Deep Learning Practice: Create Lecture Note Systems

Your experience in college Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes likely include lectures. A lecture is an oral presentation, combined with visual aids, that is designed to introduce information to a group audience. Many professors use lectures as their primary “teaching” tool. As a student, you need to be very careful about confusing the act of sitting through a lecture with your process of learning. While lectures are popular on college campuses, they are notoriously bad at inspiring deep learning. Cognitive scientists have shown that human beings have limited short-term memory. Because of this limitation, much of the information presented in a typical lecture comes too fast and is quickly forgotten. This is a problem! One of the most popular presentation styles in your college classes (lecture) does not allow you to fully process the information being presented in real time. If you have ever felt overwhelmed, under-prepared, frustrated, uncomfortable, mystified, or anxious during a lecture, you’ve encountered the disconnect between your needs as a learner and your experience in lecture.  In this blog post, we discuss useful strategies you can use in your STEM courses to protect yourself against the harmful practice of lectures.

Why do professors choose to lecture?

One answer to this question is known as the apprenticeship of observation which I define to be the practice of designing classroom policies by reflecting internally on one’s own lived experiences. Professors begin their careers having spent thousands of hours as college students. When making decisions about how to teach, many instructors imitate the behaviors they saw in their own college classes. Thus, many teachers choose to lecture because it is all they know. Most college professors spent their formative years as a college student learning in lecture-based courses. This is related to the no-teacher-training-for-college-professors problem in which most college teachers have relatively little expertise in the science of learning or the art of effective teaching.

While I do believe that lectures cause more harm than good, a skillful lecturer might use this medium to guide you through the process of deciphering and encoding large quantities of complex technical ideas. To begin learning new content, you must convert sensory perceptions (i.e. reading, listening, speaking, etc.) into meaningful representations in your brain. Deep learning requires that you also explicitly connect new material to related ideas that you have already learned. Because many topics covered in STEM classes are quite nuanced, a good instructor will spend lots of time scaffolding materials. These teachers design lectures to make connections between new ideas and previously studied concepts. A skilled lecturer will also focus your attention on the most pertinent aspects of each new idea presented in a course. In doing so, a professor can use lectures to greatly reduce the amount of work that you must do prior to each in-class meeting. It’s important to realize however, that the when the teacher is monologing, you are not engaged in deep learning. In order to make use of good lectures, you must develop systems to process the information presented in lecture slowly and deliberately. That is exactly what we explore in this post.

Advantages of lecture

There are some advantages to using lecture in the classroom. Using lectures, college teachers can disseminate unpublished material, communicate ideas to a large audience in a group setting, and wield a great degree of control over the in-class experience. Moreover, many policies in our college education system celebrate and incentivize academic research much more so than thoughtful teaching. Lectures allow professors to minimize the amount of time they spend developing relationships with students or creating curriculum to enrich their classes. This frees up more time for research and thus increases the chances that the professor will earn tenure, earn prestigious awards, secure grant funding, and advance in their career. Students also enjoy limited benefits from lectures. Skilled lecturers can create engaging delivery formats which might entertain students who are sitting through the lecture.

Disadvantages of lecture

Lectures place students in a passive, rather than an active, role. Lecturers spend the majority of class time talking at students, encouraging one-way communication. This suggests the unspoken and inaccurate belief that teachers are the source of knowledge and that learning happens when the teacher is talking. This is not at all how learning works. In reality, learning occurs when you struggle to understand material and repeatedly test yourself on your comprehension of new ideas. Such struggle and assessment seldom happens when a teacher is talking. In short, lectures are useful tools for quick dissemination of material but are poorly designed to enhance student learning. For a longer discussion, please see my related post on the problems with lecture.

How can you use lecture to learn?

Even though deep learning rarely occurs during lecture, there are some useful strategies you can use to take advantage of this teaching format. To learn well from lecture, be prepared to spend significant out-of-class time engaging with the material after each lecture. Generally speaking, I coach students who want an A in a STEM class to expect to spend a minimum of four hours studying outside of class for every one hour of in-class lecture. More important than time spent are the study habits you use to learn in a lecture-based course. Below we discuss useful strategies you can use to guide your studying and maximize your learning.

