Doing well in college often comes down to how well students listen during class. Many students find listening to lecturers quite difficult, sometimes blaming the topic or subject matter for being too boring. While this can be true depending on personal preferences for subject matter etc., effective listening skills can still be learned and developed with practice.
When it comes to doing well in college and getting the results you desire, effective listening is a must. Studying effectively can be greatly enhanced by how you utilise your time and by actively listening while in your classes. Oftentimes students find it difficult to listen to their lecturer attentively and realise they are actually only half listening during classes. This means that you are not fully taking in the information and therefore greater effort will be required when it comes to revising that subject later.
Sometimes as we are listening, we become distracted by other thoughts, or things going on, and end up letting those thoughts consume our mind. In other circumstances, we spend more time focusing on what our response is going to be rather than listening fully to what another person is saying to us.
Learning to listen effectively will not only benefit you during your studies but also when you enter the working world.
It is a skill that both leaders and managers must develop in order to be successful. Not to mention how it will benefit your relationships with other people. In this guide we will uncover effective listening skills for students.
What is Effective or Active Listening?
First, we need to understand what effective listening is.
“Effective listening skills are the ability to actively understand the information provided by the speaker, and display interest in the topic discussed. It can include providing the speaker with feedback, such as the asking of pertinent questions; so the speaker knows the message is being understood.” Money-Zine
It essentially means focusing on what is being said by your lecturer with the objective of understanding it, and processing it. Being able to take in the information and forming your own thoughts about the topic. It involves observing the body language of the person speaking and not only focusing on what they say but also, what they don’t say.
The process of listening is active while hearing is more passive.
Listening involves three basic steps.
Hearing essentially means listening enough so you are focussed on what the person is saying.
The next part of the listening process is developing an understanding of what is being said. This is where you take what you have heard and developed an understanding of it in your own words or way.
This part of the process involves deciding whether what the lecturer or person speaking said makes sense to you. This happens after you have heard and developed an understanding of what was said.
Throughout your day you are likely to become engaged in many situations that require you to listen. This may be when you’re at lunch with your friends, learning new material or getting instructions for a task.
Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills in Class
1) Don’t speak
When your lecturer is speaking, don’t talk. Instead, focus on listening to what he/she is saying. It is important that you give them your undivided attention as they speak. However, this does not mean that you cannot speak at all but rather leave any questions till he/she is finished speaking. The most important thing to do while there is a discussion going on is to actively listen and then ask questions.
2) Ask for clarification
Try not to interrupt as they are speaking, instead, wait till they are finished and then ask them any questions you need him/her to clarify. This will help ensure that you have received the message accurately but it will also help the lecturer know if the way he/she is explaining the topic is being understood by the students. So don’t be afraid to ask questions as this will further enhance your understanding of the topic.
3) Eye contact
As your lecturer, speaks, keep your eyes on him/her as much as possible. Focusing your eyes on your lecturer will help you become a better listener and much more attentive during your classes. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact. This will help you pay attention and help prevent you getting distracted. You may also find this easier if you sit near the front of the class.
Relax and be comfortable while in class. Finding a position that you are most comfortable in and that helps you focus clearly will greatly benefit you as you try to listen effectively. Establish the position that works best for you. This may be when you’re sitting back in your chair or sitting upright for example.
Also, try to clear your mind and put all other things out of head while you are in that class. Unfortunately, our mind tends to be easily distracted by other thoughts, but really trying to focus on what is being said and the message that the lecturer is trying to communicate can help prevent you from becoming distracted.
5) Repeat what is being said
When you are listening to the lecturer, repeat what he/she has just said in your head. This is a great way to reinforce the message and help you remember it.
6) Look for non-verbal signals
Actively listening also involves looking out for non-verbal signals by observing their body language. These messages come from the lecturer’s facial expressions, body positioning, arm gestures, eye movements and tone of voice. This is important because when you are listening, your eyes watch and pick up additional information.
7) Remove all distractions
When you are in class or watching an online lecture remove all potential distractions. When you are in class keep your phone on silent in your bag or pocket so you are not tempted to start texting your friends or look on Facebook. Likewise, when you are watching a video tutorial refrain from using social media. You can use apps that will limit your access to social sites like Facebook, twitter etc. for a set period of time. These can prove very useful when you are trying to focus on what you are learning.
8) Prepare for your class
Before your class starts have a think about what today’s lecture is going to be about, what topics and points are likely to be discussed. It is also a good idea to read over your notes from your previous class.
Preparing before your class will also benefit you where your lecturer tends to speak really fast. Having a good understanding of the subject and what is likely to be discussed during the class will help you stay on top as he/she speaks.
If you do happen to miss a point ask your friends for their notes or to explain any concepts that you didn’t happen to pick up. You can also approach the lecturer at the end of class or even send them an email to clarify any questions you may have.
9) Understand what’s being said
Active listening involves listening to what is being said rather than what you want to hear, and thinking about the topic that is being discussed and between the lines. Try relate what is being said to what you already know.
10) Main points
When the lecturer is speaking listen out for the main points or ideas that he/she is discussing. Usually, lecturers will begin the class by telling you what are the main things that he/she will focus on. In most cases they will also highlight the important points with phrases like “the thing to remember is..” or “what we will be focusing on is…”. Some lecturers also tend to repeat what they think is the most important point so listen carefully for these and what they tend to focus on or spend the most time on during the class.