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I teach Intermediate Microeconomics to a large class (150 students) in a University.

I use a graphics tablet to write the explanations and project it on the screen. I am mostly open to pausing and giving extra time if the students are copying down the notes. Information about the textbook (by Varian) and chapters to use is given clearly in the course outline.

However, the students have an expectation that I should share the handwritten notes with them. I recently took anonymous feedback in the class and most of the comments in the "scope to improve" section were about having access to lecture notes.

I closely follow the textbook material but have also clarified to the class that lectures and textbook are complements and not substitutes. According to them, it takes a "lot of time to read the chapters" hence they want access to lecture notes. The average chapter length in the required textbook is 5-6 pages.

If there is a required reading mentioned in the course outline and the book is easily available, is it still compulsory for me to provide the lecture notes? My lecture notes are full of arrows and highlighting as I emphasise certain portions while teaching so I doubt how helpful will these notes be to students. My personal preference is not to share the lecture notes because 1. it is better for students to make their own notes 2. Handing out notes could incentivise not attending lecture or being inattentive.

Some other information I would like to share:

  1. I have students doing economics as a major and a minor in my class.
  2. At least 75% attendance is compulsory to write the end term exam--this is a University wide rule.
  3. I have TAs to help with section meetings, evaluation and course preparation. However till now I have not made it compulsory for them to attend my lectures or help with making slides etc.
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  • Is this a question on strategy or methodology? Because regarding the teaching methodology, you can find many resources on the Internet. If you fear losing the students or a subject by not easing their learning process, that's something else.
    – Juandev
    Feb 19 at 9:34
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    Does this answer your question? Is it common to provide digital notes (slides or handwritten) for students?
    – JackRed
    Feb 19 at 10:59
  • @JackRed Not really. My question is whether I need to provide the notes. It is also common to teach through slides, which I usually don't do. Feb 19 at 14:48
  • @AcadEconInd I may miss the nuance in your question then, because the answers on the question I linked seem for me to touch on whether it is needed or not. And better what are the pros and cons. Additionally, the cons you mention such as "students not attending or inattentive" or "student won't take notes" (albeit with a different reasoning this one) are both written in the question
    – JackRed
    Feb 19 at 15:10

1 Answer 1

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Your explanation sounds like what we used to do in the old chalk-board days and develop the lecture's key ideas in real time by writing them on the board. Modern slide shows with prepared slides is quite different.

But, back in the day, it was common for the professor to pause a bit before erasing what had already been written so as to continue if there wasn't enough space for the entire lecture. In a huge class this is difficult to manage as you can't get 100% assurance that everyone has captured what they need.

When using slides, I found it useful to, in some cases, provide the slides a day or two ahead, hoping (and suggesting) that students print them out and use them in class to make their own annotations as class proceeded. It doesn't seem like you can do that here.

I would experiment, however, with making a day's notes immediately available (end of class) and suggesting that students take a few moments to integrate what they think they've learned with those notes. It might be that only the better students bother. Too many students think that having heard the lecture the "know and understand" it. That, of course, isn't how the mind works. My suggestion of an immediate review is a reinforcement mechanism that makes learning possible.

I once had a class that had folks that thought once was enough. I had to explicitly teach them that it wasn't and gave them tasks that required both reinforcement and the preparation for it. The problem, at base, was that they hadn't been sufficiently challenged with material that truly required this reinforcement and so had lazy habits.

I've never had to deal with the scale you suggest, however, and would find it daunting, requiring many new techniques. But, I think that providing a way for students to integrate their immediate, but poor, understanding with your notes would be a good thing. In particular, being able to add questions by writing on the notes can be very helpful so that they don't forget to find (or ask for) answers later.

In my smaller scale classes I asked the class, at the very end, to tell me the most important idea (or the three most important ideas) in that lecture. This was done to make them focus during the lecture and to prompt the thinking of other students when someone answered my query (in public). Since I knew the students (scale, again),and they were comfortable with me and each other, I could call on random students to tell me/us what they thought was the key idea and confirm or deny it. "Jenny, tell me one key idea from this lecture." Or ask for a volunteer to respond.

In a large class with TAs, the TA could ask for such ideas and they can be a powerful source of discussion in breakout sections. If they report back to you on results, you can catch misunderstandings quickly and respond to them as needed.

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  • My concern is that the real time notes distributed after the class might not make much sense to the students (without the contextual explanation), and to their disadvantage, actually lull them into a false sense of security that "they can miss class and study from notes". I'm unable to weigh the pros and cons. Feb 19 at 14:53
  • Another concern is that students might end up using the notes to cheat on exams. Sadly in my country, students are commonly found cheating on exams. And despite repeated reminders about academic ethics and (reasonably) strict proctoring, students find a way to cheat (keeping notes/phone in washrooms and accessing them) etc. Feb 19 at 14:56
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    Tell them why they are being given the notes and how to use them effectively. Don't assume they will understand it. Also, let them know that not every nuance is captured in the notes and make your lectures meaningful enough that they want to attend. You already have a partial solution to the attendance problem in any case. But scale is not your friend here, since it is hard to ask and answer questions with so many students.
    – Buffy
    Feb 19 at 15:02
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    If they want to cheat, they don't need your notes to do so.
    – Buffy
    Feb 19 at 15:03

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