Step 1: Anticipate lecture content

The night before each in-class meeting, take a few minutes to anticipate what you professor will likely present during your next class. To forecast this content, you might review the following:

☐ your course calendar or the schedule of topics provided in the syllabus

☐ your notes from the last lecture

☐ the readings or homework assigned for the next class

☐ the material presented in the course thus far

Be sure to check your online course site for useful resources that your instructor may use during lecture. If you find any, download these, print them and bring them to class with you.

Step 2: Get enough sleep

Make sure that you get at least 7 hours of sleep before an early morning lecture. If your lecture is in the afternoon or evening, plan your breaks during the day so that you will be fresh when lecture starts. Lectures can and should be intellectually stimulating. You want to ensure you can devote 100% of your attention to your in-class experience.  

Step 3: Bring useful materials with you to lecture

Before you leave your home, make sure you have all your learning materials with you. This includes blank paper or a notebook, writing utensils, your course syllabus, different colored pen, PostIt notes, and some highlighters. If your instructor relies heavily on a course textbook, you should also bring a hard copy of this book with you to class. Finally, don’t forget any handouts that you printed from the online course site.

Step 4: Arrive to class early

Make a concerted effort to get to class at least 10 minutes early. Try to be one of the first students in the room. Choose a comfortable seat with good lighting, plenty of desk space and with a good view of the white board or viewing screens. As soon as you take your seat, get out the materials you will use to create your first draft of lecture notes and prepare for class.

Step 5: Develop your intention to learn

While you’re in lecture, develop your intention to learn as much as possible. You’ve made the effort and taken the time to attend lecture. Decide to make the most of your time by dedicating yourself to the process of learning while in class. Tell yourself: “I am a great student and getting better everyday. This lecture is a chance for me to learn and grow. I will work hard during and after this lecture to learn as much as possible from this material.”

Step 6: Prepare for class

In the 10 minutes before the start of class, prepare a blank template for the first draft of your lectures notes on that day. To do so, you might include the following style elements:

  • Title your notes: “First Draft of Lecture XX: Section YY (p. m – n)”
  • Date your notes (including the date and time that you created these notes)
  • Number each page of your notes

Step 7A: Take notes during class

Do NOT try to write down every word. Remember the average lecturer speaks at 125 – 140 words per minute while the average note taker writes at about 25 words per minute. When writing your first draft of lecture notes, focus your attention on the most important parts of the in-class presentation. Be selective in what you write: write down the most important ideas from class. Also, be as specific and concrete as possible.

You want to include enough details in your in-class notes to be able to answer the following questions:

☐ What definitions, theorems, or ideas are presented?

☐ Which examples are given?

☐ What techniques are demonstrated?

☐ Which of the ideas presented during lecture are explained in our course textbook? Warning: If an idea or technique is presented in class that is not in your textbook, you need to figure out how you will get help on this idea outside of class. Office hours are one great resource for extra help. Study groups are another possible source of help.

☐ What clues did you hear that indicate content that the professor thinks is important (i.e. what content will likely show up on your next exam)? The moment you hear any guidelines about possible exam subjects, make a special note in your first draft using a red pen and a highlighter. This will help focus your attention on exam content as you return to these notes do write your second draft.

Step 7B: Be strategic when writing your first draft

When creating your first draft of lecture notes, capture key ideas that will trigger memories of the lecture content. Be brief and write down only the major points you want to remember later. Be mindful that you will be re-writing these notes in a second draft. In the second draft you will fill in the important details and make very careful notes.

Step 7C: Focus on the important content

Because it is impossible to capture everything your instructor says during a typical lecture, focus on the important information and ignore the rest. Below are three categories you can use to organize lecture content. As you create the first draft of your lecture notes, you can use these categories to focus your mind.

