Since I’m currently at university, twice a year I get to choose what courses to do. Yesterday, I learnt something about my learning style and how it meshes with various teaching styles that I wish I had known and used 3 years ago when I started the course. The epiphany was quite simple:

I distinctly prefer courses where the lecturer has written notes, rather than slides

There are various reasons for this. Key though, is the idea of structure. When there are notes, they tend to be structured properly — hierarchical headings to indicate sections and subsections. Slides, on the other hand, all look the same. It is very difficult to see what is part of something else, especially when you are seeing the content and being exposed to the ideas for the first time. Occasionally this is overcome by having “context” slides, that show you what is coming up and what is part of what. But even if these have preceded slide x, it is easy to get lost in the hierarchy.

I think the meta-information denoted by sections in notes or a book is what I miss most from slide-driven courses. I think there’s often an argument that the lecturer isn’t terribly clear on what the structure of the material is either, because they haven’t had to fit things into a hierarchy. After all, the cognitive style of powerpoint is quite different to that of a book or set of notes.

Out of interest, I looked back at my marks over the last few years — I have done consistently better in the “well-structured” courses. This is probably very much to do with the way I think, but I can’t believe that it escaped me until now!