Beware of your Loan Forgiveness Program!

3 Steps to Help Ensure You’re Compliant

Hands-Money Photo by Alexander Mils on UnsplashUPDATE October 6, 2021: See our updated post as the US DOE has made tremendous strides toward FIXING this problem!!!

It has come to light that since 2017, thousands of former students who participated with full faith and effort in the US Education Department's various loan forgiveness programs — such as working as an inner-city teacher or rural doctor — have gotten "stiffed" on their loan forgiveness applications. Some people have been told they haven’t made the required 120 consecutive on-time payments, even though they have. Some have been told their employment doesn’t qualify, even after being reassured at time of hire that it did.

It’s a sticky situation that started coming to light in 2017, ten years after the program (passed in 2007 by the US Congress and enacted by President George W. Bush) began when the forgiveness time came due. Many borrowers found that due to lack of oversight, important information about their loan payments or work history did not get recorded properly, and their loan forgiveness was denied.

What Should I Do?

If you are currently or planning to take advantage of one of the loan forgiveness programs, we suggest  you:

  1. Log on to the National Student Loan Data System to ensure that your loan record is correct.
  2. Make sure that you keep your Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification (PDF) current. Clark Howard (consumer advocate hero!) suggests that you file this form each year. Can’t hurt!
  3. Visit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness page and tool
    to see if there is an option for you there. Currently (2019), they show an alert that there is a temporary loan forgiveness program available for some loans. Go now... first come, first served! Warning: You need to apply for the main loan forgiveness program BEFORE applying for the temporary emergency program.

    (9/9/19 note: The US government's General Accounting Office released a report that the US Department of Education is denying over 99% of applications for the temporary program. This is so wrong. All we can say is to apply anyway, be very patient, expect to get denied, and hopefully by the time you appeal the politicians will have a fix. See below for links to find your federal legislature to contact them about this atrocity.)

If you currently do not qualify, you should try to identify and speak to your loan officer, or some other representative from the lender/servicing company to see if they have any options for you. If you don’t know who that is, you can reach out to your former school’s financial aid office and they should be able to help trace your loan.

One suggestion is to consolidate your loans and change it to one of the available income-driven repayment plans which may be available for forgiveness. NOTE: This may reset the 120 month timer, so this option would be better for recent graduates. If you choose this option, know that debt consolidation is a free service. There a several marketers who try to sell you their loan consolidation services for a fee. Know that you are paying for their service, not any fees in connection to the loan consolidation.

Another suggestion is to try to wait it out. The current administration has indicated in their 2020 Budget Proposal a desire to end the forgiveness program (as well as subsidized loans in general) to save the government money. While this is not a guaranteed eventuality as Congress will insert their politics, the intent of the current administration is clear — the students of today don't matter. A new administration may well keep the programs which have allowed so many students to prosper — and contribute long term to the economy! (Just our opinion.)

What Can I Do?

Meanwhile, if you’re the activist type, go ahead and submit your opinion about the future of student loan programs. Here are some links:

US Student Aid feedback
"We want to hear from you about your federal student aid experience."

Raw source for current regulations open to comment on "student aid forgive"

Find your federal legislator (and write them a letter/send an email!):
US House of Representatives
US Senate

US Government Student Loan Forgiveness Statistics

Student Loan Information Resources

NerdWallet 10+ Student Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge Programs

Forbes magazine Student Loan info

Resources pulled from

*Note the suggestions in this article are for general information only. Contact your financial professional for advice specific to your situation.

Help for those with Learning or Physical Disabilities

— (Pages 11, 55). A list of links and resources for college students with learning or physical disabilities.

Personal Experiences:

Dare Take Risks! A personal narrative on using your physical limitations to find your purpose in life by Stephen Hopson. Essay also appears in Chicken Soup for the College Soul.

Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps – “Gil Meyers” story – a first person experience from someone with a learning disability.

Tips for Students on Medications – Hints compiled by recent adult student Kate Stephens.

Disabled Student Resources Online

Visit the Resources for Persons with Learning or Physical Disabilities section of our links page. Below are some of the resources that have alternative contact information:

Attention Deficit Disorder Association
Site is full of great stuff, specifically, search on  “College Tips.”
15000 Commerce Parkway, Suite C
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Phone: 856-439-9099 (toll call to New Jersey).

US Government Disability info (US Department of Labor):
Current Federal iteration of its public information site.

Learning Disabilities WorldWideEnriching the lives of individuals with learning disabilities around the world
Landmark College
79 Bear Hill Road Suite 104
Waltham, MA 02451

Landmark College – The college of choice for students who learn differently
19 River Road South
Putney, VT 05346

Job Accommodation Network – Ask JAN
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
(800)526-7234 (V)
(877)781-9403 (TTY)

Program for Advancement of Learning from Curry College (PAL):
“The nation’s premier support program for college students with learning disabilities.”
PAL Program
Curry College
1071 Blue Hill Avenue
Milton, MA 02186
617-333-0500 (Toll call to Massachusetts)

LD Online Technology Resources:
A ton of resources. Also use their search box and enter the term “college.” Sponsored through WETA Public Television of Washington, DC.
LD OnLine
WETA Public Television
2775 S. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22206
703-998-2600 (Toll call to Virginia)

Learning Differences:
Provided by the Richard Cooper and the Center for Alternative Learning. Check under “Learning Tools” for some good memory hints and articles.
6 E. Eagle Rd.
Havertown, PA 19083
610-446-6126 (Toll call to Pennsylvania)
800-869-8336 (toll free)

National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs: “an e-community that offers members a centralized hub of information, professional development, technical assistance, communication on issues and trends, and advocacy initiatives on behalf of adults with special learning needs.”
c/o KOC Member Services
1143 Tidewater Court
Westerville, OH 43082
Toll free: 888-5-NAASLN (888-562-2756)

National Center for Learning Disabilities
Life with LD: Navigating the Transition to College
381 Park Avenue South Suite 1401
New York, NY 10016
212-545-7510 (Toll call to New York)
or, toll-free: 888-575-7373

National Center on Workforce and Disability –
National Center on Workforce and Disability
UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

Older Sites / Archives:
Literacy and Learning Disabilities Archive
National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy Archive
Resources for Adults with Disabilities (PDF, 2004) produced by: A publication of the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities as viewed via the WayBack Machine

updated: 09/09/19

Your Accomplishments Portfolio

— (Page 8). The traditional portfolio was used by artists, photographers, and architects to demonstrate samples of their work. Unlike a cover letter, resume, or application form, a portfolio demonstrates how one’s skills, experiences, and history match a position.

