How to write good session notes

Session notes should do a few things:
1. Illustrate how the session went to fill out the quantitative information that numbers through Tutortrac provide.
2. Describe the strategies that you used with students that went well as well as strategies that weren’t so effective.
3. Tell what material students were struggling with so that your department liaison is aware of where students might need more support.

Some examples of good session notes:

“I assisted two students in correcting their Valentine’s day “love letter” assignments. Both students had an excellent comprehension of what they were writing, they just needed some help and explanation for the corrections that needed to be made. I also had a great chat with the second student about culture and being at William Smith. She is a foreign exchange student, so I had the opportunity to teach some Spanish and have a wonderful conversation. It was a great evening!”

“Two students attended hours tonight. They were both working on a paper for Child Psychology and needed help summarizing their articles. They also wanted their drafts to be read so that they could edit better. Both had trouble connecting the article back to their original thesis and were told to try to improve on that aspect of their papers. By talking through some of the major points of the articles, I helped them see the relationship between their own ideas and those in the articles.”

“Several students came in looking for help on their paper for Crime and Punishment. I had them work together to find bits of text that helped support their justification of a moral action. This seemed to work well. Much of their confusion came from the differences between justification and an excuse. We came up with situations that we thought could be examples of each and discussed the differences between them. Two other students came in asking me to read over drafts of their papers. We talked through their ideas a bit more to help develop their arguments.”

“Here’s the rush of people we were all expecting! There were students from Micro, Macro, Principles, Trade, and Stats. The people from Trade largely worked on their own and only ran a couple questions by us, and the students from Stats were similar. The Micro students had many questions and were having trouble getting certain concepts straight in their heads (largely manipulating indifference curves and willingnesses to trade and such), but did seem to have a better understanding as the night went on. The Macro students had questions largely about how to explain concepts that they already more or less understood on some level, they just didn’t have the words to explain them. Finally, the Principles students were mixed: those from Professor Rebello’s class were having trouble interpreting the meanings of their numbers and formulas, while those with the tax and elasticity Aplia largely seemed comfortable with the work (though initially confused about how to determine the size and incidence of a tax).”

“There were a lot of students tonight working on Professor Carle’s homework. They had the most trouble with the question about viral proteins, mostly I think because they didn’t know how to find information about the proteins if it wasn’t in the book. We showed them how to search online for that type of information. They also had trouble with the DNA experiment question, but they hadn’t gone over the material in class yet and were mostly having trouble deciphering the book. I think when they go over it in class it will make much more sense to them.”

“As for the Intro students, our main focus at the beginning of the semester was working on their theory papers that were utilizing the news article on changing women’s combat policies. The strategies I found that worked were initially ensuring that they knew of the theories, why their particular person was pertinent to the issue, and then figuring out how to look at the same issue using a different theory through having a conversation with them. Then we both wrote down what we thought were the main points of their work, then the students used those as their structure for drafting. Speaking through the issues really made them realize that they understood the material very well. The main issue for this assignment was using other theories looking at the issue then coming up with questions one could ask. Many of the students had great ideas, it just took some reviewing of class notes to come up with important questions. Next, the Intro students came in to study and they basically did a chart for all of the readings based on their class structures, which seemed to work very well because they used the board and each person contributed.”

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One thought on “How to write good session notes

  1. This is a very helpful and interesting post! It is very straight forward and I think it will help new Teaching Fellows in writing good session notes. The examples really illustrate great notes.

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