The Waiting Room

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

To Coddle or Not to Coddle?

Posted by Seeking Solace |

Have any of you ever given you students a outline in which they fill in as you lecture?

I used to do this at the other college I worked, mainly because the students had no concept of note taking. But, I am at a four-year school now and one would think they know how to take effective notes. Basically, the outline is similar to my lecture notes, except the student has to fill in the information.

Here's the thing. In my law class, I cover a huge amount of material in a short amount of time. Stuff that takes an entire semester at the law school level, I have to cover in a couple of classes.

But, does that excuse them from taking proper notes?

In my day, you took your own notes, and if you didn't understand or miss something you either spoke up, asked the instructor after class or checked with a classmate. Otherwise, you were SOL and I don't mean Statute of Limitations.

I want my students to get the stuff that I am teaching, Also, since my exams are open notes, having a good set of notes is critical.

At the same time, I don't want to coddle them either.


sheepish said...

A fill-in worksheet? Not a fan.

However, my favorite style was what I got in grad school. Most profs gave out copies of their lecture notes at the beginning of each class. I could follow along, making extra notes in the margins, and spend most of my time listening and thinking instead of writing.

Anonymous said...

I've had profs who gave outlines to the lectures, and those who didn't. I don't, even though my classes cover a lot of material quickly. My thinking is that they do need to learn to take good notes, especially since more and more of them seem to have always done everything on a computer before they get to college. And if their poor note-taking skills means they bomb a test, well, welcome to the real world! Have you ever had a boss who gave you notes on the case or project you were responsible for taking on from the beginning? Of course not! As for the students mentioned in your previous post, who did so badly on an open book test, I think the same thing applies. Either they learn from the experience or they don't, and that is their choice. There is only so much we can teach our students, and coddling them isn't going to help them any once they've graduated, any more than their parents' coddling helps them now.

Ianqui said...

I give my undergrads an outline. Basically it consists of section headers and relevant pictures. Maybe it's coddling them, but most people give out the actual lecture (ppt or whatever) ahead of time, and that's a disaster. At least, whenever I've done that attendance drops by at least 50%. The outline sort of ensures that I can say (in case of an issue), "Look, we went over that in class, and you knew it was important, because there was a whole space for it on the handout."

Dr. Crazy said...

I don't give outlines for them to fill in. I do, with my freshmen, make a speech that if the prof goes to the trouble to write it on the board or to put it up on a screen, then probably that means they should write it down. I also tend to signpost material that I think is very important, i.e., will be on the test, in all classes - another way to encourage note-taking.

Something I've heard of some profs doing, if they do open note tests, is for the first one collecting the notes, too, and offering brief feedback about the notes themselves. I've never done that (I feel like the grade is ample feedback) but I could see where that could work as a guide for future tests and wouldn't require as much prep for the instructor.

k8 said...

It can be useful if students understand that they still need to take notes. However, for me it depends on the amount of details in the outline. I always preferred receiving a list of the main topics to be covered, but that could just as easily be placed on the blackboard. I like knowing what to expect to cover during a class meeting. I also like it when I can access a copy of, say, a long quotation used during the lecture or a list of texts/names referred to in relation to the course material.

I would worry about very detailed outlines. I think students need to learn how to take notes that work/make sense to them. When TAing for a literature course, I cringed every time I saw students in the lecture with the powerpoint slides printed out in front of them, yet taking no additional notes. Without the slides, I think they would have to take notes for themselves.

Seeking Solace said...

Wow! Thanks for the insight everyone! I truly appreciate it.

Dr. Crazy: I had a prof during my first year of law school who regularly looked at our notes and outlines. Since we only had one exam in her course, she wanted to make sure everyone was on the right track.

Astroprof said...

Some folks make their Powerpoint lectures available, but that is definitely coddling them. Besides, if they have the lectures, they feel that they don't need to come to class or pay as close attention. The same can be said of detailed outlines, though to a lesser degree. Now, for my non-majors I give a sort of outline with the key topics, but if they look closely, it is really just about the same thing that is in the back of each chapter of the textbook only adding in the extra topics that are not covered in the book. I definitely wouldn't give too detailed of an outline. They need to learn to take notes and to decide for themselves what is important and needs to be written down.