Special to by Barbara Ritter, M.A. *

Why Create a Portfolio?

  1. The traditional portfolio was used by artists, photographers, and architects to demonstrate samples of their work. Unlike a cover letter, resume, or application form, a portfolio demonstrates how one’s skills, experiences, and history match a position.

  2. Today, with many applicants for each job opening and with the necessity of screening individuals efficiently and effectively, the portfolio is emerging as an excellent tool to accomplish this task. A one page list of the "Portfolio Contents"sent with your cover letter and resume allows the employer to screen your qualifications quickly and then request items from your portfolio, if desired.

  3. The cost of training and maintaining excellent employees is high, both in terms of financial resources and time. A portfolio is a visible means of proving that one is well-matched to a specific position in an organization. Employers know that in the long run, time, energy, and resources will be saved by making the first choice the right choice.

Guidelines to Building a Portfolio

When one is ready to seek a job, is common to think ahead to the future: What will the job require in terms of skills? What will I need to know? What will I be doing? Rather than think of future requirements, building a portfolio is best done by concentrating on one’s past: What have I done? What skills have I mastered and practiced? What experiences do I have that have made me the quality person I am? What do I know? What have I done well?

By answering these questions and then aligning items that demonstrate the answers, an "accomplishments to date" of one’s past is created. This will serve as a material, visible presentation to a future employer. It will also put the owner of the portfolio in better control of an application and interview situation because the material to be discussed is chosen and familiar to the holder!

Another added benefit is that it is simpler to narrow the focus of one’s desires in future employment. That is, rather than applying for all kinds of openings that may look interesting (a very time and energy-consuming and sometimes defeating process), one can apply only for positions in which both that applicant and the employer will find true success and satisfaction.

8 Steps to Creating Your Portfolio

  1. Ask and answer the questions that follow. Leave nothing out in this brainstorming look at yourself. Don’t try to do it all at once, but take several days to return to your list and jot other items down as they occur to you. You may always trim your list down, but you don’t want to omit important characteristics that really are the essence of you!

    • What paid employment have I had?

    • What unpaid work have I done? (Volunteering, service, informal helpfulness all count).

    • What courses have I taken (particularly a category, such as writing classes or acting classes) where I have gained skills and felt successful?

    • What training have I had? This might include informal classes, seminars, groups of friends that gather with common interests (such as book groups), or specific programs?

    • What life experiences have I had that I enjoyed, felt successful, and learned? This includes such things as travel (even family vacations growing up), living situations (such as summers on the water where boating or swimming were a part of the experience), a talent for cooking or baking, special collections of interest, and hobbies that have yielded you information, such as hiking in the woods that taught you about wildflowers, animals, and preparing for weather changes.

    • What skills do I have that make me capable of accomplishing tasks? This includes abilities such as organizing, speaking, writing, driving, care giving, sensitive listening, dancing, woodworking, using tools, following directions, and noticing details, for example.

  2. Collect items that correspond to your answers to the questions.

    Gather materials by scouring through your old school records, awards bestowed upon you for volunteer work, collections of hobby items, certificates, and photographs. Again, leave nothing uncovered! Faded newspaper articles that highlighted your achievement can be rewritten or copied. Collections too big to put into a portfolio can be photographed. How to fit something into the portfolio should not eliminate any materials at this point.

    Once these items are collected, it becomes important to categorize them according to theme, skill, or qualification. It is at this point where you can start to see how one thing you have done is related to other things, or how one skill has built upon itself.

  3. Select how your items might best be displayed.

    Some items lend themselves to easy display; a certificate or diploma, for example, can be copied and shown. Some items are more difficult, but with creativity can by shown. A collection can be photographed. A collage of photographs can be copied. A video tape can be edited with highlights of oral speeches, presentations, and dance or athletic competitions, for example. With computers, scanning and editing can be done to nicely demonstrate many performance-type achievements. Professional videographers, copy centers, and computer whizzes are available for consultation or to format this work.

    After you have gathered your materials and selected how you want them to be demonstrated, decide which (if any) are simply not important or relevant. However, do not eliminate anything from your portfolio that you consider an essential element of you or your achievements. When you present your portfolio, it does not have to be done in whole. For a specific position, you may want to include only 4 of 6 portions, for instance, if that is all that seems relevant to that job.

  4. Demonstrate that you have a demonstration portfolio!

    This may sound like double talk, but it means that you need to indicate that you have a portfolio and what kinds of materials it contains. You will not be handing your portfolio out to many people at one time, but you need to let them know what you have. This could be done in the form of your resume, a personal brochure, or cover letter. You might have a heading in your resume that is called "Portfolio Contents," for instance. Then, by category, you could list the items it contains. Or you may choose to include a paragraph in a cover letter indicating you have a portfolio containing specific items that you will be glad to review with them at their request.

    Compile a list of what the portfolio contains by category. This contents may be included inside the portfolio and also as an attachment to your resume or cover letter. You may wish to write a cover letter that describes some sample highlights from your portfolio and then note the portfolio may be requested in whole or part. In doing this, you have shown an ability to organize, confidence in your past accomplishments, proven demonstration of your skills and achievements, and a willingness to be helpful and available to a future employer.

  5. Duplicate your portfolio one time.

    Be sure you have two complete portfolios in case one is loaned temporarily. However, unlike a resume, you need not duplicate your portfolio many times. It will be loaned, not given, to future employers. In some cases just listing what is contained in the portfolio is sufficient to secure an interview.

  6. Select a container for your portfolio.

    This may vary as your portfolio builds. Office supply stores carry many inexpensive containers that would serve this purpose well. Accordion folders, small briefcase-type holders, or other similar carrying pockets are available. A portfolio does not have to be expensive, but does need to be lean and neat.

  7. Update your portfolio periodically and keep it current.

    As you accomplish new tasks, keep material demonstrations of them. Once you begin thinking in terms of creating and keeping a portfolio, it becomes natural to think, "How can I include this in my portfolio?" You will begin to photograph, record, and collect proof of your work in many displayable ways.

  8. Use and enjoy your portfolio!

    This is a tangible picture of you–your skills, experiences, accomplishments, qualifications, and interests. Use it to reflect on your past, know yourself, and move to your future!

The Electronic Portfolio

An Addendum to The Professional Portfolio

All of the information that can be collected for the portfolio can be placed in what is sometimes called an "electronic portfolio". This is an alternative to gathering paper (hard) copies of information; "electronically," or via a web page or computer disc, the portfolio information is accessed through a computer.

