Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Reading, Writing and Note Takig ==

Written by: on January 9, 2024


Fortunately, I was raised in a family that encouraged reading at a young age.  I can still recall some of my favorite childhood books that I would return to over and over again such as More Spaghetti, I Say and The Biggest Sandwich Ever, both written by Rita G. Gelman and Mort Gerberg.  Upon entering primary and secondary school, I learned to take notes in class and from textbooks.  This process continued through college, both undergrad and master’s programs.  The difference, however, was that I purchased the books and had the freedom to highlight and underline, a process I continue today.  I am not a fast reader; in college I averaged about 20 pages/hour for a textbook.  I also have the desire to read every page in a book; failure to do so will cause me to miss something vitally important is the belief that I have.  Historically, I have enjoyed writing essays over taking tests.  In studying for a test, I tend to not feel completely ready. Can I access all the material that I crammed into my brain over the course of several days or weeks?  In writing an essay, I know that I am not the best writer, but feel that I can adequately cover the topic to a point in which it feels complete.

Starting the doctoral program, I realize that I have to shift my ways of doing things.  Last semester, I had to begin to improve my writing to be more succinct.  Last semester, I began reading an older copy of Adler and Van Doren’s[1] book How to Read a Book.  It was a bit overwhelming, reading it with the same belief that I have to read every page so that I don’t miss anything.  It was comforting to read that some books don’t deserve anything more than an inspectional reading, that we do not have to do an analytical reading of every book we pick up.  This will be a process to retrain how I approach books, but one I am excited to start.  In regard to analytical readings I did enjoy the authors’ chapters on Criticizing a Book Fairly and Agreeing or Disagreeing With an Author.[2] I incorporated these rules into a freshman orientation class that I taught as the class prepared to research and write a paper on an opposing viewpoint.  I hope to incorporate these rules into my own processing of books and articles as I explore my NPO.

I am also excited to start using Obsidian for note taking.  I like the premise of Ahren’s[3] smart note taking ideas.  I have several sticky notes on my computer, the program not physical notes, or files that contain ideas that I have for different classes I teach.  However, I find that I seldom refer back to them.  They get buried and forgotten.  I think this system will work well for me as I try to get more organized and deal with an aging brain.  I believe it will be interesting to see the connections that can be made between our leadership readings and our NPO research.

[1] Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1972).

[2] Adler and Van Doren, 137-167.

[3] Sonke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes 2nd Ed (Hamburg, Germany: Sonke Ahrens, 2017).

About the Author

Jeff Styer

Jeff Styer lives in Northeast Ohio's Amish Country. He has degrees in Social Work and Psychology and currently works as a professor of social work at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Jeff is married to his wife, Veronica, 25+ years. Together they have 4 beautiful children (to be honest, Jeff has 4 kids, Veronica says she is raising 5). Jeff loves the outdoors, including biking, hiking, camping, birding, and recently picked up disc golf.

12 responses to “Reading, Writing and Note Takig ==”

  1. Diane Tuttle says:

    Jeff, your commented about note taking on stickies then misplacing them feels familiar. Let me know what you think of Obsidian. I think I am heading that way.
    I like about your plan for looking at ways to include what you are learning to what you can share with your students.

  2. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Thanks Jeff! I too am being challenged with the way I read books and I think there’s definitely freedom in not having to read all books the same way. How will you incorporate this into your research? How will you know which books deserves more attention than others?

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Ryan, Great questions. Right now my NPO is dealing with pornography usage among college students, so a lot of my reading material is going to come from research articles. Often, I can get by with reading the introduction, results and conclusion of those articles and obtain what I need. However, when it comes to books, I will probably start by doing an inspectional reading focusing on the introduction, table of contents and look for reviews to decide which ones deserve more attention. With 20-30 resources for each component of our paper, we don’t have a lot of time to sit and read each page. Managing time will force me to not read every word.

      • mm Ryan Thorson says:

        Thanks for the important work you’re doing in this area, Jeff! And yes, agree, the fixed limit of time will help train us both in reading at a faster rate.

  3. Graham English says:

    Jeff, you said that you have to shift your ways of doing things. This is completely relatable. I think many of us feel the same way.
    I love that you have already incorporated the material from Adler into one of the courses you are teaching. How was this received at an undergrad level?

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Graham, I think the students received it well. Interestingly, in the students course reading packet was another piece by Adler on marking up a book to really own the book. I’ve been told that reading is probably being removed with the next course revision. Maybe is should suggest replacing it with Ahren’s How to Take Smart Notes.

  4. mm Glyn Barrett says:

    Hi Jeff. Thanks for your openness. It is encouraging to know that many of the students in our cohort are in the same boat. Clearly, we all (myself included) have a steep learning curve ahead of us. However, the books by Ahrens, Adler, and Paul and Elder books have been brilliant choices of books, showing us that it is possible. I’ve been travelling extensively in recent weeks, but the plane affords the time to read, reflect and take notes.
    Are you needing to make any lifestyle changes in order to facilitate the continued extensive reading and writing that we need to do?

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Glyn, great question and one I will need a few weeks to answer. I fortunately have the ability to work from home two days each week. One of those days I hope to devote to DLGP assignments. I will then have Saturday to do work as well. My older brother is a medical doctor and while going through medical school he would sometimes study for 16 hours on a Saturday, but always left Sunday to spend time with God, family and friends. This is a practice I’ve tried to keep in my family; encouraging my kids to not do school work on Sundays. I will hopefully be able to continue that practice throughout the program.

  5. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Jeff, thank you for your post.
    I believe it is highly advantageous to introduce reading at a young age. Similarly, to your experience, my family also encouraged my sister and me to read, emphasizing the importance of jotting down our thoughts to retain the information. I feel I remember better when I write down what I have read. I agree with your perspective that it’s reassuring that some books only require superficial, inspectional reading. However, the question lingers; what if I missed something. 🙂 This will be a huge shift for me.

    I am eager to hear about your experience in using Obsidian. I like it in the sense that all my notes for week one is in one place. No sticky notes.

  6. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Jeff, great post!

    You mentioned you feel like you have to read every page of a book so that you won’t miss anything. This seems to be a common belief amongst students in our cohort. Have you considered any other reasons why it’s difficult not to read every page?

    It seems that most of us are breaking the habit of reading every page (at least this week), but I wonder if we’ll be tempted to fall back into old patterns when this content is less fresh on our minds.

    Are we really afraid of missing something, or could there be other psychological reasons why we read every page? Personally, I get a dopamine kick when I finish the last page of a book. I’ll have to be willing to sacrifice that chemical reward when I do inspectional readings.

    I would love your thoughts on any other reasons we have these patterns as I think understanding the underlying reasons can set us up for success even after this initial attempt.

  7. Nancy Blackman says:

    Jeff, I just downloaded Obsidian last night and would love to hear your thoughts.

    I’m going to be trying a new process of pausing for 10 minutes after reading and taking notes to help me (hopefully) retain better.

    And …I will be buying “More Spaghetti, I Say” just because … you read it over and over again! 😁

  8. Akwése Nkemontoh says:

    Jeff I really resonated with what you shared about desiring to read every page in a book smh…It sounds like a handful of us will be trying out Obsidian tho! Def let me know how it goes for you. I’m thinking we may need to create a support group and all learn together.

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