Friday, April 10, 2015

Taking Notes from Live Lectures

image of an empty classroom
One of the biggest struggles students face is managing note taking while their instructor is lecturing. Is it necessary to write down every word? Can one pay attention and write at the same time? Can the instructor just hand out his/her notes?

In short: No. Yes. Absolutely not.

The biggest key to capturing the most important information in a lecture is by preparing beforehand. Believe it or not, there’s something to those colorful, expensive rectangles you are lugging around in your backpack.

First, those textbooks can do so much more for you than act as paperweights. Second, those reading assignments given by your instructor are not just archaic torture devices.

In all seriousness, completing reading assignments before class (rather than during and/or after)will do the best job of preparing you for taking notes. 

Think of the reading as a movie preview—reading gives you an idea of what your instructor will be discussing in class and it allows you to anticipate which information is most important.

Most instructors are not going to spend class retelling what is in the book, so if it is mentioned in the book and again in class this is a sign from the testing gods that the information is important.

The reading provides a roadmap for what is key information, but instructors typically have lots of ways they are subtly cluing students into potential test questions.

image shows an unseen person taking notes in a notepad.
The least subtle clue is when instructors write information on the board, put information in a Power Point presentation, or display the information in some way for the entire class to see. 

Things like changing voice inflection, vigorous hand gestures, or varying facial expressions can be more subtle, but still very important clues.

Most instructors have developed a pattern with such things and resourceful students can pick up those patterns within a few weeks of class starting.

Finally, adopt a positive position when it comes to taking notes. Look at it as a way to help you stay engaged with your instructor as well as the material during those extremely rare moments of boredom.

Part two of Taking Notes from Live Lectures will include tools that can be implemented immediately—and none of them involve recording the lecture!

Contributed by Amberly Lebeck-Brown on behalf of Rio Salado's Counseling Services, helping students with their personal, educational and career goals.