The easiest way to create the electronic portfolio is to use an electronic format from the start. That is, documents and resumes could be placed on the web page or disc as they are originated rather than trying to collect information and transfer it later to the electronic version later.

When a person is ready to distribute the portfolio to potential employers, several options for making the portfolio information available exist. First, a number of employers, newspapers, and agencies have web page postings. By going into these web sites, directions can be followed as to how to post one’s own portfolio on the web. Secondly, writing to employers with directions as to how to access one’s portfolio on one’s own web site can be included in the letter. This requires that the creator (owner of the portfolio) establish a web site on which to display the portfolio and how an interested employer might respond. (Assistance with doing this is available from anyone knowledgeable in how to set up a web site). Thirdly, the contents of the portfolio can be placed on a disc and the disc duplicated and distributed to potential employers.

The convenience of displaying the portfolio in this manner, the ability to reach many people, and the demonstration of technology skills are all evident by using the electronic portfolio format. Finally, the ability to be creative, colorful, and even three-dimensional are limited only by one’s imagination!

* Barbara Ritter, M.A., is Director of Vocational Education for Bethel School District in Spanaway, Washington. Her accomplishments include serving as director of a consortium of employers and educators that created a highly successful portfolio program.

© Barbara Ritter. Posted with permission.

For more information on portfolios, please see our links page.

Emoticons, Emojis, Chat Abbreviations and Avatars

— (Page 46). Hey, what do all those symbols and abbreviations mean??

As the web has grown as a form of communication, it’s funny to think that we are actually returning back to our written communication roots! But, oh how different communicating by "keyboard" in the 21st century is from the type or hand written communications of the past.

Since written communications can be interpreted in many ways, and feeling can sometimes get lost, people have come up with creative ways to express emotion in their work. USING ALL CAPS HAS THE EFFECT OF SHOUTING. using all lower case letters even for proper names, the pronoun i, and sentence capitals can convey either very casual communications or lack of effort. b aware of what image you may be portraying.

Punctuation becomes of utmost importance too. It is always good to read your note, letter, or request out loud before you send it. One brief example of a misunderstanding due to punctuation and emphasis is:

Let’s eat, mommy.
Let’s eat mommy.

The longer the sentence is, the more ripe for misinterpretation due to inaccurate punctuation.

AFK or BRB???

If you are bewildered by the amount of chat abbreviations people use while communicating on the internet, (and almost everywhere else) you are not alone! In an effort to cut down on text-message charges, time, and to befuddle those who do not know, people of all ages have really grabbed on to the abbreviations.

A few of the most common are:

  • AFK – away from keyboard
  • BRB – be right back
  • BTW – by the way
  • FYI – for your information
  • F2F – face to face
  • HAND – have a nice day
  • HB – hurry back
  • IDK – I don’t know
  • IMHO – in my humble opinion
  • LOL – laugh out loud (or sometimes, lots of love)
  • NP – no problem
  • RL – real life
  • ROFL / ROTFL – rolling on the floor, laughing
  • TIA – thanks in advance
  • TMI – too much information
  • WRK – work
  • WTG – way to go
  • YW – you’re welcome

Here’s a comprehensive listing:

Have a Happy Day! :)
happy face emoticon
on the phone emoticon
big grin emoticon
roll on the floor laughing emoticon

According to wikipedia (see emoticon article link below), the predecessor of the modern "emoticon" (the cute little smiley faces and such) was first documented in 1857 when Morse code operators purportedly used the number 73 to mean love and kisses…. In 1982, professor Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University suggested using :-) to indicate jokes and :-( to indicate things that weren’t jokes… and we haven’t looked back since!

Emoticons have evolved into more than just smiley faces. There are bugs, cowboys, four-leafed clovers, flowers, animals and more. No longer are they always a small 16×16 pixel size. While some people now refer to any sort of fun graphic embedded into an email as an emoticon, most still only consider the ones that convey some actual emotion an emoticon. These usually have some reference to the human body, such as a nose, eye, hand, or an action of emotion like crying, giving flowers, wishing good luck, etc. But… like most everything else on the internet, there are no hard and fast rules.

These days, most every instant messaging and chat service and even email software has their own depiction of the common emoticons. Below are a few directories. The basic typography is similar among them, but the graphical image can vary. See the traditional smiley face for comparison.

To use emoticons:

  1. If you have a newer version of an email program like Outlook or Eudora, you should be able to access the emoticons from your formatting menu. (See your software’s help and search on "emoticon.") Third-party additions are also available for Windows computers, see the specific software for installation information.
  2. If you have a chat service like Yahoo Messenger, MSN, iChat, or AOL Instant Messenger, you can usually access a menu with many of the emoticons programmed in already. If one you want is not there, try typing in the typographical equivalent — you’ll have to know what it is first by checking the Yahoo, MSN and Wikipedia links below.
  3. Search on and visit a site for "free smilies" or "free emoticons." Some will have applications you can download with bonus smilies for your chat application.
  4. Other free emoticon sites will just have pages of fun (and some disturbing!) images. If you find one you like, right-click (or command-click on a Mac) and "save image to disk" or the like and remember where you saved it. You should be able then to drag and drop the graphic into your email, or if that doesn’t work, open it (with Picture Viewer or Preview, copy it, and paste it back into your email.

Who do I want to be today???

Many online environments allow users to create their own cartoon-like image known as an "avatar" to represent themselves. AOL Instant Messenger was one of the first to do so, and now even product support forums (such as this sample one for WordPress, an open source blogging software) allow users to upload or create their own online persona. Some even allow for uploading of real-life photos, or both. A major element of the online community Second Life is avatar customization… but beware, this can take precious time away from your studies!

In addition, many distance learning software modules allow students and instructors to upload a photo or avatar. While it is usually a completely optional activity, it can be a good way to help connect with your classmates.


Developing Goals

— (Pages 39, 117). If you feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of you—and even if not—read on. Setting and reaching your goals can be easier than you think.

(Setting goals you can live with)

So you’ve gotten yourself into college. One goal reached! Now what will you do?

Many adults returning to college already have an idea of what they will study due to the type of career toward which they are working. But many do not. If you are one of those who may feel overwhelmed about the future—and even if not—read on!

Below you’ll find several different philosophies on "setting and reaching goals" because what may work for one person may not work for another. Similarly, each style may be better suited to one situation over another. Feel free to borrow ideas from several methods, combine the tips, and develop ways of your own!

