More Notes About Notes

Simon’s post from last week got me thinking about how my own lecture preparation and delivery have changed during my career. When I began teaching university students, I created extensive, highly structured outlines that supplied me with both a mental schema for organizing the information and what I believed were the many important details. Though I didn’t read the outlines word for word, they were a handy reference during lectures, and they also indicated to me just how much I had “covered” in a class. In sum, the outlines made me better able to transmit what I needed to transmit to students. Or so I thought. Reality, at least for students, is usually very different.

2010 version

My graduate education, especially the doctoral dissertation process, had primed me for a teaching style that may not have been the most productive. As a general rule, the undergraduate experience is not, nor should it be, sorting and remembering huge amounts of information about arcane topics like early 20th century Vietnamese and Cambodian nationalists.

2021 version

Flash forward to the present: I’m less organized, less detail oriented, and more concerned with big picture concepts when lecturing. I have the flexibility to spend time discussing the implications of a question that a student has raised. Are students learning more? I don’t really know. But I strongly doubt they are learning any less.