Kathleen Lee, Amanda Pittman, and Steve Hare led a panel discussion in the Adams Center on student note-taking.
Kathleen is a chemistry professor and shared the use of partially filled notes that she uses in class with the aid of a document camera. She shared that drawing the initial figures in the fillable notes allows students to add to them during the lecture so they can focus on the content rather than being distracted with drawing correctly. She has found that writing alongside her students helps her pace because writing takes more time than talking. She shared research from a study about partially filled notes in organic chemistry. The study showed a notable improvement in grades when partially filled notes are used.
Amanda shared strategies she’s incorporated specifically into her freshmen Bible classes. Amanda stated that she frames note-taking as a practice students should be doing. She explicitly uses verbal cues in class to alert students to write down a note. “If I were taking notes, I would write this down!” “I want to say that again…..” “I just mentioned _________…. Put a big star by his name!” “Here are the three big things we will talk about today.” This practice aligns with transparency in teaching. Overly alerting students to the intended learning outcomes, the purpose of the assignment or lecture, and the trajectory of the overall learning have resulted in students expressing gratitude for knowing what is expected of them. Amanda is also intentional about verbalizing what students should and should not write down from a powerpoint slide. She has become more selective about the use of slides and often overtly states what the students should write down from a specific slide. She often includes an image without text in order for students to simply reflect or consider that image. Amanda tries to use note-taking as part of the active element of the class rather than a passive part. One way to do this is to ask students to trade notes part way through class to see how other students have processed the learning.
Steve created four packets of note-taking guides for each of the four large segments of one of his large Old Testament classes. The students use the notes packets prior to class to take notes as they read the assignments from the textbook and the Bible. The notes packets vary in the way students fill them in. Some of the guides ask students to look for big thematic elements. Other pages incorporate charts to fill in and others are more straightforward factual information. When students then bring the packets to class, they continue taking notes during class time. Students receive participation points for filling in notes ahead of time. Steve also attempts to engage with the class and the notes in such a way that participating in notetaking is a natural rhythm of the class.
The Adams Center is grateful for the thoughtful teaching practices that are so widespread on ACU’s campus. We are also thankful for the time and space to share ideas and learn from each other.