Help understanding class content and keeping up

  • Thread starter urbano
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  • #1
This may be the wrong section , but I figure it was education relevant.

In class I can't always keep up with the current lecture, but then when it starts incorporating previous lectures and the principles I can find it even harder to keep up. I notice some students can start to piece it together and see the BIGGG picture as it is emerging where as I find myself locked in to the here and now and trying to decipher what is happening.

Once I step out of the class I usually have no idea what has happened....same when I drive places or go to see an event. I often struggle to recall details of it and need to be reminded.

any tips or ideas as to how you deal with this ?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
If you're really struggling, you can try some of these:

1. Read the relevant material before class
2. Take notes
3. Re-read the notes, and the relevant parts of the book again, immediately after class
4. Read extra material on the subject
5. Visit the professor during office hours
6. Work extra problems

These can be pretty time-consuming, but if you want better grades, you'll need to put more time in.
  • #3
I have the same problem in some ways. I am so bad with details it is pathetic. I learned that my memory problems are, in fact, due to thinking about too many things at once instead of focusing on the task at hand. Again, this seems to be more about a memory problem then an academic problem. Also, is it short term memory or long term?
  • #4
While reading a book, I might become bored with it because the author's writing style is tedious; I don't think I can continue until the end of the chapter or section; But seeing that the book chapter I need to finish is important, I tend to stop reading and bookmark the page I have reached to revisit it some time later. I can't focus on doing a single thing the whole long hours, I'm afraid of getting myself stressful, which may lead to other *side-effects* or unexpected behaviors or words abused, etc of mine. It depends on people, but I am a bad-tempered person. One of the best methods to improving one's memory at no cost to anyone is to join a group of friends who are open and always positive with laughters and smiles. So please just keep in mind that you are never alone at all.

And here is a link to tips for memory improvement.
There are still many others if you would want to google them up...
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  • #5
I think it's normal not to remember and understand everything the first time. So you just need to increase the number of times you are exposed to it by as other people said, reading before and after the lecture, and other supplementary activities.
  • #6
Read material BEFORE the lectures, not after. You should already know the hell out of the subject before your teacher lectures about it. Lectures are to cement and clear up misconceptions. You learn on your own.
  • #7
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
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You're not alone Urbano.

Usually at the high school level you can just sit down, listen to the lesson, and know what's going on. Unfortunately this instils a false sense of confidence in a lot of students such that when they get to university, they struggle to keep up.

The solution, as others have already pointed out, is to read ahead.

That sounds easy in principle, but when you're burried under an onslaught of assigments and problem sets and lab reports and volunteer duties and a part-time job and cooking your own food for the first time, etc. it can be extremely difficult to do in practice... particularly once you're already behind.

Reading ahead tends to be one of the first items on the 'to do' list that gets dropped when your time gets tight. So really the keys are time-management and self-discipline.

Another key is knowing how to read ahead. I find it very difficult to just randomly read on a topic. There's no end point. And if I just say that I'm going to read for an hour, that's going to get boring very quickly and not be all that productive.

So here are some suggestions.

At the beginning of every semester you should be given a syllabus for each course. Professors don't always follow these word-for word, but they're a good staring point. Put together a calendar or a spreadsheet or something that's broken down by every day you have for that semester and in it write down the topics that have been proposed for each lecture. (Sometimes just doing this can give you a glimpse of the bigger picture). If possible you can also add in the dates of mid-terms, due dates for assignments, etc.

At the start of each week, for each lecture write out:
(i) a concepual summary of what's going to be covered (yes, this involves reading and looking things up),
(ii) a conceptual summary of background material (sometimes this is needed first)
(iii) specific questions that you want to have the answers to by the end of the lecture
(iv) attempt a couple of problems relevant to that section of the book.

This is not a trivial amount of time we're talking about. If you figue you're going to ~ 15 lecture hours per week and each lecture hour requires ~ 20 minutes of prep time, this is 5 solid hours of work that doesn't equate to getting lab reports done. (It does help you understand them however). But I think that most students just don't work this time into their schedule... so even though they know they're supposed to be reading ahead, they don't because... "there's no time."
  • #8
In addition to choppys case. Id like to point out reading ahead isnt always useful. For instance, I read as I solve homework problems so there is an "objective" in mind instead of just reading for the sake of reading.

I find information is best retained when it is being used.
  • #9
Science Fair Guidance

Salutations PF! First post on the forums, but long time lurker.

So, recently I have found interest in mathematics and science, and decided to help myself expand that interest. So what better way to do this than participating in a science fair! In my school district, we have to participate in a school-wide science fair if you're enrolled in an honors science course, but I actually want to take it seriously this year. My conflict is that I have no idea what to do. Essentially, I am really bad at asking myself questions, so that's why I am here. It would be extremely cool if you guys could suggest some potential science fair topics. I am interested in physics and mathematics in particular, so I would like some topics within those disciplines. Also, I would like for my topic to "woo" the parents and judges. By this, I mean that I am looking for something a little more complex than your standard science fair project. My highest level of math so far is Calculus, but I am always eager to learn even more. Along with that, I am currently taking AP Physics C, even though I kinda see that as irrelevant. If any of you guys have any suggestions for topics that fit my needs, please share them with me!
  • #10
If you want to do something easy to implement, tough on the physics and math, and really flashy, I recommend flow visualization!

You can use a water tunnel and Dye instead of hydrogen bubbles and smoke in air.
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  • #11
Science Advisor
Study and attempt psets with other (motivated) people, it can work wonders.

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