(#92) Making Connections in the Classroom and the Boardroom


Research tells us that as students build connections (relationships) between what they learn in class, read in their books, and experience  in their lives, they will improve their learning.

Last week I wrote about “Success Strategies for the Classroom—and the Business World.” That blog outlined 8 success strategies that pertain to the business world as much as they do to our classrooms. (View the video.)  This week, I would like to build on those thoughts.  

Research tells us that as students build connections (relationships) between what they hear and see in class, read in their books, and experience in their lives, they will improve their learning.  Note-taking in class (or while reading) can help build those connections. But in order to realize the greatest return on investment another step must be taken.  The outside-of-class part of note taking—reviewing and storing—allows students to make deeper connections between what they know and what they are learning. (Piscitelli, 174).  Consider it like the practice athletes, actors, and musicians must do in order to become expert at their crafts.  Active learning outside of the classroom will help students succeed inside the classroom. And, as you will see below, these strategies are not dusty platitudes for the classroom. They can be effectively applied to the world of work as well. 

[Image above: digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net]

Notes review should not be a passive activity.

A common reminder by teachers to their students is to “review your notes as soon as you can after class.”  While this is well-intentioned, the suggestion to “review your notes” does not go far enough.  For many students—if they do open their notes after class—the review is very passive: open the notebook, glance over the page of scribblings, and close the notebook.  Again, it is well-intentioned but not very effective.  For a better R.O.I. (return on investment), students will do better to give themselves some specific tasks to complete. As you will see below, these steps are neither complicated nor time-consuming.

Video recommendation for the week:

Strategy #1: Review—Relate—Reorganize

This simple three-step strategy will help students understand the class material, cut down on last-minute (cramming) test preparation, and be ready for the test-day performance.

  • Review. As soon as possible after class, look at the day’s class notes. Read them and highlight what you consider to be the important information. Is there anything that is not clear? Do you understand all principles, generalizations, and theories?  If you have questions, put an asterisk or question mark in the margin of your notes. Doing a nightly review of your class notes will help focus your attention on what you know and what you need to clarify
  • Relate. Avoid the temptation to memorize isolated pieces of information. As an alternative, look at the previous day’s notes and reading assignments and look for connections.  Once you start seeing this big picture, the material will make more sense and will be easier to remember.
  • Reorganize. As you look over your notes, see if there is a clearer way in which to understand the message of the lesson. Maybe all you need to do is reorder your notes. Shuffle your notes so they make sense to you. Perhaps highlighting important concepts and facts with different-colored pens may help you focus on the key points.” (Piscitelli, 176-177)

Strategy #2: T.S.D.s.

This active review strategy dovetails nicely with the review-relate-reorganize strategy above.  A T.S.D. forces students to put the material into their own words.  When successfully completed, it fosters comprehension—and lays the foundation for critical thinking

  • Title:  Be creative!  Develop a quick and punchy title that captures the big picture of the notes.
  • Summary:  To me, this is the most critical step. It forces students to write a brief summary in their own words.  Do not quote the instructor’s words; use your words. Doing this shows an understanding of the instructor’s lesson.
  • Details:  List three that support the summary.

Once written, the review may be no longer than a quarter of a page in length. Quick, easy, and efficient. And the student has created an ongoing study guide for the next exam.

Implications for the World of Work

These strategies have implications beyond the classroom.  Consider them as a way to

  • Distill a project report from a supervisor into its major points. (TSD)
  • Provide an overview of a project’s progress. (TSD)
  • Demonstrate how a new initiative supports the existing goals and mission of a team (Review-Relate-Reorganize)
  • Prepare an after-meeting summary for a client. (TSD)
  • Explain the changing nature of the marketplace for whatever product or service you may be offering. (Review-Relate-Reorganize; TSD).
    [Image above: renjith Krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net]


For more on using notes outside of the classroom, see my book Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? 3rd edition (Pearson Education). Please visit my website (www.stevepiscitelli.com), contact me at steve@stevepiscitelli.com, or visit Pearson EducationAmazon and Barnes and Noble.

Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please pass it (and any of the archived posts on this site) along to friends and colleagues. You can also follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli) and click on the “LIKE” button. Also, if you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Have a wonderful week!

© 2012. Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog.


About stevepiscitelli

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3 Responses to (#92) Making Connections in the Classroom and the Boardroom

  1. Cass says:

    Passing on your great ideas to my son in college! Making notes to myself for me to use in my classroom as well. Always look forward to your effective ideas!


  2. Wish him well for me! As for you…you are a model for your students!


  3. Pingback: (#136) A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2012 in Review « Steve Piscitelli's Blog

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