note padIf you are not taking notes during class, you should be. You become engaged in the learning process, generate auditory retrieval paths, organize the information and create a visual study aid.  It also promotes recall and long-term retention. Researchers suggest that 20 minutes after a lecture you have already forgotten 40 percent of the class material. This post will help you troubleshoot if you are attempting to take notes, but struggling.

“My instructor is so disorganized there is no way I can follow the lecture.”

  • Reading the textbook prior to class helps you prioritize and organize the information yourself before class. This is your responsibilities as a learner.
  • Try different note-taking strategies, such as an outlining, a recall column, or mapping.
  • Look at a friend’s notes to find out what you missed.
  • Ask the instructor questions.
  • Identify the instructor’s main points and strategically place yourself in the classroom.

 “I can’t stand listening to my instructor. He or she is so opinionated.”

  • Although critical thinking is important, it may stir up intense emotions that are distracting.
  • Set aside some time to evaluate the speaker’s message after the lecture.

 “My professor talks too fast. I note everything he/she says. By the end of the class period, I think my hand is going to fall off.”

  • This stems from an inability to identify the instructor’s main points. Instructors will identify their main points through their gestures, becoming more animated during important points. They also use keywords and visual aids, such as the blackboard or power point.
  • Reading the textbook prior to class will help you prioritize and organize the information yourself.
  • Create your own shorthand system to increase your note-taking speed.
  • Strategically place yourself in the classroom to increase your concentration.
  • Leave room in the notes for you to add information later.
  • Ask the professor to repeat him/herself, but do so politely. Say “I’m havig trouble keeping up with you; would it be possible for you to speak a little more slowly?” rather than “Can you slow down! You’re going too fast and losing me.”
  • Divide the lecture among friends to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. You take notes on the first third of the class period, a second friend notes the second section and the last friend focuses on the final third.

 “Man this guy is boring. I cannot stop day-dreaming. Before I know it, I have fallen asleep.”

  • Assess your motivation and stress level. Perhaps other areas, such as work or socializing, are interfering with your motivation and concentration.
  • Eat healthy and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Minimize distractions. Sit in the front of the room and maintain eye contact with the professor. Ask questions to live-in the discussion or to keep the topic moving along.
  • Deal with any interpersonal issues that are monopolizing your attention.
  • You can make the topic more interesting by becoming an active learner in the classroom.
  • Motivate yourself by identifying the relevance of the topic. You can think four times faster than you can speak. Use this to your advantage by staying active. Summarize what was just said. Anticipate the next point. Put it into your own words or identify exam questions.
  • If the professor is talking too slow, repeat what he or she is saying in your head. This will keep you alert and aid your recall later.

 “My professor has an accent and is sometimes difficult to understand.”

  • Remind yourself that diversity is a valuable part of life and you must learn to communicate with others who are different than you. After awhile, your mind usually adjusts to the accent of the individual.
  • Sit in the front row.
  • Review a friend’s notes or audio record the class period. (Consult with your professor before doing so.)
  • Review the textbook for supplemental information and vocabulary.
  • Ask the professor to repeat what s/he said.
  • Use a dictionary to look up new terminology if it is not in the textbook. This will be especially [prove beneficial if you ever complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
  • If all else fails, attend tutoring.

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