The Rotating Note Taker
Briefly described: In every class session a different student is assigned to take notes. These notes are posted before the next class session.
Problems the assignment addresses:
- Absent students who need notes from the class session
- Students without very good note-taking skills
- Students who don’t really see the value of a good set of class notes
Learning skills the assignment promotes:
- The motivation to take complete, accurate notes, on at least one day in the course
- The opportunity to compare notes taken individually with those posted resulting in a clearer understanding of what makes a set of class notes useful for review and study
Details and logistics: Every student is assigned a day for which they are responsible to take notes and post them on the learning management system. They are given instructions there how to post the notes and attach files. If the notes need to include a graphic, students are encouraged to reference those that appear in the text. The instructor notes, “It is important to stress that students shouldn’t rely on the posted notes as a substitute for their own notes in class.” (p. 146) The posted notes are an alternative, one with which individual notes can be used to compare against, making changes as needed. If the class is large, two note-takers share the day, each recording notes for half the period.
Grading: The assignments counts for 1% of the course grade. They are graded as pass/fail. If the notes merit a fail, the instructor explains why and assigns the student another day to take notes. A passing grade comes with a thank-you note from the instructor, which frequently engenders comments of appreciation.
Evidence of the assignments effectiveness: Students report that they use the posted notes when they are studying for exams in the course. The instructor reports that students without very good note-taking skills appear to learn from notes taken by more skilled students. They post “quite sophisticated notes” when their turn rolls around (p. 146).
Resources included in the article: A link to an excellent review of research piece on note-taking research which clearly documents the value of students taking notes for themselves, rather than using notes or PowerPoints provided by the teacher.
An update from the author: (email correspondence 6-21-18) “I’m still using the assignment. My continued use many semesters later and the ongoing positive feedback from students about it is proof that it works.”
Citation: Maier, M. H. (2016). Rotating note taker. College Teaching, 64 (3), 146.
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