A basic way to begin setting goals is:

Develop a plan or vision as your goal and find or create a "picture": Based on your likes and aptitudes, determine what you want to work toward. You can write it down, take a picture of something that resembles your goal, find an article in a newspaper or magazine that describes what you’d like to become or do, or anything else that represents your vision. (More on this below.)

Break it into workable, measurable steps, and then break it down again: If you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, that’s OK. It happens to everyone with a big plan. Try breaking down the goal you’ve created into smaller parts. For example, a goal of "succeeding in college" might have as one objective "getting an A in history." While that is a good start, it can still be too big to get a handle on exactly HOW to get an A in history. Break it down into even more steps, and continue to do so until you have a list of things that are "do-able" for you. For example:

  • attend all classes
  • read a chapter every two days
  • read all extra materials
  • study 4 hours at the library before each test
  • complete homework assignments on time

Get started: Actually, by this point, you are already started! Planning and analysis are very important first steps. Now it’s time to implement some of your actions. Create a To-Do list.

Uh-oh…. Get back on track: Sometimes it’s easy to get a little discouraged if your plan goes astray. Maybe you receive a C on the first history test, weighing 30% of the grade. You feel there’s no way you can recover enough to get an A now. This is the time for your best creative thinking. Is there extra credit available? Will the instructor work individually with you? I had that exact situation once and the instructor let me create a crossword puzzle for the class on terms we needed to know. It worked. I ended up with an A. There’s almost always something you can do if you catch the slide quickly. The longer you wait, the harder it is to recover.

Measure results: In the classroom, results are easily measured by the grades you receive from your instructor. Other goals may have less obvious measurable benchmarks. Say you want to learn photography. Some broad benchmarks might include: learning to operate a camera, taking a class or buying a book on technique or lighting, buying and using extra accessories, learning to develop and print negatives the old way. "Learning" here is a subjective phrase, but you can ask yourself what level of proficiency you wish to have at the skill you want to learn.

Reward yourself: When you reach a benchmark or complete a goal, reward yourself! Appreciate the hard work you put in to accomplishing your goal, even if it is a little one, like getting all the errands run (Phew!). For smaller goals, many find "to-do" lists rewarding. Seeing the items get crossed off brings a sense of accomplishment.* For those bigger goals, you should take time to pause and reflect. First, remember your past self prior to your achievement. What were your ambitions, visions, energies, and excitements about the future? How have they turned out? What did you DO to make that happen? What have you learned that will help you moving forward (not just academically — but for you as a person)? Embrace your development, appreciate the effort you put forth, remember that at one time, this was exactly what you wanted… and treat yourself to something special!

What now? Develop a new Goal: The final part of the process is to figure out what you are going to challenge yourself with next. Many people find that once they have accomplished their goal, they are not as satisfied as they thought they would be. Most of the time this is due to a simple belief that once they have accomplished one thing all else will be well. But, kind of like inflation, you need to judge your past goal on the circumstances of its time. What is not realized is that life goes on, changes come, and different outcomes from the original goal may be needed. It’s also helpful to have more than one goal at any given time, have ones under development, in the beginning stages and full on. This way, you’ll always have something to do!

Strategic Planning Process

In most organizations, strategic planning and goal setting are part of the on-going development process. The same is true in life. Here are some steps based on a data-gathering model of goal setting. Write it down or type it in:

  • Decide where you are / what your current status is: Use your feelings and intuition, assess your situation, obtain and analyze any available data, and ask for input from others. Ask where am I? Why here? Why now? Why am I doing this? Avoid asking "how" in this step. It dwells too much on the past for this exercise.

  • Locate where you want to go or be: Based on where you are, decide where you want to go. Ask where do I want to be? What do I want to do?

  • Develop a course based on the conditions you want to satisfy: Using the data collected above, and input from the rest of the article, create a listing or chart of what steps need to be accomplished to get to where you want to be. (This is the tough one… use the rest of this article to help break it down.) Use deadlines if helpful.

  • Chart your progress: Check off the items accomplished. Make notes about things that need updating or changing.

  • Alter plans based on new information and opportunities: Time changes things no matter what. What you dreamed of 5 years ago may be quite different from what you visualize now. New obstacles, responsibilities, and opportunities are sure to pop up after the first draft of your goals. Don’t be afraid to revisit the plan to add new tasks or delete items that are no longer relevant.

A Top Down Approach

The Top-Down approach starts with general statements and goals, and like a reporter, asks questions to extract specific steps you can take and aptitudes you can develop to fulfill your goal.

Start with a general goal, desire, or aspiration such as "I want to be happy" or "I want to be successful." Begin by asking yourself "what" makes me happy or "what" makes a successful person, or whatever question (how, what, when, why, where, who, what does it take) best fits the situation.

Continue asking as many questions at each level as you can. (Answer: "I am happy when I am outside and when I am helping people." Follow up questions: Where outside? Why outside? Doing what outside? Helping people how?)

You may want to chart your answers in a pyramid type structure, starting at the top with your goal, and filling in each level below it with progressively more specific answers.

With continued sifting of the answers through thorough questioning, you can help identify the traits, actions and requirements necessary for you to have in order to accomplish your goal.

Conversely, by starting with a specific activity you enjoy, you can use this questioning method (and research in your college career center) as a tool to help you figure out how to take a trait you already posses and "grow" it into a career path. Be advised, it is as important to know your weaknesses and dislikes in order to find a career path that is best suited to you. One bad aspect of a job can far outweigh several good aspects. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What do I like to do?
  • What do I like about it?
  • Is there anything I don’t like about it?
  • What do I do well?
  • What do I get praise for?
  • What do I struggle with?
  • What do I wish for?

To-Do List

A simple and rewarding activity essential to goal setting is the simple creation of a "to-do" list. Either the night before or morning of a day, write down the items and activities you wish to accomplish. You can have one list for several days if you’d like.

Being able to prioritize is a necessity. It can be helpful to group items in one of several ways: urgency, topically, level of difficulty, geographically, time of day constraints, etc. Keep the list near and as you go through the day, mark off the items your complete. Some people like to start with a few easy items to warm up. Others like to get the hard stuff out of the way. I’ll do a mix of these, depending on the urgency, and my mood or energy level.

Sometimes (many times??—at least for me) you will not get everything done. Don’t sweat it. You can transfer the incomplete items to a new list. While doing so, think about why you may not have completed that item. Was it just a time issue, or was there some obstacle to getting it done? If you identify an issue, add that as a subentry on your new list.

