benefit of note taking
Students can be pretty demanding about wanting the teacher’s PowerPoints, lecture notes, and other written forms of the content presented in class. And a lot of teachers are supplying those, in part trying to be responsive to students but also because many students now lack note-taking skills. If they can’t take good notes, why not help them succeed by supplying them with notes?
Students love it when teachers provide class notes—the more complete the set, the better. Students want the teacher’s notes online because it’s convenient, they’re readable, well organized, and relieve the student of having to expend much effort during class. A lot of students need the teacher’s notes because they aren’t very good note-takers themselves. They practice stenography rather than note-taking, trying to get down the teacher’s words exactly. That way, even if they don’t understand, they can memorize what the teacher said and find it on the test. But that’s not learning.
Students benefit from taking and having a good set of notes, even though many of them don’t see the value, don’t take good notes and like it best when they can copy word-for-word what the teacher says or has on the PowerPoint slides. We can pontificate about how students should have already been taught the value and skills of note taking. We can tell them in class, on the syllabus and the course website that they need to take notes, but I think less telling and more showing is the better way to go. This post offers a range of activities teachers can use to help students discover what a good set of notes enables them to do.
When students write essays requiring research, in the age of Wikipedia and other online resources, I worry a little, not so much about the quality of the sources themselves (that has always varied, even in the day of hardcopy sources), but about the quality or outright dearth of note taking that often accompanies the writing of research papers.
Course management software programs make it especially easy for instructors to provide students with a set of complete lecture notes. It seems that more instructors are doing this, as witnessed in the regularity with which students ask that the instructor’s notes be posted. But is giving students a complete set of notes a good idea?