Scribbling for Success in CollegeJun 22, 2001 (Updated Jun 26, 2001) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line If you want to succeed in college, you need to take good notes. There is no way around this.
OK, I don't really mean that college students should scribble in college. However, success in college is highly dependent on being able to take quality notes. I'd like to describe the importance of taking notes in college classes and present a three step note-taking process.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING NOTES IN CLASSES
As a professor, I have heard a wide gamut of reasons why students do not take notes. So far, I have not heard a logically sound one.
1. "I don't need to take notes. I can remember everything without them." That would be wonderful; unfortunately, that is not true. Research indicates that within 24 hours of class, students who do NOT take notes forget 70% of the material. Within two weeks of the class, these students forget 90% of the material. At this rate, who knows how much information they will retain at the time of graduation???
To disprove this argument, I have used the following exercise in class. For one entire lecture, I have students put away their pens and paper. Then I lecture on some topic related to the course. At the beginning of the next class, I give them a short quiz over some of the main points of the lecture. Students typically are AMAZED at how much they have forgot. So, that they do have the information, after the quiz I provide them with a copy of my notes for that lecture.
2. "It takes too much effort." My response is usually "But if you really want to learn the information, then it is worth the effort. If not, then why are you here?" I try not to sound too critical when saying this but the reality is that taking notes does require more effort on the student's part than just sitting there and "vegging out." But, the effort required with note-taking stimulates the brain in a way that allows one to more readily retain and later remember the information. This type of active learning is critical to college success.
3. "I just don't want to do it." When I hear this I really want to yell, "THEN WHY ARE YOU HERE????" I usually deal with this just like I deal with the previous response.
4. "I didn't bring a notebook." Believe it or not but this is a common argument I hear in college. This one is simple to deal with by saying, "Well, then you NEED to bring it." Da.
A THREE STAGE NOTE-TAKING PROCESS
1. Read the assigned material in the textbook (or other sources). I really can't stress how important this step is in the note-taking process. If students are familiar with the upcoming information, then they will be able to take better notes.
2. Review notes from the previous class. This will help the student retain the previous information plus lay a good foundation for the new information.
3. Bring notebook and pen (or pencil) to class. You should also bring your textbook.
4. Arrive at the classroom a few minutes ahead of time. This allows you to "settle in" before the class starts. Also, it give you time to get your materials out and ready to go.
5. At the top right corner of the next few pages in the notebook, write the date and number the pages.
6. Establish a review column in your notebook. Draw a vertical line about 1 inch to the right of the preprinted margin to form a "review column." Do not write in this column when taking the notes.
1. Attend class. If you can't attend class, do two things: a. Ask the instructor if tape recording is allowed and then get a classmate to tape the class session. Of course, later you should listen to the tape and take your own notes from it. b. Have a classmate take notes for you. Even if you listen to the tape, you may need someone else's notes for things that are on overheads, the board, and the like.
2. Write the topic for the lecture or discussion on the top of the first page. This may sound too simplistic. However, there have been many times when I told my class, "Look back to your notes on 'such and such' and they are CLUELESS as to where to find these notes." By putting the topic on the first page, you will be able to find your material much more quickly. Some students like to note the topic below the page number on each page also.
3. Write down key points of the lecture. Your goal is NOT to write down EVERYTHING the instructor is saying. Your goal is to get down the key information. Many students inquire as to how they will know something is important. Here are a few tips:
a. When the instructor either verbally or on the board presents an outline. For example, I may tell my students, "Today we will be discussing 6 major categories of mental illness. These are a) Mood disorders, b) Anxiety disorders, etc. Write that down!
b. If an instructor says, "This is important", believe him/her and write it down.
c. Likewise, if an instructor says, "This is going to be on the test" or "this would make a good test question", write it down. It never ceases to amaze me that when I tell the class, "This will be on the test", that at least 50% of the class fail to make note of what I am saying. Of course, these students typically get the test question wrong.
d. When the instructor presents a list or enumerates various items. For example, I may say, "The following are some of the main theories regarding what causes child abuse." These are....
e. When an instructor uses keywords or phrases like, "most important", "best", "except", "the primary reason", etc.
f. When the teacher emphasizes information by repeating it several times or in several different ways.
g. If an instructor's vocal tone, voice volume, or rate of speaking changes. For example, if I am speaking at a normal rate and then suddenly say the word, "H-I-S-T-R-I-O-N-I-C," that word is IMPORTANT.
h. Write down what the instructor puts on the board or on the overhead. If the instructor thinks that this information is important enough to do something extra with it, it is important enough for one to include in their notes.
i. When the instructor stops to collect his or her thoughts before speaking, then what the instructor says next is probably important.
j. If the instructor looks at his or her notes before giving our some information, that information is important.
k. If the instructor says something like, "according to the author of your textbook, ..... However, most professionals in this field disagree. Most would say, ...." Make note of this discreptancy.
l. If you find yourself asking, "should I take down this information?", then do so. It is better to error by making note of something that is unimportant than to omit something important.
m. Write down examples of complicated processes. Reviewing these examples on your own will facilitate your understanding of the concepts. For example, when I am teaching students about operant conditioning, I will usually give several examples of this process. When students make note of the examples, they are better able to later understand the process and then develop their own examples.
4. Ask questions as necessary. When you don't understand something, ask questions.
5. Practice active learning. This will prevent your from being bored and will enhance your knowledge of the material. To do this, you want to be continually asking yourself questions. Examples of these questions could be:
**How does this material relate to previously learned material in this class and in my outside life?
**How will I be able to use this information in my career?
**Do I really understand this information?
**What do I need to do to fully comprehend the information?
**Why did that occur?
**What can we do to prevent that from occurring or cause it to occur again?
**What are the positive and negative effects of this?
**Do I agree with this? Why or why not?
**What is the next step in this process?
**Are there any exceptions to these results? What are the exceptions?
6. Make note of assigments and upcoming class events (i.e., tests). Don't assume that you will remember this important information.
AFTER CLASS IS OVER
1. Review your notes. As soon as possible after class, review your notes. You want to do this when the information is fresh in your memory.
2. Rewrite scribbled parts of your notes. You can do this in the review column.
3. Fill in any gaps information. If you missed something, you may need to ask either a classmate or the instructor for the information.
4. In the review column, jot down key words or ideas regarding each paragraph. If you judiciously choose these words, you will be able to review the information in the review column to gain a grasp for the remaining information in your notes.
5. Be sure to review examples It is important to review these to make sure you comprehend the concepts being described.
6. Obtain answers to any questions you have.
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