Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Star power

I continue to be amazed at how many students let a phrase such as, “when you see something like this on the test . . . “ from their professor go by without notice.


Don't they know that this is an intentional statement of what will be on the test?

Professors do this because we know that it's important and that we will be testing you on it.  And we're giving you this obvious hint so that you know that you will encounter it again.

I think it takes some training and practice to listen for those hints and respond to them in a way that helps you in the long run.  So what's a good way to do that?

Leo Malone, one of my chemistry professors, required us to put a star in our notes next to any concept or fact that he introduced with any statement hinting that we'd see it again on a test.  He even stopped class occassionally when he made such a statement to see if we’d put a star in our notes!  This habit has stuck with me for decades.  I still put a star on notes that I take in workshops, courses, meetings, and my other work. When I review my notes, I start with the stars.  I know that these are things that I really need to know or to act on.

In the classes that I teach, I put a star on the whiteboard when I want to emphasize that a point I’m making really is worth remembering.

Why don't you start practicing star power?  I'll bet that by listening for verbal cues and making note of them, you'll find better success in your performance.

It works for me and my students—I’m sure it will work for you!

This pencast shows you what I mean.

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Want more hints about note taking?

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