* Note: for some people, To-Do lists represent what is not yet done and can add a level of stress. If you can relate to this, I would suggest breaking down the activities on the to-do list into smaller parts, and if possible, allow yourself more time to complete each item.

You can also apply a To-Do list for a long-term goal. Don’t think of it as a daily list, but more of a regular check-in list to chart your progress over the long term. Here, a more generalized list is OK.

5 elements of a useful goal

Adapted from: Carolyn Hopper, Middle Tennessee State University, (author of Practicing College Study Skills, Houghton Mifflin, © 1998, ISBN: 0395852749)

  1. Specific: describe with as much detail as possible
  2. Measurable: describe in a way that can be clearly evaluated
  3. Challenging / Inspiring: one that takes energy to accomplish, that makes you get up in the morning
  4. Realistic: you know you are capable of attaining in a reasonable amount of time
  5. Has Completion Date: create a measurable deadline for your work

Online References

Many, many references can be found about goal setting and development. Here are just a few:

  • Personal Professional Development Program (National Science Teacher’s Association):

    Meant for teachers, but contains useful information for anyone setting goals. (PDF format).


    A course developed by two community college teachers as an online self-directed resource. Free for now, use it soon! Also available, for sale, are individualized career development packages.

  • Program Development and Evaluation Resources

    A Project of the Southern Region Program and Staff Development Committee, Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Some are applicable, some are not. but an interesting list none the less.

Recommended Reading:

What Color is Your Parachute, by Dick Bolles, is a time-honored book with several activities to help you prioritize your likes, dislikes, and competencies. A new version is released every year, however, if you find a copy at a used bookshop, it is just as helpful as the latest edition.

– – – –

by Kristin Pintarich, Editor-in-Chief, The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival & Success

Authenticating Resources on the Internet

— (Pages 46, 82). Help in determining what is reliable and what is not when it comes to using resources found on the net.

OK, so you’ve read our Internet Searching Tips, been to Google, Duck Duck Go, Bing or the like, and learned you have several—if not hundreds of—thousands of matches for your search.

Some you can toss out right away just by the completely irrelevant title or description of the site. You scan through the list and find a few good prospects to try. Now, how do you determine whether the information at the other end of the link is the best available—or at the least, correct?

First, check the spelling of the domain of each file you’d like to view. You may have heard of the problem with deceptive web sites. Believe it. Many web sites are set up to either sound or be spelled like some well-known organization in order to capitalize on the legitimate organization’s name recognition and community respect. It’s a time-honored advertising practice used by legitimate and illegitimate organizations alike, but in the days of the internet, software and sophisticated programmers, persons who are out to deceive the casual web surfer can easily do just that.

Verifying the Source:

There are several questions to ask and levels of authentication you can perform. From the most simple to the most complex and thorough, they are:

1. Does the site name “seem” to be legitimate?

Dissect the website address to find the “top level” domain (.gov, .com, .net, .org, .edu, .uk, etc.) and the domain name itself (“Yahoo” from for example). Take these two together to see if they seem to correspond. Most large companies have the web site address you’d expect, such as for Nike, for Adidas, for United Parcel Service. Here is a short listing of the most common top-level domain designations:

.biz Newer, less used version of .com. Open to anyone.
.com A “commercial” site in registered in the United States, but not necessarily by a US citizen. The first and most widely used public domain. Registration is open to any entity or individual.
.edu The domain named used exclusively for educational institutions, mostly colleges and universities. (Educause is the overseeing body)
.gov Domain level reserved for official US government sites. Managed by the US Gen. Svcs. Admin. at
.info Another newer less used top-level domain open to anyone.
.net An open registration domain meant for providers of electronic networks, but used by anyone.
.org An open domain once intended for organizations with domains that did not fit in other categories. Widely used by non-profits, but not always!
.us A two letter Country-Code Top Level domain (ccTLD) indicating the United States. Mostly used for local governmental sites, such as a county or school district (, but recently opened to anyone with significant ties (as in a resident) to the United States. See below for more on Country Codes.
.ca Canadian sites, not necessarily governmental. Sometimes you’ll see “” The governing body, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority is found at: Currently, a whois is available in the upper right of the page.

Most countries do not add a .com (or .co) before their country code, so that in the US is in Canada, but some countries do, such as in the UK:

Several years back, many country codes have “opened” up registration to anyone, trying to capitalize on their catchy abbreviations. Have you seen any of these?

Belize .bz (Business)
British Indian Ocean Territory .io (Input/Output)
Western Samoa .ws (Web Site)
Cocos Keeling Islands
(an Australian territory)
.cc (community college, credit card, chat club, etc.
–according to their website.)
Montserrat .ms (microsoft)
Tuvalu .tv (Television)

A few years after those country domains opened up, ICANN opened up a slew of new domains available for many interests, such as .art, .movie, .name. A pretty good listing of ccTLDs and their restrictions is available at the Wikipedia article of top level domains

Much more information on, domain names can be found at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) site, Acronyms and Terms page:

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is responsible for international sites, and the country codes can be found:

If it’s a US government site, the domain name should be “.gov,” however, more and more governmental entities are setting up “.com” sites as well, take for example the State of Oregon’s official traffic information site:

2. Were you redirected?

When you type in “,”(Apple Computer—Canada) for example, your browser is redirected to “” You’ll need to have the “address” line visible in your browser to check this. Most times forwarding is just a housekeeping function of the company as it has grown and reorganized its web site and knows that references to an old address are widespread.

However, if a hacker or someone with less than honorable intentions has gotten to the site, you may be redirected to a different site having nothing to do with what you thought you were after (or what the person who posted the link intended). Redirection will also commonly occur if you have reached a site no longer in operation, but most times, these are generally forwarded to a site asking you if you want to buy that domain name, now that it’s available again, and offer some sort of search option, topic directory, or “link farm”.

3. Does the site look and feel the way you might expect it to?

If you are trying to visit and get a blank page with few words and no pictures, or explicit photos, something is probably wrong. You may have made a typo, chosen the wrong link, or it could be a temporary “takeover” by a hacker. In any case, you’ll need to double check your work! As a very broad rule of thumb, if you go to a large national corporation’s web site, expect it to “look” more professional than, say, a university’s research department, or a local county emergency information page. Marketing is what corporations do.

Don’t necessarily be put off by the lack of design or sophistication of any given site. While a well built, easily navigated “pretty” site is inviting to use, some of the most informative and useful sites are very simple, without headers or graphics, and often, just straight text on a blank background. On the other hand, some of the fanciest sites are missing real content and clear navigation, and once you wait forever for the page to load, you discover you need to download some mysterious software version you thought you already had before they’ll even let you in. (Hint: sometimes, you can hit “Cancel” in your browser while the page is loading and just the text will load.)