  • Important course information

Professors often discuss specific course information during lecture. This may include review of key components of the syllabus, lists of exam dates, comments about homework problems, or recommended study strategies. To thrive in a course, you need to be good at figuring out how the course is organized at beginning of the term. You also need to continually develop your study skills and strategies to adapt to the changing demands of your course throughout the academic term. One idea to capture this information is to keep a red pen ready during lecture. Any time the professor mentions information about exams, important class dates, or other course specific information, put down your lecture pen, pick up your red pen and make a note in your first draft. Do not use the red pen for anything other than this type of information. This way, red writing signifies special type of information. When you write your second draft, you can use your notes in red pen to guide your study and give you insights on what you need to do to succeed in this class.

  • Important facts

Any college course that counts towards an undergraduate degree at an accredited college in the United States has a well-written course description. This document serves to communicate the body of knowledge that the course instructor is responsible for “teaching” to enrolled students. In lecture, your professor lists important definitions, theorems, experiments, case studies, and other factual information. By stating these facts, your instructor is attempting to “teach” the required curriculum as specified by the course description. Of course, just because the professor spews out a bunch of facts quickly during lecture does not mean you’ve learned anything. And if you haven’t learned, then no teaching has occurred.

In order to learn this content, please be mindful that you very likely need to revisit the lecture material outside of class. Your professor may also expect you to apply these facts to solve problems. Many instructors base the grade they assign you in the course on your performance on in-class exams. To succeed, you need to decide which terms and theory are most important, develop the types of mastery of this material that your professors expect, and demonstrate this mastery on timed exams. As you write your first draft of your lecture notes, try to capture the list of terms presented in class and any information you think you’ll need to study. The point is to capture enough information to guide your mind on what you’ll need to study in your second draft of your lecture notes.

  • Key sequences of steps

Each lecture, your professor may present a set of examples designed to demonstrate important sequences of steps used to derive key results and solve specific problems. You professor is demonstrating the step-by-step symbolic manipulation AND the reasoning behind each step. Any time you see an example fully worked out during a lecture, you may need to make sense of the entire example. To do so, you must understand the logic behind each step, practice the component skills in each step, integrate these skills into your understanding of course content, and learn when to apply these skills. When you’re writing your first draft, it’s important to note which examples your teacher is using and to capture enough information about these examples so that you can redo this work again at home in your second draft.

Step 8A: Prepare to create a second draft of your lecture notes

Within 24 hours after the end of lecture, create a second draft of your lecture notes. To do so, find a study area that is quite, comfortable and has plenty of light. Make sure to have blank paper and writing utensils with you. Also, open your textbook to the appropriate sections and have a copy any online resource that will be helpful in understanding your first draft. As you are writing your second, avoid distractions. Shut out all non-learning related activities (including Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, text messages, phone calls, conversations with friends, etc.). Turn your cell phone onto “Do Not Disturb” mode and shut your door. Minimize background noise and diversions. Give yourself uninterrupted sessions of focused attention followed by planned breaks to let your mind rest. You might use the Pomodoro technique or other methods to build your ability to focus. The goal of re-writing your notes is to build your understanding, make sense of the material for yourself, and acquire new skills. Doing this in a meaningful way should be a demanding task for your brain. For this reason, it is particularly important to create an environment that is free from other distractions.

Step 8B: Format your second draft

Organize the second draft of your notes for easy reference. For example, you might:

  • Title your notes using the Lecture Date and Content titles (e.g. Lecture #3: Vector Modeling)
  • Date each page of your notes. At the bottom of each page, include the date and time that you created that page of your notes. This habit can give you useful information about when you write your notes and when you complete your second drafts. You can use this type of data to improve your study systems as you get better with this practice.
  • Time stamp each page of your notes with the time you began that page, the time you ended that page, and the total minute count you spent on that page. This habit can help you develop discipline as you build your ability to focus and also help you learn how long it takes you to write a single page of notes.
  • Number each page of your notes.
  • Leave room in the left, right, top and bottom margins of your page for questions and thoughts. Spread your work out on the page so that it is easy to read your writing and you have plenty of space between individual lines of work. Think deeply about making your work easy to read and decreasing the amount of friction you feel when you look back at your notes. Focus on creating work that is very easy to read, fun to look at, and easy to decipher at a glance. Remember the idea is to create a written record of your learning that you can refer back to years into the future.
  • Develop a consistent format to organize your thoughts (outline, table, notecards, etc.). Systematize your work so that you can leverage your systems in each of your classes and customize your approach to the different classes you take. Be prepared to update your systems as time goes on in each class. Ask for guidance from your teacher in each class and prepare to continually reflect on an improve your systems as you move throughout the course.
  • Plan to write on only one side of each page. As discussed below, some of the most important discoveries you can make during a lecture are the questions that arise as you work. When you write on one side of the page, you leave the back side blank. You can use that blank side to capture answers to your questions or to capture other ideas related to whatever you wrote on the front. This habit also makes it much easier to insert extra pages later in your learning process. In other words, by writing on one side of the page, you increase your flexibility in updating your notes as you deepen your learning.

Step 9: Write your second draft

Using the first draft of your lecture notes, the textbook and any online resources you have available, re-write your lecture notes from start to finish. In the second draft, fill in as much detail as you think you will need to understand each concept at a deep level. Here are some guidelines you can use:

Step 9A: Develop verbal descriptions

When transforming your first draft of lecture notes into a coherent second draft, one of the most powerful practices you can use is to capture and organize verbal descriptions of what you are learning. This involves two related but independent tasks. First, you must be able to summarize the ideas you are studying in our own words, entirely and completely. This process requires you to decode each technical word or phrase you encounter, create or access mental maps of each underlying idea, encode these ideas in words that make sense to you, and synthesize a description of the idea that is entirely in your own words. In doing so, you must make explicit connections between the new idea you’re studying and other ideas that you’ve learned in your past. You also must be sure to address possible inaccuracies in with your encoding and to ensure that you have not lost any important information. The process of encoding new ideas in your own language fully and completely is by far the hardest and most important part of learning. However, if your plan on being a part of a community of working professionals who use these ideas, it is also important that you learn to use the technical jargon associated with this concept definition correctly. In other words, the second task of creating a verbal description is to learn how to use each technical term correctly and to encode your understanding in the language of the field. Below are two different types of information you can encode in your lecture notes as you capture and organize your verbal descriptions of the ideas covered in lecture.

Abuelita language: For each idea that your teacher covered in lecture, translate that idea into your own words. The Spanish word “abuelita” translates into grandmother in English. When you use abuelita language, you translate the ideas you are studying into terms that your grandmother can understand. Another way to say this is: as you re-visit each concept covered during lecture, imagine your job is to teach that concept to a five-year-old child. When speaking with the five year old, you can’t assume they have technical understanding of previous concepts or that you can rely on prerequisite knowledge. Thus, your job is to break each idea down into the most basic essence and communicate that essence to the child. This practice is related to the Feynman technique.

The point of this is to develop highly intuitive language to encode each idea for yourself and to capture this intuition in written form so that you can come back to your work later in life. Moreover, when you write your notes thoughtfully and spend time creating organization systems so that you can refer back to what you are learning, you create an external memory bank that you can rely on for years to come. This practice implies that every minute you spend can become an asset to you in the future as you build your expertise.

Nerdy language: I believe that the most important part of learning comes when you develop abuelita language to describe the ideas you are studying. That involves the work of sense making and creative thought. Each time you study an idea that is new to you, you are literally involved in discovery and you integrate that knowledge into your own brain. This is essence of what learning is. Still, another part of the puzzle is learning how to talk about the knowledge you are growing with other trained professionals. This is where the formal jargon of your field comes into play.

Very often during lectures, your professor will use technical terms and ideas to encode complex ideas. As you decode those ideas into your own intuitive understanding, it’s useful to learn how to use the technical language also. This is what I call nerdy language which are terms and notation you can use to talk to other nerds (take pride in being a nerd: the more knowledge you build, the more freedom you’ll earn in your future, both financial and, more important, in your ability to control what you do with your time).

