Have you ever heard—or experienced– Murphy’s Laws?
Similar “laws” exist in listening and note taking. Your ability to listen and take notes is important. It often makes the difference between good and great grades. Listening (and taking notes) in college lectures is harder than it looks. You can’t just hear information. You have to be able to do something to actively process it in some way. David Barken, listening expert said, “Easy listening exists only on the radio.” and that’s particularly true for college courses. Listening is difficult, at best. Still, there are things you can do as a listener to make the most of your class time. This workshop provides you with tips to do so.
The first step is preparation. There’s more to listening than just coming into a classroom and sitting down. There are several things you can do to be ready to listen in class.
The first step in preparing to listen is recognizing that hearing and listening are not the same thing. If you’ve ever listened to someone speak in a language you didn’t understand, you know that there IS a difference between hearing and listening. You heard everything that was said, but you probably didn’t understand a thing. Listening is an active process. It involves thinking and analysis. Understanding is the goal.
The more you know about something, the more easily you make sense of new information that relates to it. Imagine that two people attend a sporting event. Person A is an “expert” on the sport. She has played the sport, watched it on TV, and knows all the rules. Person B has never seen the sport played before this event. Who do you think will get more from attending this event? Even though Person B has a lot more to learn, Person A will probably gain more. The more you do to “know” a subject before a lecture, the more easily and efficiently you will process the new information. There are three things you can do. First, do your homework. That provides you with the mental exercise to prepare you for the next topic. Second, preview the information that will be presented. (You should be able to figure out what will be presented based on the contents of your course syllabus.) This preview helps you set up a mental framework for the information that is to come. It helps you anticipate major concepts. It lets you gain familiarity with course vocabulary. Third, review the last day’s lectures notes. Chances are that you’ve forgotten what was covered in the last lecture. This review is like a “scenes from last week’s episode” in a TV show that continues from week to week. It helps you regain your place in the material and refreshes your memory.
There are also things you can do to maximize class time while you are in class. First, take class materials--books, paper, pens, calculator, whatever--with you. Second, get to class on time. Arriving late to class is like arriving late to a movie. It’s more difficult to understand if you miss the beginning. Next, sit close to the front of the class. Think about where you would choose to sit at one of your favorite performer’s concerts. Most people like to be up front where the energy is. There’s less action in a class, so you need to be even closer to maintain your interest. You’re less likely to doze off. And, you’re less distracted by the people between you and the instructor. Finally, have a purpose for listening. Your purpose could come from your pre-class preparation. It could also give you a reason to listen. It gives you something to listen for. This helps you stay alert and active. (What? You’re not interested in the class? You’re probably paying a lot to be in the class. Try to create a purpose to help you develop greater interest in it.)
The second tip is to develop a method of note taking that meets your individual needs.
Although there are several methods of recording note, there’s no single best method. You choose a method based on your learning preference and the content of the information.
Running Txt format is a modified paragraph style. You don’t need to use complete sentences. You can use abbreviations and symbols to cut writing time.This style might be best used in courses with lots of description or that are taught in a conversational manner.
Formal outlines are very structured. They work best with information or instructors that are well-organized and clearly delineate among points as they lecture.
Informal outlines serve the same purpose as formal outlines. You just don’t have to be as rigid with the formal (Roman Numerals, Capital Letters, etc.)
The Cornell Note System (also called Law School or T-Note style) is well-suited to review, no matter the content. In this format you divide your paper into two columns. You take notes in the larger, right column using whatever method you prefer. After class, you use the smaller, left column to summarize, post questions, or otherwise create cues for later review. When studying, you cover the right side and see if you can recall the information you need based on the cues from the left side.
As you can see, there’s no single way to take notes. You experiment and change until you find one that works for you.
You can mix and match the formats as needed
Communication with your instructor is the next tip for maximizing your class time.
Sometimes it looks like students think they can become invisible when they sit in class. If you can see the instructor, the instructor can see you just as well. Your instructor can tell if you are interested– or disinterested—in the class. You can either communicate with your instructor negatively or positively. Reading the campus newspaper, folding your arms across your chest, sighing, sleeping, frowning, and other nonverbal cues can show boredom. You can just as easily communicate in positive ways by nodding thoughtfully, asking questions, or by other nonverbal or verbal forms of interest. You can also make an appointmnet to see you instructor outside of class. Faculty should have office hours available to you. Most instructors say that few students make use of their resource.
