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Studying Textbook VS Lecture Notes

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I was wondering if there is any compelling reason to read the assigned book instead of lecture notes either from the actually professor of the course you are taking or from another another source online as opposed to the book if they seem to cover the same material.

Currently, I in my 3 "real classes" I am using three different strategies based on the quality of the materials. For example

Class 1-
Book is overly verbose too time consuming to extract concepts, but is needed for homework.
Using my professors lecture notes and supplementing with ones I found online from another school which are very complete.

Class 2-
Book is good but not strictly followed using a hybrid of the book and professors lecture notes.

Class 3-
Mostly just reading through book.

How does this sound?
 

fss

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I don't see the point of this question, mainly because whatever works for you works for you. It's your education- do what you need to (or don't do what you don't need to) in order to earn a good grade.
 
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Often times I'm in the same predicament, and I always get hard on myself when I don't read the textbook, as I tend to think I'm then somehow cheating myself and just doing stuff for the grades, instead of actually learning it. So I'm not entirely sure what to say on the topic other than that I'm sure it's better if you read the textbook, as well, if you have the time, but then again, that means less time for other stuff (so we're back at square one, where we ask ourselves what's worth our time or what's a better use of our time).
 
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I consider textbooks to be universally superior to lecture notes and I get highly annoyed when an instructor becomes "creative" and decides to not follow a textbook.

I would avoid going to lectures completely but usually attendance counts for something.

The only thing I feel professors are good for is answering questions which are not fully answered in the textbook.
 
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Skrew, where did you go to university to get such a grim outlook on lecture notes and professors in general? Also, who do you think writes textbooks if not experts in the field? And what other than that are professors? I wasn't a fan of going to lectures for my first degree, either, and it worked marvelously. But that was because they weren't good professors. Now, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy going to my Maths classes, because both professors are just too awesome. So yeah, I see how bad experience can skew your views and taking an objective approach to giving advice, but come on now.
 
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Well, my point of view is..
lecture notes and the lectures themselves reveal the objectives of the professor (what he/she will test, what he want you to know)

textbook will always be a supplement to the course that way..
Of course, for overall understanding, you need them all
 

Landau

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I mostly prefer (well-written) lecture notes to quickly learn the basics of a subject. Lecture notes tend to get to the heart relatively fast, since they are written for a course.
After that (or at the same time) I consult books for in-depth and background information.

When I try to learn a subject (say, smooth manifolds) from a textbook first, I tend to get distracted and slowed down by the huge amount of details and exercises.
 

mathwonk

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When I teach a course I try to present each topic as it is done in the book that does that topic best. Seldom is there a single book that does everything best. Then there are things that I do in my own way which I think is best. This was the approach used by my professors at Harvard. A professor who is himself an expert on the subject, will always have his own take on matters within his realm of expertise, and I consider myself lucky when such a person gives us his own version, as it is superior to what the book likely says. Still some students find this more challenging and prefer a lecturer who just plods through the book, in order, even if that is not the most logical presentation. However this is hard to do completely since books are usually written to be more encyclopedic, to contain more explicit examples, and do not really lend themselves to a more concise, more informal lecture presentation. In a lecture I try to make the material both clear and memorable. I try to tell them what is the main idea, which is sometimes hard to discern from a book, which presents the minor ideas as well.

There is a new movement today however, called peer instruction, in which the students read the book the night before, then come to class and respond to questions carefully designed to measure conceptual understanding. They also discuss their answers among themselves with the other class members. There is essentialLy no lecturing, and this has been found to result in more thorough grasp of the main ideas, and also longer lasting understanding. The professor's role is indeed to answer questions and more, to provoke questions and foster understanding by his construction of good in class "test" questions for discussion, ("test" in the sense of testing understanding, not in the sense of being counted for grade).
 

mathwonk

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One reason it is hard to write a book that does everything best, as you can do in a lecture, is that your book is supposed to be your version. So you can't just steal the best version of every topic and out them all in your book, as that borders on plagiarism, since the book will have your name on it. So you either have to just say "I am stealing this from book XXX" or you have to rewrite it according to your own grasp of it. Often however another existing book will already have done a certain topic as well as possible. Then you can't improve on it and you can't copy it and you can't leave it out, so you are forced to do it in a inferior way.

Of course there is a lot of borrowing in books, but this problem does not arise in a lecture, where you just freely take everything from anywhere you want. You will notice in my free algebra notes I often say I got something from another book, so i try to take the path of rewriting in my own way each topic from the best presentation I can find. Of course my version will not be as good as the classic presentations already out there, but to tell the truth I wrote mine to learn it myself, not so much to teach it to others. Some people write books to make money. Others write them to get out an accessible presentation of an important topic that so far has no such available text.

Every book has a different goal, which the author usually states up front and which can help you decide if his book is for you. Hungerford's book was written, he says, in order to be readable and understandable to the average (math phd) graduate student, (in 1970). Notice he does not say the goal is to present the deepest version of every topic. In my book, one goal was never to leave the student hanging at any point by saying "a straightforward computation left to the reader (which I myself was unable to do) completes the argument." I also tried to teach the student to understand how to use the basic theorems, not just prove them, especially ones it had taken me a lot of trouble to understand.