Here is an interesting site from Stanford University titled Stanford Web Credibility Research. It describes how the majority of web users assign credibility largely based on how the site looks vs. what content the site contains.

4. Does the site contain contact information?

At the very least, the page you are visiting should have some sort of reference on it, or a link to a home page, contact page, information page, etc. Look for the author’s name, affiliation, organization, SOMETHING! If you can’t find some sort of attribution for something you’d like to cite, the best practice is to not use it at all. Most legitimate organizations will have a page (or area on the home page) that gives such information as street address, city, state, country, phone number, email address, contact personnel, etc. If you’d like, take this information and plug it into your search engine to see if you can validate it.

5. Have other sites linked to the site you are researching?

Just like in real life, word of mouth advertising on the net works wonders. Just think of all those web-videos you’ve gotten in your email. Anyway, if you have found a reference on a web site that seems slightly obscure, you can go to Google or Bing and perform a link search (type “link: ” in the search field: “”) to see what other web sites have linked to the site or page in question. Click on one or two of the results to see what others are saying about the site you are researching. If there is a pattern of comments (good or bad), you might be on to something. (Note, currently the search engines aren’t recognizing this type of search. We’re looking for a workaround!)

6. How does the site “earn its living”?

Again, just like in the “non-cyber” world, entities generally don’t exist in a vacuum. Most .com sites you visit are offering something for sale. It may be a book (like, advertising, a service, or some other product. Many .org sites sell products, too, but many do not, and many are non-profit. As mentioned above in item #1, allocating domain names is a largely a self-policing exercise, so that if a person wanted to deceive, it’s just a matter of finding the right .org domain name to exploit.

Try to figure out the motivation behind the site, is it up for purely marketing purposes, or does it offer something for everyone to leave with? While the answer to this question is enlightening, be warned that some of the best information is found on fee-based subscription services (such as Consumer Reports or Lexis-Nexis).

7. Have you performed a “Who Is” check?

Whenever someone wants to register a new .com, .net., .org or one of several other open registered top-level domain names, the transaction is recorded by an agency called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Private companies contract with ICANN to sell domain names to client companies and individuals. A huge database of all the domain name owners is part of the public record of the internet and available for anyone to search freely. Use this search to help verify that a company is who it says it is.

In the US: sponsored by
Or, from Domain Tools.

Your results may or may not be complete the first time you try. VeriSign/Network Solutions will give you a full record for its own clients, but will refer you to the assigning web site for domains that it did not register. Follow the links and perform a second search if necessary on the assigning site. Eventually you should get a record that looks something like this:

   Practical Psychology Press
   PO BOX 535
   PORTLAND, Oregon 97207-0535
   United States

   Registered through: Wild West Domains
      Created on: 16-Aug-99
      Expires on: 16-Aug-17
      Last Updated on: 15-Apr-15

   Administrative Contact:
      Practical Psychology Press (email removed for this demo)
      PO BOX 535
      PORTLAND, Oregon 97207-0535
      United States
      5032893295      Fax -- 

   Technical Contact:
      Practical Psychology Press (email removed for this demo)
      PO Box 535
      Portland, Oregon 97207
      United States
      5032893295      Fax -- 

   Domain servers in listed order:

8. Does the content make sense?

Once you feel that you are on a valid site, the content STILL may be a fabrication or contain plenty of unusable information. University sites often have free pages for their students, so the beginning of the web site address may be something respected, like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (, but students and professors can have their own pages posted such as  (no longer active, 2022), which may or may not contain useful information.

Verifying Content

So there you have it, eight simple steps to deciphering the validity of a web site. Once you feel like you’re at the site you expected, the decision of determining the validity of the content is up to you! A few simple steps, much like traditional research validation, are to:

  1. See if you can find at LEAST one independent web site, book, journal, report, etc., that has the same information, or reference to it. Sometimes relationships between media entities are not as clear as they should be. You need to be careful especially with large national magazines, broadcast/cable networks, and the like. Just a few companies own most of these media, and their bias really does come from the executives and their advertisers.It is best to corroborate information between primary sources, such as government documents, scientific journals and lab test results, first hand interviews, bibliographical searches, etc. Even these sources may be biased (see below).
  2. Check the date. Is the research current? Is the research “classic?” It is all relative. An older magazine, for instance, may have more detail about an event that occurred near its publication date than would a current magazine that briefly mentions the event. Find facts and data that best fit your assignment, whatever that may be.
  3. Beware of inherent bias. The same factual dietary information on a Beef Council web site may be presented quite differently than if it were on a Vegetarian Commission site. Be alert for what message the web site is trying to present and look for who they cite as references. Check message boards on a site to see what bias visitors to the site may have. Like-minded people tend to congregate together…. and protestors often are more verbal than the rest of the population.
  4. Note the author’s accreditation. Is the author a whacko in the outfield or a respected member of the research community? Look for a page or section “about the author” or some such that lists educational and professional training. Take time to verify references if you are unsure.
  5. Note the author’s intent. Is the author trying to sell something? Presenting a dissenting view of a popular subject? This is similar to the bias angle, but may be less obvious.
  6. For more information on evaluating web resources, visit:
    Lesley University’s “Find Sources for my Research” page or, Virtual Salt’s “Evaluating Internet Research Sources” (note heavy ads, but good content.)
by Kristin Pintarich, Editor-in-Chief, The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success

(updated October, 2022)

Bloom’s Taxonomy

— (Page 76). Many students don’t understand the difference between "C", "B" and "A" level work on their exams and papers. Here are some guidelines.

Many students don’t understand the difference between "C", "B" and "A" level work on their exams and papers. According to Benjamin Bloom, there are six levels of mental skills that demonstrate the kind of understanding a person has about a subject. Starting with the lowest level, knowledge, and building to the highest level, evaluation, students demonstrate depth of understanding of a topic or concept. Each level has key words that suggest the level of thinking. Levels one and two would probably receive a C, levels three and four a B. Five and six are A-level work as long as other requirements for the assignment or test are met.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (summary)

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

For an example of C-, B- and A-level work, please see The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success, 7th edition.

For a clear succinct description of all the levels you can go to the following web site:

and, with a lot of cross links:

The reference work for descriptions of Bloom’s Taxonomy come from:

Bloom, B.S. (Ed.), Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York: Longmans, Green (1956).