As you develop your notes, it’s important to write about how to use the technical language you’re studying and to develop systems to memorize this language. This might include using flash cards, developing a glossary of technical terms to study, or any other technique that helps you remember these terms as you study them.

Step 9B: Develop visual representations

One tool you can use to learn how to describe new ideas is to create detailed diagrams with titles, labels, explanations, and visual representations to highlight important. Such visuals include but are not limited to graphs, images, diagrams, or maps that help to encode and interpret an idea geometrically or visually. Often when constructing a verbal description, it is useful to create an associated visual description with labels, comments, and explicit connections between the words you choose and a corresponding diagram(s) you create. As you do so, do your best to identify the significance of each diagram and explain why that diagram is useful as you develop your understanding of the related ideas. Have fun with your diagrams and make them as pretty as you’d like. Remember that the goal is to increase your understanding and to trigger important ideas when you look back in the future.

Step 9C: Capture and track your questions

One of the most important parts of the lecture re-write system is the questions that you generate as you work to understand the material. The more thoughtful you are about how you generate, capture, and organize your questions, the more power you’ll have as you navigate the other features of your course.

To develop you ability to write questions, I encourage you to use what I call the 2-minute rule. As you rewrite your lecture notes and you find places where you’re stuck, give yourself two full minutes to do what ever you need to try to get unstuck: call a friend, look at the textbook, go online, etc. And, set a timer. No joke! Put a timer on for 2 minutes. At the end of those two minutes, you ask yourself the following questions: Am I unstuck? Am I to a place where I feel I have clarity on this particular issue that I notice?

If you feel you on your way to being unstuck, then capture your discovery in full. Write out the full “solution” to your problem or the full description of what you learned to address your issue. Capture your learning in your 2nd draft in a thoughtful way. Organize your work so you can look back days/weeks/months later. If you’re stuck today, you’ll probably be stuck later. Capturing what you learned can save you lots of time and stress in the future. Moreover, this habit can propel your studies as you deepen your learning throughout the academic term and beyond.

If you are still stuck after two minutes, then form a well-thought-out question in full sentences. When I say a “well-thought-out” question, I don’t mean questions that are posed using a single word like “Why?” “How?, “What?” Those questions may be helpful in the moment but will likely cause you a lot of confusion when you look back at your work many days later. Remember, the goal of the second draft of your lecture notes is to create clarity and to decrease your workload in the future when you look back at your notes. If you pose simple questions in the moment, you force your future self to do that hard work of figuring out where you were stuck. However, there will often be a delay between the day you pose a question and the day you get an answer. If you use single word questions, there is a high chance you will not understand what your question was about.

Instead, write out as detailed a question as you can. For example, you might write: I’m working on understanding example 1 from lecture 5. In that example, I see that we are trying to create do XYZ. I understand the first few steps of this work. But I don’t see why we do the fourth step highlighted in my work here. How can I leverage the blah blah blah to do XYZ in this example? How is concept ABC related to concept XYZ? What am I missing here?

After you capture your detailed question, write a check box ( like this : ☐ )next to that question. That check box is a reminder that your job is now to find an answer to the question. Also, put on a date and time stamp on the question. Specifically, include in each question you pose the date and time that you captured the question. By capturing the date and time information, you can begin to judge how long it takes you to find answers to the questions you pose.

Finally, after you capture your question, get out a highlighter and a post it note. My favorite color to use to mark questions is orange. Highlight each question and then place a post it note on the side of the page to mark the location. The highlighter shows where the question is on each page and the post it note empowers you to find your questions quickly. Once you’ve captured all of this information, move on in your work. You’ve now done enough to be able to come back to the idea later as you search for help. No need to ruminate on the concept. Move on to other ideas so that you can make progress through the whole lectures.