Mike Artin says his algebra book was written to emphasize the most important topic, namely linear algebra in all its guises. So you see you are getting something different from each person. And of course Mike's mastery of his subject comes through in original proofs of many things, that are simpler than traditional ones. In Hungerford's book, in line with his goal, he gives a careful logical presentation of each proof where each step follows clearly from the previous one. I borrowed from both these books, but my goal was to present proofs that give some insight into why the proof is correct rather than present one that is possible to trace all the way through, but that might still be opaque as to how it was thought of. So I tried more to to give away the idea behind all my proofs.
 
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I've found that a professor who writes his notes well along with Schaum's outlines are superior to many textbooks as the two former examples get straight to the point vs the latter that has lots of unnecessary material you have to shift through. Some textbooks are written very well but many are not and are just plain unhelpful in learning to do problems.

I agree with the guy who said to do what works for you though, too many people just stick to a textbook even though it's bad and don't try outside sources of information or learning styles and just end up hitting their heads against a wall.

I've had classmates who were struggling learning to do problems from the official textbook so I showed them an alternative book that explained the procedure better and actually led them to the answer, but they still wanted to siff through the official textbook even though it was being unclear for some strange reason; I don't know what the thinking behind this is.
 
Are you looking for advice , or confirmation that different techniques in different classes can work out? Obviously the technique per class is up to you to decide based on all the materials available to you (both those that the instructor provides and those that are related that you can find on your own)... and your scores will ultimately determine if you've chosen ok.

Since I'm "teaching faculty" I teach lower levels course (up to and including calc-based Waves, Optics and Modern Physics for Engineers). in these courses, the text has usually been chosen by other senior professors, from prior terms, or teaching prerequisite courses or "post-requisite" courses (if that's even a valid word)... because there is a push in our state to use cheaper texts that might have already been used and are therefore available used... or are used for more than one term). Generally, when I think the material is presented well in the chosen text, I limit "lecturing from the text" (i.e. exact text spewing and identical example spewing... though I've found in certain courses -- specifically calc-based EM -- students still "want" this and complain otherwise) and I instead design the course to have either more experiential learning (i.e. problem-based groupwork via simulations or activities, providing more insight and application -- and require students have read the text and done an online quiz in advance of this) or more examples than are given in the text and homework (for a difficult course for students like calc-based E&M). If the material isn't well presented, then I feel the need to supplement with outside summary, images, (sometimes I make these, and sometimes i find them elsewhere and reference the source). Why do I do this? I think in my courses (though undergrad and grad) there was TOO much lecturing from the text... even from professors I really liked and admired. I RARELY read the text and did fabulously, but don't think I really learned much (especially in terms of application and insight via non math-based conceptual thinking or estimating from symmetry etc.). Of course there's also a move to not lecture as much and have more "clicker question" peer instruction... but I haven't liked that as much as my activity-based peer-instruction style (in a course where peer instruction seems useful -- again not that student-dreaded first E&M).
 

Simfish

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There is a new movement today however, called peer instruction, in which the students read the book the night before, then come to class and respond to questions carefully designed to measure conceptual understanding. They also discuss their answers among themselves with the other class members. There is essentialLy no lecturing, and this has been found to result in more thorough grasp of the main ideas, and also longer lasting understanding. The professor's role is indeed to answer questions and more, to provoke questions and foster understanding by his construction of good in class "test" questions for discussion, ("test" in the sense of testing understanding, not in the sense of being counted for grade).
Hm, very interesting. Which types of classes was this used in? In classes full of highly motivated students, I can easily see that this method would work best. But in classes where students aren't as highly motivated (or when there are some students significantly smarter than the others), it can easily be worse.
 
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Hm, very interesting. Which types of classes was this used in? In classes full of highly motivated students, I can easily see that this method would work best. But in classes where students aren't as highly motivated (or when there are some students significantly smarter than the others), it can easily be worse.
In my school they call it Modeling, there are written tests and integrated labs within the lecture; however much of the learning is done by the Sochratic method asking several groups of students there thoughts on certain problems after lecturing about the concept associated to it. Some prefer this style of learning, however it is done much more slowly than in a regular lecture setting and they actually do not cover the same amount of chapters as does the regular lecture style. It is also easier than the actual lecture so there is some grade inflation as well and the useless Mastering Physics software makes sure at least some students will be copying off others so some might not be getting the grade they earned. Double edged sword IMO, I'd prefer the regular lecture setting but I've never done modeling so I can't be sure.
 

mathwonk

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google "peer instruction", and "eric mazur". he is a harvard professor of physics. the thing that surprised him was that even his highly motivated bright students were not really learning diddly from hie lectures.

thus is the 80 minute highly entertaining lecture on his method:

 
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google "peer instruction", and "eric mazur". he is a harvard professor of physics. the thing that surprised him was that even his highly motivated bright students were not really learning diddly from hie lectures.

thus is the 80 minute highly entertaining lecture on his method:

Done poorly though (without the component of peer instruction by the professor and/or without motivated and prepared students) the use of "clickers" can quickly degrade to something like an attendance tool, that merely insures the students come to class (which might help SOME, but of course not as much as true peer instruction). And they HATE that.