Many students hesitate to ask a question in class because they don’t want to sound stupid. In most cases, if you have a question, other people do, too. You can best ask questions by prefacing what you don’t know with what you do understand. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t get it.” try “I understand what you said up to step four, but I became confused after that point.” This gives the instructor a clear indication of what you do—and do not—understand.
Fourth, avoid things that keep you from concentrating and focusing at hand.
External distractions are those things outside of you that affect your concentration and focus; however, you can control most of them by the seating choices you make. If window or door views distract you, choose to sit in a place where you can’t see what is goin on. If other people distract you, move to another seat. If you are to far away from the instructor to maintain interest, sit closer to the front. Room temperature is more difficult to control. Try taking a sweater if the room is always cold or brining a cold drink if the room is always hot. Waer cloths that are comfortable. Try to move away from room noises (e.g., creaky desks, rustling papers, and so on.)
Internal distractions come from within you. If you find yourself focusing on how someone says something more than what they say, you are distracted by the delivery. Once you recognize that, try to determine why the delivery bothers you. Try to see past that aspect of the lecture. The average speaking rate is about 150 words per minute although you can actually process about 450 words per minute in listening. The “left-over” processing leaves room for your mind to wander. Worry can be a major distraction. The opposite of worrying is solving. Worrying has no outcome. The outcome of solving is some sort of resolution. The question to ask is, “What can I do about this problem right now?” If there is nothing you can do, try to focus on the lecture. Worrying won’t solve the situation while you’re in class. Negative mental dialog is also a distracter.
Try to listen to what you tell yourself during lectures. If you hear negative mental dialog, you may be the one who is talking yourself out of good listening.
Once you identify your mental dialog, you can change it. Replace your negative comments with more positive ones. This helps you maintain interest and concentration.
Fifth, build in good note-taking habits. This requires active listening, the ability to identify the essence of the lecture, and skills in accurately and effectively recording important information.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of parts?” It means that the “Big Picture” is more than simply an accumulation of details. When you listen, try to listen for the essence or main idea rather than just for details
Identifying organizational patterns is one way to figure out the essence of something. All lectures (with the exception of those that recount that story or narrative) can be classified as one or a combination of these patterns. For example, in history, there may be a SEQUENCE of CAUSES which affected the outcome of history.. Or, in math you might COMPARE different formulas. Or, in geography you might CONTRAST the EFFECTS of natural resources on a country’s economic development. These patterns also point to good potential test questions.
How do you identify the patterns and other important information? Your lecture preview is one way to see the patterns. Instructors also clue you by what they say and do. Which of these signals have you noticed?
There are note-taking DON’Ts as well as note-taking DO’s. Here’s what bad notes might look like and some tips for maximizing your note-taking.
These are some additional suggestions for creating efficient and effective notes. Your goals should be to create notes which are thorough and concise. Your categories should be visible with clear connections. You should strive for legible handwriting with consistent use of formats, symbols, or abbreviations. You can’t write everything the instructor says. Good students record about 70% of important information units at about 20 WPM by selectively attending to cues, recognizing patterns, and sustaining attention. The tendency is to record fewer notes in the last half of lecture so sit in the front, have a purpose, and monitor your thinking.
What about taped, borrowed, or commercial notes? The purpose of notes is to separate important information from additional explanatory details. Taped notes don’t do that. Most students find that when they tape notes they soon have a large stack of unlistened-to cassettes. Commercial notes often form a crutch for students. They figure that if they get the notes, why bother going to class? Notes merely formalize and complement the learning you acquire by listening to lectures. Don’t shortchange yourself. Go to class and take your own notes. There is, however, a place for taped, borrowed, or commercial notes. If the instructor talks too fast or if you are unable to write for some reason, these forms can help supplement your understanding. Whatever form you choose, do something –mapping, charting, summarizing, etc.—to make the connection reflect your own understanding.
Most people find that even if they take pretty good notes, their notes look like Greek if they wait until the night before an exam to review them. The reason notes lose their meaning is because the connecting explanations that accompany the main ideas were often not recorded. Although you only need to review for about 10 minutes as soon as possible after class, the payoff in terms of enhanced recall will be exponentially greater!
The notes you took in class are your raw notes. Chances are that after class you will see patterns of organization that were not apparent as you took notes. You may have a professor that wanders off the subject from time to time. You may decide that a different order of organization makes more sense to you.
What you do during your after-class follow through converts your raw notes into a finished—and useful—product. There are several ways for you to process your notes.
Here’s a typical page of notes in a modified running text form, but without a lot of organization. It would appear that the lecturer has an informal conversational style.
