Saturday, January 8, 2011

No, You Can't Copy My Notes

No, you can't copy my notes. I'm sorry you can't write fast enough to keep up. Ask me to repeat something if you missed it.

No, as I said, you can't copy them. Why? Because I don't have any notes. All I have is an outline, and that's on the PowerPoint you can access on Blackboard (cursed be its name) after class. The rest? It's all up here (taps head). That's what happens when you study and actually learn something. You see, I spent the past thirty-plus years of my life studying this. If I still need notes to talk about Roosevelt's Square Deal or the Turner Thesis then I shouldn't be teaching this class.

Now, go back to your dorm, crack open the textbook and start reading and making notes. I've got a stack of new books and journals as high as you are tall that I need to read so I can keep up. There's a shitload of things to learn out there kid, and the process isn't easy, and it never stops, but, if you find a subject you enjoy, it can be a hell of a lot of fun. Now excuse me, I'm at the good part in that new bio of Henry Clay and I'm eager to read more...


  1. Are there any current or past high school teachers reading along?

    This copy the notes thing is a pretty new angsty for me and I'm wondering if something has happened in secondary ed that has convinced students that getting a proffie's notes is a reasonable request.

  2. Ha ha. I love it when they ask for my notes. I just say "You know, taking good notes is a skill every student needs. Giving you my notes isn't going to help you with that skill. Why don't you come by during my office hours and we can go over your class notes in detail and see where you might improve."

    Problem solved. If they say "I need notes for when I was absent!" I say "Oh, well making sure that you've properly read and understood the reading for that day is especially important. Why don't you bring me the notes you took while you read? What? You didn't take any? Oh. Well why don't you go back and re-read and take about three pages of notes and then come by my office during my next office hours?"

    Problem solved, x 2.

    Students can be such lazy shits. Anything to make their life easier, so they don't have to think. And you can't win, because if you give them your notes, they'll complain if you put stuff on the test that wasn't in your notes. Fuckers.

  3. I had been on the side of the reluctant note sharers (only a outline of PP slides/lecture notes).

    But you both have reminded me that from the get-go, I have held strong to not provide study guides (a much more common request in the pre-PowerPoint era).

    I'm kicking myself for not recognizing how providing the PowerPoint outline is basically providing the updated version of a study guide -- a dumbed down class script which students want to believe gives them only the "gotta know info."

    A blizzard of flakes are in for an unexpected meltdown in a couple weeks.

  4. @A&S:

    I provide study guides. They consist of the following: I combine all my powerpoint outlines, delete the sub-points, and give them a list of the headers. 5 minutes work.

    Then I tell them that just because it's not on the study guide doesn't mean it can't be on the exam. IOW they are responsible for everything. Cry me a river.

  5. Stella, you are my favorite mentor.


    I hear you.

    When I noticed that students were using my PP handouts as a de facto script, i.e. reaching the last slide meant the class was over, I started deleting content from the slides and adding an extra case study/discussion topic/activity.

    But, from your comment, I think I will revise once again: Change all of the "Slides with note lines" handouts to the bare-bones "outline only" and then strip THOSE down to just the slide headers.

    Time to feeding the blizzard!

  7. High school teacher here. No, I don't give notes to students. Same as MA&M, I have no notes to give, but also I'm trying to teach them the study skills they'll need for college, so they have to learn efficient note-taking themselves.

    With that said,I worked briefly at a high school that came close to accusing me of child abuse because I refused to make all of my tests open-book. They wanted me to give students my verbatim "lecture notes" for each class. Which was puzzling, because they were all about "student-centered learning" and were always condemning the lecture style of teaching. (I really enjoyed it when they'd bring in consultants to speak to the faculty, in lecture format, about why lecturing was bad).

    So, it depends on the school, I guess. Nobody at my current school would ever give notes to a student, and the culture of the place is such that no student would even ask in the first place.

    I don't have a problem with study guides, and I'm always surprised at how touchy an issue it is for some profs. My college class is a low-level general requirement. I'm not trying to trick them, I'm trying to help them learn the material. Giving the students some important vocabulary and a set of essential questions to consider helps them organize and direct their thinking. Obviously, they're responsible for everything covered in class, I just want to help them work through the material in a meaningful way.

  8. Oops ... time to STOP feeding the blizzard!

  9. @Surly

    I agree that we aren't here to try to "trick" the students.