That's why I like my activities-based stuff, which quizzes the students before class ad therefore guarantees some basic level of self-preparation (I average the quizzes with the activity grade... and give 100's for all activities that the student attends and works on with the group -- i.e. blatantly an attendance grade). But if the students aren't doing something clearly fun (like making small electromagnets and frying their fingers by holding the short circuit together wire to battery), then they at least feel like they are playing a "video game". The closet thing I've found to that style in published work is called "http://jittdl.physics.iupui.edu/jitt/" [Broken]" (another thing you can Google to get more references on).

I'll concur that, as a Ph.D., I even think I learned more by designing my course in this activity-based way than I ever learned from a direct lecture class (undergrad through grad degrees) or from lecturing to a class... but you'll always have the students who claim to learn best from lectures. As a student I probably would have said the same... I attended lecture and took notes, but never read text before or after lecture, still getting A's because I had good verbal and written recall, and good math skills... but note these don't necessarily translate to good understanding and insight, especially at the introductory level.
 
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mathwonk

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Each individual will be different. Notice however that professor Mazur is choosing his method based on what works best statistically for the most students, as measured by his data.
 
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Normally what I do is read the book before I get to class. I don't ever take notes really, but because I've introduced the topics to myself already I can follow what the lecturer is doing. I think this is a good way to go about it, because when it comes time for examinations, I review one more time and I've done the material 3 times already (four if you count homework).

Sometimes this breaks down when I get too lazy to read, but I think it still works. I don't like taking notes because it's annoying and I can't sit there and try to understand what's going on, which is one of my favorite things to do. The downside is that I daydream a lot and sometimes I lose focus when I get bored.
 

Vanadium 50

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I keep looking at this thread title, and thinking "What's next? Even vs. Odd pages of the textbook?"
 
I don't like taking notes because it's annoying and I can't sit there and try to understand what's going on, which is one of my favorite things to do. The downside is that I daydream a lot and sometimes I lose focus when I get bored.
One suggestion I have for "taking notes," especially if you've seen the material before (a common feeling I had in my graduate-level coursework), is that when the professor is working an example, be working it yourself, and even as you listen, try to be working it yourself on paper... and be a step or two ahead. It makes it more interesting.
 

mathwonk

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The even odd problem arose for me when I failed realize my browser had begun displaying two pages per screen of a downloaded book, and i could only see one of them. I thought someone has scanned only the odd pages, and I complained about it. Dohhh!
 
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Skrew, where did you go to university to get such a grim outlook on lecture notes and professors in general? Also, who do you think writes textbooks if not experts in the field? And what other than that are professors? I wasn't a fan of going to lectures for my first degree, either, and it worked marvelously. But that was because they weren't good professors. Now, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy going to my Maths classes, because both professors are just too awesome. So yeah, I see how bad experience can skew your views and taking an objective approach to giving advice, but come on now.
The quality of presentation of a subject is not dependent upon the level of expertise a professor has with it(assuming they are minimally proficient). It is dependent on the professors ability as an educator, not a mathematician/physicist/engineer.

A lot of time goes into developing good textbooks which become widely adopted. They become adopted because they are good at achieving their goal: teaching the student the subject.

I could list a lot of reasons why I feel professors are only useful for clarifying a subject when a question comes up in the book but to sum it up:

I don't learn from listening, I learn from reading. The amount of detail in and the ability to reference a book is important to me and I feel is needed to understand a subject. I feel a professor who presents a subject in his own "special" way is doing students a huge disservice because it makes the students wholly reliant on the professor.
 
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The quality of presentation of a subject is not dependent upon the level of expertise a professor has with it(assuming they are minimally proficient). It is dependent on the professors ability as an educator, not a mathematician/physicist/engineer.

A lot of time goes into developing good textbooks which become widely adopted. They become adopted because they are good at achieving their goal: teaching the student the subject.

I could list a lot of reasons why I feel professors are only useful for clarifying a subject when a question comes up in the book but to sum it up:

I don't learn from listening, I learn from reading. The amount of detail in and the ability to reference a book is important to me and I feel is needed to understand a subject. I feel a professor who presents a subject in his own "special" way is doing students a huge disservice because it makes the students wholly reliant on the professor.
Students never become reliant on their textbooks? That would be news to me.
 
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Students never become reliant on their textbooks? That would be news to me.
A textbook is something you should be reliant on. A textbook is within reach 24/7, it is a permanent resource which will always present the information in the same, consistent way each time you look at it.

Even assuming a professor is not a fool when it comes to teaching, being able to study from a textbook essentially independently is a far more useful skill to have then being able to follow a professors lectures.
 

Landau

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@Skrew: you seem to be confusing "lectures" with "lecture notes".
 

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