Life in the Universe
Prof. Richard Pogge, MTWThF 12:30
Where to start? This guide is based on talking to a number of students and trying to help get them make effective use of their limited study time. I hope people find the advice useful, but as with all advice, it is not a guarantee of performance, though many past students who've taken this approach have shown improvement.
You will notice that the study guides closely mirror the "Key Ideas" that begin each lecture. This is no accident: the key ideas list the core concepts covered by each lecture.
My lectures contain three basic types of content, in order of decreasing importance:
To make sure that the study guide is failr, I use it as my outline when creating a quiz. After I've put together the draft quiz, I go over the quiz with the study guide and check off items to make sure I have covered the topics with the balance I'm seeking. I won't always be able to cover all topics, but I get most of them in any given quiz (my quizzes are made up fresh each time I teach).
Let's take a concrete example. In the notes for the lecture on Newton's Laws of Motion, move past the historical background material and look at the part titled Force, Mass, & Acceleration. This section actually poses three questions:
Question 1: What do forces do? Answer: Forces produce accelerations Question 2: How much does a force make something accelerate? Answer: The more mass an object has, the less it is accelerated by a given force. Question 3: In what direction does a force accelerate an object? Answer: The acceleration is in the same direction as the applied force.You can see how I broke down the section into little question/answer pairs. Some sections go so far as to actually pose explicit question/answer pairs, in others this is more subtle, but it is there nonetheless.
The study guide and the Key Ideas list for each lecture is your guide to which of the subsections of a given lecture are the core concepts (like the example above), and which are illustration and background. For example, in the Newton lecture the info about Newton's life and intellectual development are background material, and won't appear on any quiz, while the sections describing his laws of motion, examples of those laws in action, and the implications of these laws for how things move are core concepts and will appear on the quiz. That's why the Key Ideas for this lecture are statements of his 3 Laws of Motion, and include none of the background info.
The idea is to develop the habit of turning the class material into questions, and then answering those questions for yourself. In many ways, this is what I do when I make up a test. I pick a core concept (e.g., Newton's Third Law), and ask myself "what is a good question that will test their understanding of this idea".
Despite what you may have been taught after years of public education, flash cards are rarely useful in science classes. If you have tried using flash cards on previous quizzes, try this little experiment. Take one of your in-class quizzes and the set of flash cards you used to study before that quiz. Go through your flash cards one by one and make two piles: