Why Many University Students Hate Lecture Notes

Filed Under (UnLearning Difficulties With NLP) on 14-07-2010

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The answer is simple: because they find the content of lecture notes [and textbooks and other study materials] hard to take in.  This is demotivating because students see no progress in learning, feel the struggle… So how can we help?

Have you ever thought about the simple fact that if you read a story, you enjoy reading it because you make up internal pictures or movies of the plot as you read?  Exactly the point!  While stories contain lots of concrete nouns [=words that describe people, places, objects, colors] and action verbs [words that describe what people / objects do = action], lecture notes and study materials aimed at the higher education student have very few concrete and loads of abstract nouns [such as descriptions of states, intellectual concepts, and jargon pertaining to the subject of study] and very few action-oriented, but lots of nonspecific, auxiliary, or passive verbs.  Concrete nouns and action verbs in stories are easy for us to visualize, but abstract nouns, compound auxiliary and nonspecific verbs in study materials have no pictures.

To give you an example, here’s a story:

I’m walking down a quiet country lane.  Nobody around, just me in my jeans and walking boots, squeezing a half-full bottle of water in my hand.  It’s a nice pleasant day, birds are twittering, trees are gently whispering the rustle of their leaves.  Suddenly I hear a noise in the distance.  It sounds like a motorbike or a car.  And then I notice it’s getting closer and closer.  Before I realize it, it whizzes past me…

By the way, what was it that whizzed past you as you were imagining this while reading the excerpt above?  And what color was it?

And here is an extract from a study material:

The dissociation process is not always effective and often other things must be done to deal effectively with these kinds of problems.  In this particular case, however, the process was extraordinarily effective and there were very few repetitions of the common patterns of emotional breakdown.

I believe I’ve proven the point!  And the same applies to legal, corporate, and business documentation – as I already wrote here.

So university student, help yourself while studying:

  • visualise as much of the content you read as possible!  For abstract nouns use symbols, things, places, people, colors.  Go with whatever first comes to mind.  That’ll be significant to your brain – otherwise it wouldn’t come first!
  • Verbs are slightly easier – the brain finds even the passive verb more digestible.  But you can easily convert passive verb into active verb.  So convert passive to active as much as you can!
  • And once you have clusters of concepts, put them into a story.  Make up a movie like a film director – whatever the setting and characters, as long as your brain has some visual representation of what you’re reading that makes sense to you and is an easy anchor to remember and retrieve.
Contact me for any NLP help in this area.

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