    However, my resistance to study guides is that students have always represented their desire as to be provided with a diluted course content of, basically, what is going to be on the test.

    I have nothing against pointing out seminal theories/advances of the discipline or highlighting crucial vocabulary. In fact, I do that quite deliberately IN CLASS!

    Where I step off, however, are when students take guides as liberty to disengage and divorce themselves from actually evaluating the material.

    After all, shouldn't the fact One Early Basketweaver's name gets mentioned 42 times in class be a pretty big clue that this will be on the exam?

    Do we really need to provide a handout bolding/highlighting/italicizing OEB's name?

  10. From a reader without a login:

    I am responding to this post from the perspective of an adult student attending a SLAC.

    You can't copy my notes either. I'm sorry you were up partying all night. I'm sorry you are hung over. I’m sorry you have led a pampered, protected life for the past nineteen years and never learned any sense of personal responsibility.

    Wait a minute…I’ve changed my mind. I’m not sorry at all. I earned this chance for an education and I am working my butt off to get these grades. Whatever I accomplish in class is the result of hours of study and I am not sharing the payoff with you. Figure it out for yourself.

    Just call me the Cranky Old Lady in College

  11. I've been informed in the past that it is *my* responsibility to provide a note taker for students with "accommodations".

    I've sidestepped this by simply posting all the powerpoints online.

  12. I'm astonished by how few of my students take notes, even when I look at them and say, "You should be taking notes right now." Whenever students ask me how they can improve their grades or what to do to prepare for the final exam, I always suggest that they go over their notes. I know full well that they haven't taken any notes but they're usually too embarrassed to say so and they then leave me alone.

    Powerpoint? Never use it.

    Cranky Old Lady, I love you. I love teaching grown-ups like you. I wasn't much older than my classmates when I did my undergraduate degree but I'd already lived on my own for several years and was putting myself through school. I had no patience for their pampered asses and their inability to do their work (let alone do it well), even with mommy and daddy paying for everything and doing the laundry too. I still feel that way about my pampered students. If I managed to do well in school while working and living on my own in a red light district with no money and junkies in my back yard, surely they can manage too.

  13. Cranky Old Lady, I too love you.

  14. I have a statement in my syllabus informing students that taking notes is a strategy to doing well in class. A fellow faculty member (a long-term adjunct with lots of undeserved clout) told me statements like that infantilize the students. After all, who am I to make them take notes? How dare I!

    My rebuttal that students bitch about how I don't cover material despite spending extended periods of time on them (which they might be able to figure out if they deigned to take a note or twelve) was unpersuasive.

  15. I hand out study guides during the Friday classes before my mid-term and final exams. Immediately after class, I dispose of any copies not collected: if any students didn't come to class on Friday to collect them, tough. These study guides list the readings that will be covered on exams, with reminders to do the readings and to take notes while reading, and that's it. I used to give out what many people call "study guides": predigested summaries of the course. I stopped doing that, because too many students view it as a license to skip class. No more. I've run my Intro Astronomy class over 20 times now, and have it memorized: aside from the PowerPoints, which are almost all pictures of things anyway (e.g. Saturn, the Sun, the Milky Way), I have no notes they can copy. If they want something written, they can read the book.

  16. My college class is a low-level general requirement. I'm not trying to trick them, I'm trying to help them learn the material. Giving the students some important vocabulary and a set of essential questions to consider helps them organize and direct their thinking.

    I provide that, as does any textbook in my field worth using. They still ask for study guides.

  17. @introvert: what do students mean when they ask for a "study guide? Maybe I'm working from a different definition. I guess I'm thinking of it less as a cheat sheet than some guiding questions that take some work on the student's part. Anyway, I get how the requests are annoying, especially if the slacktards are using it to skip class. My experience has been that the slackers use the study guide about as well as they do anything else class-related: half-assed. Their grades reflect their effort, and I assume they're the ones saying in my evals that "the study guide wasn't helpful." To them I have two things to say: What. Ev.

  18. IME, what the students are asking for in a "study guide" is a preview of the exam questions.
    I once had an advisee complain to me about another prof, and the student cited the fact that the prof had made a big deal about a certain concept in the study guide, and there were no exam questions about it!
    (When I related this to the prof in question, I was told with a smile that there were three...)


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