Thu, 2 November 2006
Researched and written by: Michael Qaissaunee
In Death by Powerpoint, we talked about becoming a better presenter, but we (myself included) take for granted that the copious notes students take in class capture the key aspects of our great lectures, are well organized, and will provide what students need to retain for tests and for further courses. Have you ever looked at your students' notes? As an exercise, try collecting and reviewing notes from a cross-section of your classes. Most faculty won't be surprised to learn that good note-taking is a lost art. This got me to thinking ... Where do our students and our kids learn to take notes? What I've concluded is that we don't, at any level, do any formal education on note-taking - it's all ad-hoc; most teachers are rightly focused on the content. But what's really troubling here, is that good note-taking is a critical part of learning and clearly we don't do enough to teach it and to reinforce with students the importance of good note-taking.
What I'd like to introduce to you today is the Cornell Note-taking method. Developed by Cornell's Walter Pauk to help Cornell University students better organize their notes, this system is just one of many different strategies designed to help students take more effective notes. No one method is better than another, the goal is to find a method that works for you. I encourage you to share this method with your students and encourage them to give the method a chance. At the very least, it will get them and you thinking about how they take notes.
The Cornell Note-Taking System
To use this system, separate your page into 3 separate sections
illustration here), as follows:
Now for the
This site provides a great list of common abbreviations that
can help students take down their lecture notes as quickly as possible.
This link shows an example of a page of notes taken using the
Cornell method. Using this as a handout is a quick and easy way to illustrate
the method to students.
A site with more general tips and suggestions for better note-taking. A great place to send students as they start to think about their note-taking.
A nice overview of the Cornell system. Not the only place to learn about the system, but a good starting point.
Some additional PDF resources on the web can be found at
PDF Pad. PDF Pad allows
you to generate pdf version of a variety of useful documents, including