These notes have been reorganized to clarify categories and patterns of ideas. Notice the use of white space and symbols to visually separate, mark, and organize ideas. These notes are simpler, but more detailed. The meaning is more clear. Text references are documented.
You can also reorganize information by mapping. This provides a visual overview of the connections among ideas. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to create a map. You determine the relationships. If you don’t know what relationships exist, this is your cue to rethink the information until you do.
Maps also help you organize ideas. This format might be used for a short story or novel.
Whatever makes information more visually interesting and meaningful can be used for your map. Information is stored in the brain as an image rather that just a set of verbal details.
Anything you can do to make your map interesting helps you store it more effectively in memory.
Charts are also a good ways to organize ideas. These are especially useful for making comparisons and contrasts in information.
Once you complete your after-class follow through, you have seen information a number if times, You preview it first. You went to class and take notes. You reviewed your notes as soon as possible after class. You processed your notes. By this time you assimilate information and solidify memory. Learning is your responsibility. Whatever the concent, and however your instructor lectures, you must get meaning from the information for yourself. If you have diffucluty in a course, make an appointmnet to see your instructor as soon as possible. Prepare for your appointment and be ready to explain what you understand and where you are having diffucluty. You may also find a study group or partner a good resource for making it through a difficult course.
Active Listening and Effective Note taking Make the most of your class timeWe gratefully acknowledge the source of inspiration for this tutorial as coming fromthe good folks at the Center for Academic Success at Louisiana State University.
Murphy’s Laws Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer that you think. If anything can go wrong, it will.
Hurney’s Law Half of the final exam questions will come from the notes you missed in lectures.Baxter’s Corollary The other half will come from the notes you cannot decipher.
Are hearing and listening the same thing? No Hearing Listening - physiological - processing - seeking to understand - involves thinking - analyzing YOU ARE ACTIVELY INVOLVED!
Pre-Class Preparation Complete assignments Preview that day’s content - read or survey chapter - create a chapter map - SQ3R * survey, question, read, recite, review Review the last day’s content
In-Class Preparation Take course materials to class Arrive on time Sit near the front of the class (How far does the professor ‘s energy go?) Have/get/create a purpose for listening Everything you do is a choice
Tip #2 Develop a note taking system and format that works for you.
What kind of system and format works for you?Running Text? Informal Outline? Formal Outline?Cornell Format? Another Format?
Running Text Notes on Notes: This is an example of a running text system. Notes are used to help you identify major and minor points in a lecture. A variety of note-taking styles include: 1.) running text (looks like a paragraph) 2.) Formal outline, (Roman/Arabic numerals) 3.) informal outlines (symbols, indention’s) .There are also different formats to choose from. 1) Cornell, and 2 several others.
Formal Outline Notes on Notes 09/12/01 I. Uses of Notes A. Identify major points in a lecture B. Identify minor points in a lecture II. 3 different note-taking systems: A. running text B. formal outline C. Informal outline III. Different Formats: A. Cornell B. Other
Informal Outline: Notes on Notes 09/14/01 Uses of notes -- identify major points in a lecture -- identify minor points in a lecture 4 different note-taking systems: -- running text -- formal outline -- informal outline 2 Kinds of format -- Cornell -- Other
Cornell Note Format Recall Notes on Taking 9/14/98 Column: notes, Uses of notes Reduce ideas and facts to concise *Identify major points summaries and *Identify minor points cues for reciting, There are 4 kinds of Notes: reviewing and *Running Text reflecting over *Formal Outline here. *Informal Outline *Cornell note system
Other options for formats: Your reflections, ideas & questions Edit and summarize hereEdit and summarize here Class Class Notes Here notes here Your reflections, ideas & questions here
For example, notes may look something like this: Tip #2 Pick a notetaking system/format: -Running text -Formal outline -Informal outline And.. Pick a format: -Cornell -Other
Professors can see you….….. Even in big lecture classes! They tend to be warmest to those people who seem to be the most communicative. Professors wan you to be a thoughtful participant. Non-verbal communication Verbal communication In class questions (see next slide) Out-of-class-appointments
Ask questions in class Avoid irrelevant questions Maintain focus. Don’t ask a question about what was just said as if you weren’t paying attention Give your instructor a place to start. Preface what you don’t understand by what you do understand Think of a question and ask it!
