Does your child’s school teach your child to take notes? This may sound like a very trivial question but a school that goes out of the way to teach its student population the art and science of note-taking shows the degree of commitment that the school has towards teaching your child to be independent learner. The term “independent learner” or “independent learning” is often been used by schools to catch the attention of parents who want their children to have the virtues of an independent learner instilled while their children are in school. Parents know that this is one of the qualities that the future workforce is expected to possess.
Yet referring to my original question again, how many schools actually teach students to do effective note-taking? Note-taking is a basic skill that everyone needs if he is to be able to learn effectively. Through effective note-taking, the student learns to make decisions about what is important about the learning that he is undergoing. Effective note-taking implies that a lot of thinking is done by the student to help him sort out the relevant from the irrelevant and to get the information into some organized and effective structure. A student will also be a very much more active learner if he makes his own notes. Independent learners need to be active learners, in fact they have to be pro-active about their learning.
But do schools actually encourage this pro-activity with regards to student learning? To put it another way, do schools actually encourage students to be lazy? The truth is many schools do, and this is true even of the higher educational institutions. Teachers and lecturers have been guilty of spoon-feeding students with stacks of notes. Today, some educational institutions, like some the polytechnics in Singapore, take pride that their students can get access to lecture notes online. Pride in their new ICT ability to store notes online takes precedence over real learning in such cases. It seems that today, even at the tertiary levels of education, notes are expected to be given out even though one would expect that at least at that level, students should be encouraged to be more independent and take greater responsibility for their learning. This spoon-feeding is often seen as “good” for the students because it helps the students pass the examinations because the lectures are usually geared to the questions in the examinations.
It seems that if the goal is to produce students who are examinations smart, schools will continue to dish out notes to their students. However, it ought to be noted that such practices do not contribute in any way to the making of an independent and life-long learner. Educational institutions must make a serious effort to get students to be independent learners. It reflects poorly on such educational institutions if the basic skills of independent learning is not emphasised.
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