Do Your Students Take Notes?

Writing at ProfHacker, Nels P. Highberg wonders if students really understand why taking notes in class is important.

When I was a student I was obsessive about taking notes.  I tried to write down everything the professor said.  When it was time for the exam my fellow students would flock to my room for a study session which often turned out to be little more than me working through my notes with them.

Every now and then I run into a student who seems to have the same passion for note taking that I had in school.  But I do not find them too often.  At least once a semester I have to chide my survey classes for failing to write stuff down. 

Highberg ends his post with some questions worth thinking about.

Do your students take notes?  How?  Have you talked with them about note-taking strategies?  Do students in classes with exams take better notes more instinctively than in classes without exams based on in-class material?

3 thoughts on “Do Your Students Take Notes?

  1. I think teachers need to be explicit about note-taking. For each topic and lesson, for each presentation, or for each class, a teacher should make it clear to students what it is that's worth writing down.

    From my experience, some professors show so much information (on powerpoint) that they can't possibly expect students to write the information down. They know, like the students do, that it's all available on their course website. And they teach with that in mind. In those classes, I often print out the notes and then add my own annotations along the way. I really find this works for me, since I can focus on the nuances, anecdotes, and informal examples the professor shares–the things that aren't in the printed notes.

    I keep this in mind with my own students and always tell them, “write this down” or “you don't need to write this down.”

    For me, the act of note-taking can sometimes seem worthless. I can do it mindlessly and it often doesn't add to my understanding. I find that writing less, but more deliberately, is much more helpful.

    So I have mixed feelings about a student who is not taking notes. I don't feel offended, provided they're engaged.

    John Chase


  2. Hi, I had been following this blog and read interesting posts. And when I saw this, I felt a sudden 'rush'. I am a university student now and I totally understand how it is as a student about taking notes! I was not taught of how to take notes – since young, teachers assume we got the gift of note-taking naturally. We were given freedom of either to take note by hand, by brain or whatever – they never care! It was until in university that in an ecology class, the lecturer shared with us on his days of taking notes. However, besides powerpoint slides that we downloaded and printed, all we did in Life Science classes were to add on some missing info to these prepared graphics. This year, is my last year in university and I decided to minor in European Studies – by taking history classes. This is when we were not given prepared notes and expected to take notes ourselves. And I find myself so 'unacademic'! I was so astonished to find out how much I left out on the path of academic and only realize it one year before graduation! But I am still learning and is so grateful to be given such an opportunity to notice this at an earlier stage of my life… I totally 'feel it' when I saw this article!!!


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