One of the most important skills for a college student is to become an effective listener. An effective listener is an active listener. Though a significant amount of knowledge is learned by reading, much knowledge is learned through listening to the content of class lectures. The more effectively students can learn to listen in class and take notes, the more they will learn and remember the information.
Effective and active listening is not easy. Students must learn the skills to focus on what is being presented and discussed in class. In addition, students must come to class prepared, having read the relevant chapter or chapters in their textbook. This will help to increase their effectiveness as a listener.
- Have a desire to listen. Accept the responsibility for successful two-way communication between you and your professors. Create an interest in the topic. Convince yourself that paying attention in class is in your own self-interest.
- Focus your attention. Concentrate on listening and on what is being said. Discipline yourself to listen. Don't let your mind wander. Arrive in class refreshed, not rushed, comfortable, and not hungry. Make focused listening a habit by practicing it frequently with friends, in your classes, and at meetings.
- Avoid distractions. If nearby students distract you, move your seat. Don't doodle, turn pages, shuffle paper, or daydream.
- Sit close to the front of the room. Sit at a desk where you can see and hear well. If need be, change your seat. Maintain eye contact with the instructor. Listening improves when you are sitting at the front of a classroom. If you must sit toward the back of the classroom, lean forward to maintain your interest and attention.
- Be familiar with the topic of the lecture. Read the relevant chapters in the textbook before attending class. Check the syllabus. Read your notes from the last class to establish continuity from one lecture to the next. The more knowledge about the subject that you have at the beginning of a class, the more you will get out of it.
- Anchor the information. When a new topic is introduced spend a few minutes thinking of any information you may already know about the topic. This bridging of new material to old material that is already well established in your memory is an excellent tool to utilize in the learning process. The more associations you can make between new information and information already stored in your mind the better your chance for understanding and recall.
- Listen for main ideas. Identify the professor's main point or points. Work to get a sense of how the instructor is organizing the information. This will help you understand how the parts of the lecture fit together.
- Ask questions. Ask for an explanation to be repeated. Ask for clarification on unclear information. Ask your professor to speak slower. Jot down questions during your lecture. Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question.
- Listen critically. Try to evaluate what you are hearing.
- Find an area of interest. Try to maintain a level of interest in the topic of the lecture. Have an interest and a desire to listen. Interest serves as a strong source of motivation.
- Notetaking is the best way to listen. It follows naturally from good listening habits. Studies show that people who tried to listen effectively remember approximately 45% of what was said one hour later, 35% after 9 hours, 28% after 2 days, and 20% after one month. Notetaking is a record of a lecture that can be reviewed time and again as necessary.