This process of capturing questions helps put time bounds around the habit of making sense of your lecture notes. Many students do not think critically about how they track questions. Instead, when they get stuck on an idea from lecture, they will dedicate themselves to fully understanding that one idea before moving on to other concepts. Then, they’ll spend hours trying to get unstuck, blow through all their study time for that class, and not fully understand that idea. They’ll also start dipping into study time they need for their other classes all in the hopes of getting unstuck. I call this spiraling down the rabbit hole and it’s a very common issue for young students. By putting tight time bounds around how much time you allow yourself to remain stuck and by developing the discipline to track your issues, you allow yourself to break hard problems up over time. Once you have your list of questions with post it notes, you can leverage office hour appointments, tutoring center visits, and chats with your class mates to get answers to those questions. In fact, probably the most valuable part of the lecture re-write system is this process of partitioning the lecture into two types of information: the stuff you understand by yourself and the ideas you need extra help with. By tracking your questions in a systemic way, you make it much easier to get help with the ideas you most struggle with and thus limit the amount of time you spend spinning out of control by yourself.

Step 9D: Get comfortable with the symbols and notation

Many ideas in STEM classes are encoded using symbols and notation. As you work to create your second draft of your lecture notes, you might think about two types of symbolic representations that might be helpful for your future self. First, there is notation that others have created for you and that you might decide to adopt. When studying many STEM fields in college, it can be very wise to use the standard notation that your professor introduces during class. As an expert in the field, your instructor might have made many choices about notation that will help you avoid confusion. However, your teacher may not communicate to you why they made these choices. Unless you have some very compelling reason not to, I encourage you to adopt the notation your professor uses. If you’re confused about why that notation is helpful or how to best leverage that notation for your learning, make a plan to ask for clarifications about why your teacher made these choices for notation during office hours or before/after class.

The second type of symbols include the notation that we create for ourselves. This might include variables, symbols, operations, etc. that we create for ourselves to encode new ideas and enhance our understanding of what we are learning. As you create your own notation and symbols, be careful to communicate the implied meaning of your notation to any person that looks back at your work. Specifically, remember that the process of creating notation and new symbols is a creative act that requires lots of thinking. If you’ve arrived at a mental space where you’re starting to imagine new notation to deepen your understanding, do not assume that you will remember what you are thinking in the future when you look back at your own notation. Instead, write detailed notes about what notation you’re using, why you’re using that notation, what it means, and why you think your choices will enhance your understanding. You might also capture any questions or concerns that arise as you develop your notation so that you can iterate and improve your approach as you deepen your learning.

Step 9E: Develop algorithmic and procedural fluency

During in-class STEM lectures, your teacher will often demonstrate a collection of specific algorithmic or procedural processes to find a specific result or execute a special calculation. Because teachers can speak a lot faster than they can write, they will often audible many steps of the process that they don’t write on the board. Similarly, it is unlikely you will write fast enough to capture all relevant steps of a calculation in your first draft of you in-class lecture notes.

In your second draft of your lecture notes, fill in all missing algebraic, arithmetic, and logical details of any calculation you see in your first draft of your notes. Add as much detail as you can to understand every single step of the work. I encourage you to develop the discipline of doing no more than more than two arithmetic or algebraic operations in a single line of work. In other words, as you expand your understanding of the algorithm or procedure, show each step slowly and deliberately. Next to each new step, write down which ideas you used to produce the new analysis. Make sure you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. For any step that you don’t understand or that you’re struggling with, capture a clarifying question as discussed above.

Step 9F: Capture and organize your work

The entire point of creating a lecture note system is to build an external memory bank for future retrieval. As you engage in deep learning for your course, you’re going to discover a large collection of new ideas and build deep insights into that work that you might leverage for years to come. Do your best to organize your second drafts of your lecture notes so they are easy to read, easy-to-navigate, and highlight all the work you’ve done to thrive in your classes. Pay special attention to setting up your lecture notes system so that you can continue to build on your work in the coming weeks and months.

