. The Wall Street Journal published it here.
The advice he gave to the students (and the rest of us) is, "stay conscious and alive, day in and day out." As he noted, you get to decide how you view the world around you. You can choose to get frustrated and angry at the slow cashier at the grocery, at the guy who cuts you off on your drive to work, at the parent who can't control her kid...but that's just reacting on auto pilot, it's easy to do. Harder to do is to have empathy...to recognize that the cashier is tired and has been on her feet all day, that the driver might be taking his spouse to the hospital, that the parent might be overwhelmed and in danger of losing her job or house.
You get to decide how to react and your reaction affects your own stress level...
Toni Ripo, Coordinator, Career Services, at University of South Florida-Sarasota shares this rubric and suggestions for evaluating student resumes that was developed by one of her student assistants! This would be good to share with your students as they get ready to apply for jobs or grad schools.
Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty.
Mike Sansone shares his powerful story as to why we should help others.
Also, check out the updated freerice.com website. You can test your knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, art, geography, and the multiplication table. For every correct answer, 20 grains of rice will be donated to the UN World Food Program to end world hunger.
We can all do our part. Any other suggestions or websites?
Dr. Grace Ann Rosile (New Mexico State University) tells about her experience with having students cheat in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Management Education. She ended up flunking almost 25 percent of her class when they were caught cheating by having other students text message them the answers during the exam. She tells a compelling story of how she felt and how she ended up making the experience a teaching moment.
Several years ago I had two students cheat on an exam. I remember how upset I was. What was even more astounding to me was when I talked to my students in class about cheating, I had a student tell me that since I didn't curve the grades, she didn't care if others were cheating as it didn't affect her personally. Wow.
Here are some tips on preventing cheating.
Professor Steven Dutch (University of Wisconsin - Green Bay) shares his Top Ten No Sympathy Lines.
My favorite? I Paid Good Money for This Course and I Deserve a Good Grade
Right on! And ---
I paid good money to get on this golf course and I have a right to shoot par. Anyone can enter the U.S. Open - that's what "open" means. But if you don't make the cut, you don't play in the tournament. Nor do you get a refund of your entry fee.
I paid good money for a lawyer and I have a right to win my case.
I paid good money for a house and I have a right to see it increase in value, even if I haven't lifted a finger to maintain it in ten years.
I paid good money for this stock and I have a right to see it go up, even if I haven't bothered to watch the stock market. (I just know the XYZ Beta Video and 8-Track Tape Company is poised for growth!)
Almost everything you pay for in life is an entry fee. What happens next is up to you. Buy a Lexus and never change the oil and see what happens. Get a triple bypass and keep on smoking and snorking down the cholesterol - you'll be back.
Check out the updated freerice.com website. You can test your knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, art, geography, and the multiplication table. For every correct answer, 20 grains of rice will be donated to the UN World Food Program to end world hunger.
Thanks to Laura McVay for bringing this to my attention.
I recently attended a workshop on developing rubrics at the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence that was taught by Dr. Terri Flateby and Dr. Felix Wao (both from the University of South Florida-Tampa). I really liked this rubric that requires students to do a self evaluation of their team presentation and I plan to use it this semester.
I got an email recently from Jordan Goldman, founder and CEO of Unigo.com. Jordan and his website were profiled in the New York Times Magazine on September 21, 2008. The site is a free "student-generated guide to North American colleges for prospective applicants and their families," essentially a tool to help high school students figure out where they want to go to college. What makes this source different from all those 'top colleges in...' lists is that except for the brief overview provided on each college, all of the additional information is provided on a voluntary basis by current students at those schools.
As noted in the NY Times article, "Unigo’s central idea — that high-school and college students would much rather learn from one another than from a book — is so self-evident that your first reaction is surprise that no one has acted on it before."