The following site contains a 21 page essay about critical thinking. (PDF file format – updated 2007)

Quia – Bloom’s Taxonomy, a site with flashcard, word search and a concentration type game, activities created by Carolyn Hopper

An online demonstrative quiz of Bloom’s Taxonomy, Choose "Bloom’s Taxonomy." Courtsey of, a demo for their quiz producing software that happens to cover Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Understanding Differences in Temperament

— (Page 96). Knowing your temperament and that of your instructors can go a long way towards having successful college outcomes.

How Myers-Briggs Classifications Affect Students

Free Online Myers-Briggs Tests

Just several of many available (Please note – these are not meant as a replacement for a professionally administered test and consultation.):

Isabel Myers and her mother, Katheryn Briggs, developed a test to measure four dimensions of temperament identified by Carl Jung. Myers-Briggs type tests are probably the most popular personality tests given these days because of many benefits gained from seeing how differences in temperament explain misunderstandings between people.

This means that differences in how you and an instructor think are more important than differences in what you think. Here is how the four temperaments influence your learning style:

Extroversion versus Introversion

Instructors and students vary widely in how friendly they want to be and how much emotional distance they need to have. A friendly, extroverted instructor enjoys after-class contact with students. He or she may ask groups of students to meet and talk after class. If you are naturally friendly, you will have a great year.

If you are a more introverted person, however, you may suffer from too much personal attention and closeness. You would much rather have a quiet, more distant instructor who respects your need to be left alone. You like taking courses on the internet better than courses where you have to be part of a learning team with other students.

On the other hand, if you are an extroverted person with a more introverted instructor, you may find it puzzling to have him or her pulling away from you after class. After all, what are instructors for if not to be available for students? Yet your desire to be friendly may cause the instructor to stare at you and make excuses to get away. After that, you may feel avoided.

When it come to studying, the introverted person needs a private, quiet place where everyone stays away. The extroverted person likes to study in the kitchen, in a student lounge, or with classmates. If you grew up in a large family you may study best in a noisy place with lots of people around. Experiment with locations to see what works best for you. Don’t hesitate to tell friends, relatives, and classmates with temperaments different than yours what you need.

Thinking versus Feeling

Descriptions of this dimension of temperament match up closely with left-brain/right-brain research findings. The left brain is where the speech center develops in most humans. The left brain is where you remember words, use logic, and think analytically. It gives you your ability to think rationally and unemotionally. The left brain thinks in a linear fashion. It is time oriented.

The right brain carries your memory for music. You think visually, emotionally, and irrationally in the right brain. It is the source of creativity and intuition. Right-brain thinking follows emotional logic. Using it, you think in patterns and jump from one spot in a pattern to another without apparent connection.

If you tend to be left-brained, you will be well matched to an instructor who gives you thorough, unemotional listings of facts, data, analytic explorations, hypotheses, logic, evidence, numbers, definition of terms, and rational conclusions.

If you tend to be left-brained and get an instructor who teaches in a right-brained way, you may find the course to be a bewildering experience. You may experience the instructor as weird, too emotional, disorganized, and a bit nutty.

If you tend to be right-brained with a left-brained teacher, the course will be painful for you. You’ll feel like a thirsty person handed a glass of water only to find it is filled with sand.

To resolve personality conflicts such as these, avoid indulging in the attitude “If only other people would change, my world would be a better place for me.”

When you have a mismatch, try to find someone (perhaps even the instructor) who will translate the material into a form you understand better. More important, however, make an effort to gain more use of your other brain.

The situation may not be easy at first, but it gives you a chance to add another dimension to yourself. And isn’t this why you’re in school?

You do not have to give up your more natural and preferred way of thinking, feeling, and talking. What you can do is add more to what you already have. We’ll get into more of this in the chapter on resiliency.

Sensation versus Intuition

Sensation oriented people are guided by experience. Intuitive people like fantasy, they are creative dreamers. According to David Keirsey and Marylin Bates, authors of Please Understand Me, differences on this dimension cause the widest gulf between people.

The sensation oriented student is practical, wanting facts and evidence. An intuitive instructor can fill the lecture hour with hypothetical explanations, theories, concepts, and a long list of views held by others.

A sensation oriented instructor gives practical instructions on what to do. An intuitive student wants to know what the underlying theories and concepts are, and asks “but what if?”

What to do about this sort of conflict? Stretch your understanding. Ask for what you need. Try to minimize the judging dimension of the next pair of traits.

Judging versus Perceiving

Judging people make up their minds quickly. They see people, viewpoints, and situations as good or bad, right or wrong.

The perceiving style is to observe without judgment. Such people can watch world events, movies, and hear opposing viewpoints without taking sides or having an opinion.

A judgmental style instructor believes there is a right way to think about the material, that contrary positions are wrong. This instructor may be openly critical of a theory that he or she doesn’t like.

A perceiving instructor presents different positions without indicating that any of them are right or wrong. “On the other hand,” is a favorite phrase. This instructor is frustrating for a judging style student who wants to know which way to think about something.

Note: If you want to take a Myers-Briggs type assessment of temperaments, check with the counseling office or careers center. Many colleges have a software program that lets you take the test and get a printout of your scores.

Learn to Appreciate Human Differences

We humans are all born with different temperaments and different ways of functioning in life. That is simply the way things work. When you experience conflicts with others at school, at work, or in your family, question your attitudes about other people. If you experience an irritating difference, use that as an opportunity to learn more about human nature. You might as well, because you won’t change other people by complaining and criticizing them!

The better you know yourself, the more skillfully you will manage your learning style and the easier it will be to succeed in college!

Help for Sustaining Concentration

— (Page 61). There are several reasons why adults have trouble concentrating for any length of time, and several tips to help.

Focusing attention and sustaining concentration is the most difficult challenge for adults in meetings and classes. There are several reasons why adults have trouble concentrating for any length of time. Some of those reasons are:

  • External distractions
  • Internal distractions
  • Feelings of boredom
  • Bad habits
  • Speech thought time differential

External distractions include such things as others talking or whispering or eating or shuffling papers, noises outside of the room from the hall or street, the clothing or mannerisms of the speaker, a soft voice, or, at home, the radio, television, or phone calls.

For most of these distractions you can lessen the effect. Don’t consider it rude to ask others to stop talking or carrying on. You are paying good money for the class and you have the right to attend without annoyance. If you can’t hear the speaker easily, see if you can move your seat so that you are closer to the person speaking. If you find you keep thinking about the speaker’s outfit, hair style or gestures, remind yourself why you are sitting there in the first place. At home, you need to plan your study area that is discussed in Chapter 6. You won’t be able to eliminate all external distractions, but you should be able to reduce those distractions to a minimum.