Also, I encourage you to imagine/pretend that you might want to use your work for months, years, or decades into your future. Think about your work as providing a potential foundation for part of your future career. I am not claiming you must continue to learn the course content material after you finish your course. What I’m coaching you to do is to be thoughtful about how you spend your time. Here are two different scenarios that are worth considering as you create your lecture note systems in your classes.

Scenario 0: You treat your work as “required” and expend a bare minimum of effort to get your desired grades. You do not think deeply about your learning and put together learning resources that are teacher-centered (focused on doing what you think the teacher wants). At the end of the class, you earn your desired grade and then go on in your education. You don’t improve your learning skills, nor do you take the time to engage with this content for your own benefit. A few years after you finish this class, perhaps when you’ve transferred to your next school and are in upper-division classes or maybe in graduate school, you realize that you actually have a deep intellectual need for the work you did in your classes this academic term. When you go back to your work, everything you’ve produced this term is useless to your future self because you did not take ownership over your learning for this class. You can’t understand your own writing, you can’t easily find your work because it’s not organized, and you find almost no value in the work you produced.

Scenario 1: You begin to imagine that the work you do this term is for your own learning. You work to create an experience that you feel is valuable. Although you do not have an exact vision for how your future self might use this knowledge, you remain open and hopeful that you can transform the time you spend in each class into future learning and growth. As you build your lecture notes systems, you spend extra time making your portfolio valuable for yourself so that you can return to your work for years to come. You keep an eye on creating learning skills that you can transfer to the next stage of your education. You also do work in this class with the hope of building your resume. You dedicate energy towards growing your career capital so that you can create a career that you love while doing work that makes you happy. You don’t worry about having answers to all the difficult questions about your future (how will I make a living, how can I use this content to earn a salary, how is this related to my future life, how can I use this content to solve problems that I care about). You track these questions and create an invitation to yourself to find answers as you grow up in college. Moreover, you treat your portfolio as part of the process of learning. A few years after you finish your classes, you realize that you need some of the work you did during this term. At that moment, you revisit your learning portfolio and you can easily access everything you produced. Your work is easy to navigate, very well organized, easy to read, and has a bunch of interesting details that are customized to your own learning needs. As you look over your own notes, it is as if no time has passed. You dive right back into your work. You can do this because of how thoughtful you were during your time this quarter.

I encourage you to do everything you can to put yourself into Scenario 1 for the classes in your major. Spend extra time and care creating a lecture notes system and a learning portfolio that will last for many years into the future. Remember that capturing your work and organizing your ideas are powerful skills that allow you to leverage your learning over many years. Treat yourself like a pro and spend the energy to do this well. This is an invitation you give to your future self to use what you learn each term to build a future that you want to live in.

Community Challenge

  1. Identify all of the suggested steps you might complete to best take advantage of lecture notes in your college courses. For each suggested step, write down techniques you think will be most helpful for you to complete this step. These techniques might be suggestions from the reading or might be your own ideas on how you can best execute each step. 

  2. What are all the reasons this article gives about why in-class lectures not great at inspiring deep learning? Please summarize them briefly below.

  3. How might the process of re-writing your lecture notes increase your potential to learn in your college classes? How might second drafts of your lecture notes help improve your performance on in-class quizzes and exams? How might this help you succeed in achieving your academic goals in this course?

  4. Look back at the Schedule to Succeed : Draft Your Weekly Schedule activity. Identify chunks of unscheduled time (time that you do not have to physically be present in class, at work, or in a meeting) that you have within 12 hours of the end of each in-class meeting. Decide on time(s) each week that you can use to re-write your lecture notes. Write these times in pencil in your weekly schedule and develop a habit of re-writing your lecture notes during these times.

  5. Read the How to Organize Your Course Binder blog post. As you re-write your lecture notes, organize these notes in a course binder that allows you to refer back to your notes quickly and easily. Make a highly effective system so that you can find every single lecture note you need in less than a minutes time for every class you take.

3 thoughts on “Deep Learning Practice: Create Lecture Note Systems

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