Notebook Inspection

One professor announces to his class the first day of a beginning, basic class that, as a service to them, he will spend a few minutes during the first quiz examining all notebooks, and advise individuals how they can improve their note-taking technique. He usually finds them grateful for this effort. The things most frequently amiss are: no prior outline, failure to indent (which is an outcome of having no prior outline), diagrams too small to allow for clear labels plus added information about the parts labeled, failure to underline similar topics with identifying colors (definitions red, theories blue, names and dates green, etc. – a useful device when reviewing), and insufficient reminders to bring back what took place in class.

But we must add this comment: If good notebooks were the sole key to learning, they would be issued in printed form, already completed. The assumption in urging students to take notes is that this will keep each student’s mind on the subject, encourage the habit of taking notes so it can be helpful in all courses later (and in post-graduate work, meetings, conferences, etc.), and train them in discriminating among the various classes of information: the very important from the less important, or moderately important. Discriminating among classes of knowledge is a vital part of one’s education.

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