two students by tree in hard hats and vests

Lectures - getting the most out of them

This should be fairly straight forward, yet it is worthy of mention. 

Before coming to class ...

  • review notes from the last lecture
  • do the assigned readings

During class ...

  • come to class with questions from previous lectures and reading assignments
  • listen carefully to lecture and class discussions - this is the prime time to learn the material (re-reading your notes afterwards, when you did not fully understand the material in the first place is NOT a good strategy)
  • take meaningful notes in class
    • do not attempt to take dictation and write everything verbatim - use point form
    • you are making notes to capture ideas & concepts
    • write down even the 'obvious points' if they are important - if they are not in your notes, then at a later date (e.g. preparing for an exam) you may not remember that they were relevant
    • use symbols, shorthand, arrows, abbreviations, drawings, etc. - they can be very effective
    • leave plenty of 'white space' - you can use this space later to fill-in gaps (e.g. supplement your initial notes with info from text, websites, insights from classmates)
    • Cornell note taking system - try drawing a margin on one side (left or right) of your page; write your 'regular notes' on the larger side; the margin area is where you write down key words that relate to the notes (the Cornell system uses the left side for a margin. See Cornell sheet generator to make your own paper)
    • your notes are not a transcription of the lecture - they are memory prompts to help you remember what was discussed
  • ask questions when you do not fully understand something

After class ...

  • soon after the lecture (i.e. that evening or the next day) review your notes and fill-in any missing pieces that you may still remember from class
  • create a list of questions that require clarification (feel free to email them to your professor)
  • if your notes are 'a mess' consider re-writing them so they are better organized and more complete - it actually only takes a few minutes

Some useful links