Internal distractions can be either physical or psychological. Physical distractions include feeling hungry, tired, having a headache or a sore back, while psychological distractions include being concerned about a personal problem, remembering that you need to stop at the store on your way home, or pay the rent, or just being worried about too much to do, too little time.

Some pre-planning and self-discipline are required to reduce internal distractions. Eating nutritious food (protein is good for alertness) and getting a reasonable amount of sleep (try a 10 minute nap before class) will help with the first two distractions. Often, pre-planning can reduce physical discomfort. Perhaps taking a cushion for a hard chair or changing from an office outfit to more relaxed clothing would make you more physically comfortable. Personal problems and time pressures can often be set aside for a time by jotting a note to yourself on a separate note pad you have for this purpose. Once you have formed a habit of writing notes and checking those notes after class, you can forget trying to remember whatever it is that has popped into your head.

Feelings of boredom come from you, not the class. Nothing in and of itself is boring. If you find yourself thinking that the class is boring, stop and ask yourself why? Are you focusing on the message in a way that makes you want to know more, or have you already decided you know everything the speaker is going to talk about? Curious students don’t close off from material they recognize. Rather, they listen carefully to see what more they can learn. Curious students stay engaged with the message.

Bad habits can be changed. Learning to be an active rather than a passive listener will go a long way in helping you to increase you ability to concentrate. The following are habits that active learners strive to perfect:

  • Plan to listen so that you can ask a really brilliant question about the lecture topic before class is over. You don’t have to ask it, but it may be so good you want to.
  • Listen with the intention of relating what the main points of the class were about. Plan to tell someone later about what you learned. You get a bonus here if you actually do it.
  • Listen as if you are the only student in the class. Going solo means that you will be responsible for all questions and answers and that you might be called on at any time….

    (This is guaranteed to keep you alert!)

Speech-thought time differential is the difference in our rate of speaking versus our rate of thinking. It is something that everyone does which is a huge time grabber. Often this time differential is used for day dreaming. Day dreaming is healthy and enjoyable at the right time and in the right place, but when it interferes with your ability to sustain concentration in class… well you know the problem.

Perhaps a little understanding of why we can so easily go off on a mini mental vacation will help you turn your day dreaming time into productive time. These mini vacations happen because the normal rate of speaking in a public setting (class) is 150 to 250 words per minute (wpm). Our brains, however, can process words at 400 to 800 wpm. This difference in speech speed and thought speed allows a huge amount of time for other brain activity such as day dreaming. We literally think between words. Good students work to control what happens during their extra time differential. Some of the ways to use the time are:

  • Use this time to be forming good questions in your mind.
  • Anticipate the speaker’s point. Predict the direction of the talk.
  • Mentally summarize what the speaker has been saying.
  • Identify key ideas and words.
  • Mentally organize key ideas.
  • Relate the message to your own experiences or to what you already know.
  • Evaluate the evidence presented.
  • Look for what is not said–is there a deeper meaning or message?
  • Review the information already given. Ask yourself: did I understand, could I tell this to someone else, did I get the main point?

With a little practice you will learn to refocus your attention quickly and sustain your ability to concentrate for a longer period of time. All of this adds up to listening effectively.

Guidelines for Taking Notes

— (Page 38). Taking good notes is essential for succeeding in your college courses. Here are some expanded explanations and tips to help you.

Taking good notes is essential for succeeding in your college courses. Here are some expanded explanations and tips to help you.

  1. During the lecture, take notes on the right-hand side of the paper. Leave a wide margin on the left.

  2. Write down complete phrases and statements, rather than single words.

  3. Star, highlight, or underline points the instructor emphasizes.

  4. As soon as possible after the lecture, complete unfinished sentences and fill in material you didn’t have time to write. The next time you study you will turn your outline into test questions. Each lecture will usually supply you with five to seven good exam questions. Write them in the left-hand margin.

  5. Leave the back of each page blank. Use it later for taking study notes and writing questions from other sources such as your textbook or assigned reading.

This procedure will help you organize lectures into questions and answers. Plan to come out of each lecture with several questions and answers. They are likely to be on the next test!

Outline Style:

Below, you will find a skeleton of an outline as well as a sample:

Title/Date: The major topic or subject.

  1. Major division or category within the topic.
    List important statements.

    1. history, facts, experiments, first researcher
    2. second researcher, other experiments.
      1. Supporting facts and details
  2. Second major division in the topic area.
    1. facts, new perspectives, research

Sample – Outline Form:

If your notes are neat and as close to outlined as possible, you’ll have a much better chance of turning them into a good set of questions. These notes were taken at an introductory psychology lecture. The topic was learning.

Intro Psych – November 17


  1. Behavior Modification – First researcher B.F. Skinner
    1. Main principles:
      1. Experimenter must wait for a behavior to occur.
      2. Behaviors reinforced tend to increase (Note: Term is reinforcement, not reward)
      3. Behaviors ignored tend to decrease
      4. Behaviors punished may be temporarily suppressed but may
        increase, punishment can be reinforcing!
    2. Tracking positives plan:
      1. Specify the desired observable behavior.
      2. Choose an effective reinforcer.
      3. Measure current level of desired behavior.
      4. Watch for slightest increase in the desired behavior.
      5. Give reinforcer as fast as possible.
  2. Classical Conditioning-First researcher Ivan Pavlov
    He noticed dogs salivating when a bell rang that signaled feeding time.

    1. Focus on automatic reflexes.

Summary Method:

Here is a sample of the above information in summary form:


B.F. Skinner, working with pigeons, was the 1st researcher to use Behavior Modification. He said that the experimenter must wait for a behavior to occur & then reinforce that behavior. Without reinforcement, behaviors tend to decrease, but punishment may increase the behavior since it is reinforcing. Mostly, the desired behavior needs to be reinforced as quickly as possible.

Ivan Pavlov was the 1st researcher to study Classical Conditioning. He noticed that the dogs in his lab would salivate when he rang a bell, even w/o the presence of food. CC focuses on automatic reflexes.

Mapping Method:

Finally, a brief sample of the above information in the visual, mapping form:

Mapping note taking sample picture

From notes such as these it is easy to develop practice questions that come close to what the instructor will ask.

Note: Using your own abbreviations for frequently repeated words can be helpful. Just make sure you can remember what they stand for! (A master abbreviation list may be helpful to create ).