Not learning from your Professor? Here’s how to fix that.

by winnell

Finding the right person to learn from is just like every other relationship in life.

You must figure out who is worth your time.

Time management boils down to knowing how to study smarter and not harder. I learned how to study smarter by avoiding class lectures. This doesn’t work for everybody but it works for me. In college, I reviewed all of the syllabi and made note of the classes that didn’t penalize you for attendance. I surveyed the class for the first two weeks and afterward,  I didn’t attend. I found that going to the first week of classes allowed me to see how well the Professor could teach me.

Everybody learns differently.

My brain works differently and I’m pretty sure I have an element of ADD or ADHD. Structured learning settings don’t work well with my thought process as my mind constantly wanders and processes information in ways I can’t truly explain. If you’ve heard any of the mnemonics I’ve created to associate concepts you’d think I was crazy. But, anyway….the first few weeks of the class provide enough assessment to decide whether I’ll attend the lecture. Although I don’t attend lectures, I use the PowerPoint lectures the professor provides. Along with the Powerpoint, I use the syllabus to guide me to the corresponding pages of the assigned readings. I read all of the designated pages in the recommended and required textbooks for that course. Afterward,  I fill in textbook information to supplement the professor’s lecture slides. I find that reading the textbook provides more clarity on topics in a self-paced manner. I learn best independently from textbooks that clarify content better than most lecturers.

Please be advised that skipping the lecture does not work for every class.

For example, my general chemistry course was taught by an amazing professor who literally taught me so well that I could do general chemistry in my sleep. Every concept I never learned correctly in high school suddenly became as easy as saying the alphabet in order. I’m not kidding. Professors can truly make or break your learning experience. Just as everyone has their own learning method, professors have their own teaching style. Many times, it simply does not mesh well with you. It’s important to realize this disconnect early.

Many students are left feeling like they’re not smart enough, but the truth is, you’re not optimizing your learning experience. Many times it’s not the student but in fact the clash of a professor’s teaching style. I discovered this early and saved myself the trouble and skipped the lecture.

Time is a Precious Thing to Waste.

During undergrad, I attended all of the mandatory lab classes and some lectures. Once I found my groove and started to really invest myself in reading through science texts, I was able to grasp concepts so much easier.

If I didn’t understand something, I could simply go back and reread or mark to review concepts.

Unfortunately, when I entered medical school, I was blindsided by mandatory class sessions.

The Compromise

My school uses a flipped-classroom concept where lectures were pre-recorded, meaning I could watch from anywhere and at any time. While that option was enticing, we had clickers sessions, which are (technically) mandatory graded daily quizzes to review concepts from lecture and assess our knowledge. The idea behind the flipped classroom has its pros, but also many cons, for me at least. Sometimes one class will have over 5 hours of lecture content which is something we’d never have in an in-class session. Clickers imposed upon my personal independent study preference. Many times, I felt like this set up did a great disservice to my adult style of learning.

In order to compromise with medical school’s new learning demands, I watched select lectures during my first year of medical school and took notes on the PowerPoint slides provided. During my second year, I did not watch any of the pre-recorded lecture videos of the “flipped classroom”. Instead, I used outside resources such as Pathoma, First Aid Organ Systems, and required textbooks to supplement my professor’s lecture slides. This method allowed me to study effectively and efficiently.

Second-year was about truly crystallizing the basic sciences into clinical application. After that, you must remember this information well enough to rock your boards at the end of the year. Towards the middle-end of the second year, my main focus was killing boards,  so my attendance became more and more obsolete.

Make It Work For You

This method has shown and proven to be supreme for me. This allows me to study less but more efficiently and allows me to actually enjoy a life outside of studying. This may not work for everybody but it has worked for me. Sometimes there are lectures you attend that leave you unable to summarize what you learned. So, really you just wasted hours of your time that you could’ve been spent studying and implanting knowledge into your mind.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go skipping class but I’m just saying that you should make sure every minute of class is spent actively absorbing knowledge.  If you will be attending a lecture, it’s very important to review the lecture slides before you get there or at least read the corresponding pages in the required textbook. I found that helpful for the classes that I did attend because once you get there, the professor will reinforce concepts that you’ve already briefly learned about on your own time. Don’t expect to fully learn concepts in one sitting from one person. We’re only human.

Putting together a  winning study plan of attack is like doing an audition.  Test different study strategies and techniques and see which one works for you.  When you find one that works and gets you the grades you want,  stick with it and let it flow.

Here are some resources helpful for studying:

2nd year study essentials 

Studying without taking notes 

For more school and career advice delivered to your email, sign up here to get my newsletter.



You may also like

Leave a Comment