THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 6, Spring 1993

William A. McEachern, Editor

Class Notes For Sale?

At the beginning of last term, I was approached by a note-taking service working through the campus bookstore. They asked if they could send someone to take notes in my large principles class and then sell these notes to students. Students would subscribe to the service for the term and would get notes for each class. I had mixed feelings about this. An argument for the service is that students can get a set of notes for the classes they missed.

I believe that the student who takes notes is more involved in the learning process. More senses are involved--not just sight and sound, but the cognitive process of summarizing the key points and the physical process of writing them down. The more active the student is in the learning process--that is, the more senses that get into the act, the more students learn and retain. True, some students are not as good at note taking as they should be, but the surrogate note-taker may be no better.

Students who take notes are more obliged to make sense of the lecture. They are forced to confront any source of confusion, and, as a result, may be more inclined to ask questions. Students who attend class without taking notes, however, don't have to explain to themselves through their notes the point being made by the instructor, so they may be less likely to confront their own confusion. More generally, they may feel less inclined to ask questions to clear up any confusion since they believe the store-bought notes will straighten things out later. Finally, to the extent that students believe that getting a set of notes is a prime reason for attending class, then buying the notes reduces the incentive to attend class.

I decided against the note-taking service. But I would be glad to hear from those who have had experience with this service one way or the other.

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