External Distractions Windows/doors Other class members Seating choice Temperature Uncomfortable clothes Noises
Internal Distractions Speaker’s delivery (mannerisms/opinions) Speaking rate vs. listening rate Worries ( the opposite of worrying is solving) Negative self-talk
Negative Mental Dialog So, who cares?! I’m never going to remember all of this. I should have never taken this class… I wonder what I will do after this class… What a stupid question! I wish I weren’t here.
Positive/Constructive Mental Dialog I am curious about this lecture. How does this relate to what I read for class? How does this relate to the last lecture? Why is this material in the lecture?
Tip #5Make your notesefficient and effectiveand listen for theessence of the lecture.
Effective Listeners & Ineffective Listeners Effective listeners… Ineffective listeners…• Actively look for something •Tune out mentallyof interest •Judge the delivery•Focus on content, not style •Listen for facts rather than main•Listen for main ideas & their ideas/organizationorganization. •Do not vary tools based•Vary note-taking tools on content •Are passive mentally;according to content give up easily•Work hard; maintain activebody posture
Tip #6 Effective listeners are active listeners.They take responsibility for their learning by developing listening and note-taking skills. Compare what effective and ineffective listeners do. Which describes your style more accurately? What do you think might be the consequence for each item that describes an ineffective listener?
What do you see You create the cube in your mind. You know it’s there even though all you see is a pattern.
Organizational patterns Introductory/Summary Located at the beginning or end of a lecture Subject Development (definition/description) There is no question I can ask that can connect the relationship. e.g.: Roger, went to the game, wears a hat…… the only connection is Roger. Enumeration/Sequence(lists/ordered lists) Cause and Effect (problem/solution) Comparison/Contrast
Instructor’s Signals Writes on chalkboard Describes a sequence Repeats information Refers to information Speaks more slowly as a test item Gives a definition Changes tone of voice Lists a number of Uses body language points/steps Uses visual aids Explains why or how Refers to specific text things happen pages
A Bad Example of Notes A few tips… History 1202 Record lecture data Do not cram spaces; use World War II white space1:001:151:30 Pearl harbor Don’t fall asleep1:452:00! Bombing on Dec. 4 Keep your personal thoughts separate US was not prepared Keep other in class notes But… separate Do not use a spiral notebook
More Tips for Good Notes Use as consistent format Dvlp (develop) a key for symbols & abbreviations. Group and label info to aid recall. Record what is written on the board. Write legibly on only the front side of the page Condense! Use shorthand not dictation. Selectively attend to instructor cues. Look for patterns of organization. Try to sustain attention.
Notes Taped (use to COMPLEMENT your notes. Set recorder at “0”, in your notes record #’s where you get lost.) Borrowed (reflect the writer’s background.) Commercial
Reviewing Notes:A Research Finding Student who reviewed within 1 hour after class… recalled 70-80% 48 hours later! (and you can maintain this kind of retention when you continue to review!)
Tip #6 Transform raw notes into a finished product.
After-class Follow Through Re-read notes ASAP -Look for patterns Fill in recall column with a word, phrase or question Fill in portions that you had to speed through and highlight. Once/week review all your notes
Example of Raw Notes: Self Knowledge thoughts, values, emotions (focus of lecture) (pg. 41-44) understanding what we are feeling… What is emotionally ated healthy???repe ABC’s – Albert Ellis Activating Event, Belief (When you do something for someone, they owe you a “thank you”.), Emotional Consequence Our reaction to event depends on our assessment (beliefs) of the event. Emotional Health Life is like waves that keep rolling in To handle problems we need to: recognize them, accept them, and respond appropriately
Example of Refined Notes: Recopied Notes Psych, Ch. 3, 7/11/01 Self Knowledge thoughts values emotions (focus of lecture) Albert Ellis – A B C’s of Emotion See p g. 41 -44 - A = Activating Event - B = Belief (When you do something for someone, they owe you a “thank you”.) - C = Emotional Consequence Emotional Health -The goal of life should NOT be waiting for prolbems to end. (waves example) To handle problems we need to: Recognize them Accept them Respond appropriately
Mapping Note taking Styles/Formats Modified OutlineRunning Text Your own paragraph symbols Format Outline Roman Numerals
A Story Map T it le S e t t in g s C h a ra c te rs P lo t Nam e P r o b le m T r a it s C o m p lic a t io n s 1. 2. 3. C o n c lu s io n
Another Kind of Map ActorPurpose Action Title Agency Scene of the Action
Make it memorable Geographical Area Murder in the U.S.Economic Conditions Murder Rates
Chart Example Definition Connotation Personal ExampleTerm Or Association
Tip #7 Review frequently and take responsibility for your own success.