Classroom Experience

The learning process begins in the classroom. Effective note taking, studying, attendance, participation and the “dreaded” textbook reading are all crucial in making the most of your classroom experience.

Listen to students share tips on how to do well in core classes — attending, getting to know your professors, taking advantage of office hours, reading the syllabus, knowing your study habits, and more.

Listen to students discuss the benefits of group study.

Tips for Making the Most of Class time

The following material has been excerpted from Cuseo, J. B, Fecas, V. S., & Thompson, A..(2007). Thriving in College & Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

One of the tasks that you will be expected to perform at the very start of your first term in college is to attend class and take notes. Studies show that professors’ lecture notes are the number-one source of test questions (and test answers) on college exams. So, get off to a fast start by using the following strategies to improve the quality of your note-taking.

Get to every class. Whether or not your instructor takes roll, she or he may still be aware of whether you are in class, and you are still responsible for all material covered in class. Think of your class schedule as a full-time job that requires you to show-up only about 13 hours a week. (If you happen to miss class, leave space in your notebook as a reminder to get those notes from a classmate.)

Get to every class on time. The first few minutes of a class session often contain very valuable information — such as reminders, reviews, and previews.

Get organized. Come to class with the right equipment — get a separate notebook for each class, get your name on it, date each class session, and store all class handouts in it.

Get in the right position. The ideal place to sit — front and center of the room — where you can hear and see most effectively; the ideal posture — sitting upright and leaning forward — because your body influences your mind; if your body is in an alert and ready position, your mind is likely to follow. Also, be aware of where you are positioned socially — sit near people who will not distract your focus of attention or detract from the quality of your note-taking.

(Note: These attention-focusing strategies are particularly important during the first year of college because you are more likely to have class sizes that are much larger than they were in high school. When class size gets larger, each individual tends to feel more anonymous, which may reduce feelings of personal responsibility and the need to stay focused and remain actively involved. So, in large-class settings, it is especially important to use effective strategies that fight-off distractions and “attention drift.”)

Get in the right frame of mind. Get “psyched up,” and come into the classroom with “an attitude” — an attitude that you are going to “pick your instructor’s brain” and pick up answers to test questions. (Since the majority of answers to test questions asked on college exams come directly from the instructor’s lecture notes, be sure to get them into your notebook, into your brain, and onto the test.)

Get it down (in writing) by actively looking, listening, and recording important points. Pay special attention to whatever information the instructor puts in writing — on the board, on an overhead, on a slide, or in a handout.

Do not let go of your pen. If you’re in doubt, write it out. It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Keep in mind that most professors do not write out all the important information on the board for you; instead, they expect you to listen carefully to what they are saying and write it down for yourself.

Finish strong. The last few minutes of class often contain very valuable information — such as reminders, reviews, and previews.

Stick around. As soon as class ends, don’t bolt out — hang out — and quickly review your notes (by yourself or with a classmate); if you find any “gaps,” check them out with your instructor before s/he leaves the classroom. Also, this quick end-of-class review will help your brain “lock in” and retain the information it just received.