Good notes are a very valuable resource for active learning. Active thinkers keep notebooks and journals of ideas from readings, lectures, presentations, and their own thoughts about topics (Judith Grunert O’Brien, Barbara Millis & Margaret Cohen, The Course Syllabus. A Learning-Centered Approach, 2d., 2008).
Here are a few tips to effectively take notes.
· You are supposed to read the materials and come prepared for class, even if your teachers do not say this to you every class. This is the general expectation.
· Now, it is impossible to remember or even to understand all the information on the texts, particularly when you are in first year. There are lots of assumptions and taken for granted debates and terminology.
· That is why I prepare reading guides in all my courses. They will tell you to focus on the most important issues, which we will then analyze in class. Also, use the course outline to place the topic you are reading about in context. If a professor does not prepare a reading guide, ask him/her what the most important aspect of the text is, where to focus, what issues you will be discussing the following class.
· When you read for a course, you may want to prepare an outline or a summary of the most important issues, always trying to answer the questions from the reading guides.
· There are always things that will be missing from these outlines, issues which you may not understand clearly.
· Always bring these outlines to class, and try to complete them with the professor’s lecture. You will not need to take notes of everything he or she says. Just try to complete your outline.
· You already know that the answer to the questions in the reading is the fundamental aspect of the lecture. If your outline is a good one, most of what the professor says is already on it. The wording may be different, the examples a professor gives maybe better, but the core should be the same.
· If the professor does not address your doubts, ask him.
· Also, because you already know what the professor is talking about, you can engage in debates, you can give your own examples, you can relate the lecture to your own experience, you can ask for his or her opinion on the topic, and especially you can give your own.
· In this sense, the lecture does not become a monologue but a dialogue, a friendly conversation.
· As soon after the lecture as possible, review your notes. Edit your notes if necessary and make sure you understand them.
· Reflect about the issues and topics on your notes.