Some write on blackboards or whiteboards or overhead projectors; others distribute outlines or put material on PowerPoint slides, but regardless of their methods, all the professors I've observed over the past few years have one thing in common: somewhere on their course evaluations some student will complain that the professor "needs to give better notes."
they'll get more specific: if the professor uses blackboards, they'll
demand handouts; if she switches to handouts, they'll demand PowerPoint;
if she uses PowerPoint, they'll demand that she record all her lectures
and make them available online. Trust me on this--I visit a lot of
classes and read a lot of course evaluations, and I rarely see a
professor who does not frequently receive a request to "give better notes."
If I could give every student everywhere one small piece of advice, it would be this: Professors don't give notes; students take them.
Except when they don't.
happens often: I'm standing in front of a class explaining in great
detail some essential concept that I've written on the board, and then I
casually mention that I would not be at all surprised to see this
concept on an upcoming exam, and then I pause silently as two-thirds of
my students dig deep into their voluminous backpacks to locate pen and
paper so they can write down this essential concept while I stand there
wondering why they haven't felt the need to write anything down before
you know those students who demand that important concepts appear on
PowerPoint? I do that--not often, but a few times each semester I'll put
together some interesting words and pictures to show in class and I
even and pop the presentation into Moodle so students can review the
information later on, but the nice thing about Moodle is that it
provides usage details so I can see how many students ever go back to
open that PowerPoint, and the numbers are pretty discouraging,
suggesting that you can lead a frosh to PowerPoint but you can't make
So for students who really want to succeed in challenging classes, I offer this advice: take notes! If the professor talks quickly, write quickly! If your writing muscles have become atrophied from disuse, practice! If you can't figure out which material is important, ask! In class! Or during office hours! Take some initiative--don't just sit there waiting for "notes" to fall out of the sky!
(I hope you've been taking notes on this. There's a quiz at the end.)