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What good is a candle
without a match?
Spanish Proverb

Classroom learning series

American classroom learning

Compared to classrooms in some countries, United States' classrooms tend to be informal.
There are, however, some very important basic rules:

Before class:

  • Do your homework!
    Read critically; form your own opinions
  • Review your notes
    from the previous lecture and reading for the day
  • Communicate immediately with professors
    about any study problems
  • Focus on the task at hand before class:
    take a moment of silence to gather your thoughts and mentally prepare yourself to the topic
  • Write any objectives
    that come to mind at the head of your notepaper:
    • preparing for an up-coming test,
    • understanding a particular concept,
    • gaining a good foundation on a topic
    • understanding or reviewing the readings

In Class:

  • Arrive on time for class.
    Professors do not take lateness lightly
  • Position yourself in the classroom
    to focus on the subject matter;  consider the best location for:
    • listening
    • asking questions
    • seeing visual materials
    • discussing--not only with the teacher but also your classmates
  • Avoid distractions
    that may interfere with your concentration
    (daydreaming, looking around the room, talking to a friend, passing notes, dozing)
  • Evaluate as you listen:
    • Decide what is important and should be placed in your notes and what can be left out;
    • Listen long enough to be sure you understand what was said before writing.
    • Ask clarifying questions (but wait for "breaks" in the instructor's stream).
  • Review your class objective(s) throughout the class period
    • Did your objective(s) mesh with the instructor's introductory remarks?
    • Has the class digressed from stated objectives, yours or the instructor's?
  • Make a to do list including
    • assignments;
    • reviewing difficult concepts;
    • joining study groups;
    • making appointments with a study pal, tutor, or the instructor.
      One resource often overlooked is a classmate who seems to have a good grasp of the material. If it seem appropriate, seek the individual out for help.

Periodically ask yourself if the course is meeting your objectives. If you find yourself dissatisfied with a particular class or the course in general, make an appointment with the instructor to discuss your expectations. The earlier the better.


Classroom learning series

Preparing for the classroom | Class "prep"/paying attention |
Classroom discussions | Taking notes in lectures | Influencing teachers |
Interviewing for class projects | Consent form for interviews |
Problem based learning | Using guided notes

Material adapted from: Gail M. Zimmerman, Assistant Dean of First-Year Students and Academic Counselor, Dartmouth College and Bob Nelson, et al, Learning Resource Centers, Rutgers University