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How to Become an Effective Listener in Class: Tips for Students

How to Become an Effective Listener

Have you ever been in a lecture hall, surrounded by other students furiously scribbling in their notepads and paying rapt attention to the lecturer standing in front of the class as he shares insight on the latest topic in your course outline, but you just can’t seem to grasp what the man is saying?

A lot of students have found themselves and may yet find themselves in this situation during their stay in college and even after they graduate. It may be due to certain learning disorders like Dyslexia. Etc. However, more often than not, it may just boil down to poor listening skills.

Studies have shown that students spend more than 20 percent of all school related hours just listening. Throwing in watching television, phone calls and total face to face conversations had, it has been revealed that students spend above 50 percent of their waking hours just listening!!! You may think with that much listening going on, I should be a pro at listening. Well, it doesn’t always work like that. Allow me to explain.

Hearing VS Listening

So you think you know what it means to listen? You might be wrong. In fact, many people have a twisted understanding of what it means to listen, and many have erroneously equated the ability to hear with listening. This is far from the truth. According to Gary Guwe, the ability to hear comes from one’s natural ability to detect sound. It is a physical ability that comes naturally for most of us. However, the ability to listen is really a skill. It’s is a learned ability that has to be inculcated and nurtured, for all of us.

From the above statement, we surmise that it doesn’t take too much effort for most of us to hear sound. On the other hand, listening effectively takes much more time and effort on the part of the listener. A simpler explanation is; Hearing is mostly an involuntary action whilst Listening is a more deliberate action and requires practice.

Karen Lobello said, it doesn’t matter how intelligent a student might be, he/she will only enjoy the benefits of education if adequate listening skills in the classroom have been developed. Lecturers more often than not will give direct instruction and then provide insight as necessary. Students who listen attentively to instructions and lectures — rather than simply hearing them – are already enjoying a marked advantage above their peers. Furthermore, efficient listening in the classroom saves time and results in improved academic and social skills.

Without any more dilly-dallying, let explore some ways you can become a more effective listener in class.

Eat right and get plenty of sleep

I always like to start here because many young people don’t understand just how important it is to eat right and get enough sleep and rest as a student. Due to youthful exuberance or insane schedules, we develop unhealthy eating habits and even worse sleeping habits. This doesn’t help your concentration one bit. Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough sleep boosts memory retention, concentration and overall general wellbeing. If you’re hungry and feeling depressed or tired, your mind is more likely to wander and listening in class becomes an uphill task. Always eat breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day for a reason. Focus on eating whole grains and fruits instead of something sugar based or excessively sweet that will result in a crash later in the day. At lunch, eat a robust meal (a bag of chips and candy bar will not suffice). If you’re struggling to pay attention and listen in class, make an effort to eat a full meal at lunch, or better still, pack your own lunch. Always remember to get plenty of sleep at the right times. Students have a tendency to stay up too late and may have to wake up very early for school. Make sure your bedtime is early enough to guarantee you get at least eight hours of sleep.

Be prepared and organized

Before it’s time to go to class, ensure that you’ve got everything that you need ready to go, so you won’t miss anything because you’re scrambling to meet up. For example, you might miss out on a considerable part of a lecture if you’re trying to finish your homework before class starts, because you did not get it done sooner. Keeping your stuff organized for class will considerably increase your level of focus in class and help you listen effectively. You will be more calm, confident and receptive because everything you need is in place. Have specific spots for specific items like notes, pens homework, etc. this will help you keep track of your stuff and also help you become more organized as a student and individual.

Avoid distractions

Everybody has a tendency to gravitate towards the familiar and safe. That explains why you tend to end up beside your friend in class. However, this might not be in your best interests if you want to become an effective listener. Distractions are one of the chief reasons why most people find it difficult to listen. Truth is, it’s more difficult to stay focused and pay attention in class when you are being distracted by your friends. It might seem like more natural to get through class by sitting next to your friends, but that’s exactly how you’ll get into trouble. Instead, sit elsewhere and make plans to hang out later. You can also sit in the front row; it’s harder to misbehave when you are right in front of the lecturer.

Be interactive

Learn to always look at your lecturer. Good listening starts with good watching. In the course of the lecture, your eyes should always be up front. Avoid looking out of windows or at your phone or even at your friends. Keep your eyes on your lecturer and what is being presented. When your teacher requests that you do something, endeavor to do it as quickly as possible. If you’re asked to get out your book and turn to a specific page, do it when you’re asked, without goofing around or hesitating. Anytime you’re struggling to follow what is being taught, or if you have a question, ask it. Contribute to the conversation as much as you can. If you have a question, chances are someone else does too. Attempt to answer when questions are asked, as well. You don’t have to answer every question though. Let other people contribute too and give them a chance to speak. You might learn a few things.

Listen intelligently

Listening intelligently doesn’t mean you should catch every single word spoken by your lecturer. It entails listening in such a way that you understand the essence of what is being communicated. To listen intelligently, focusing on understanding the broad concepts of the topic, listening for keywords and concepts, and paying extra attention to what’s written on the board is key. Lots of communication is non-verbal; so your teacher’s body language is worth watching too. Also, it’s important to keep an open mind regardless of what’s been taught. It becomes very difficult to learn anything about any subject if you do not have an open mind towards it.

Write, Write, Write

Learn to write down important parts of the lecture. Have different notebooks for different classes, and make sure your writing materials are in top shape. Note taking is a good way of engaging with and paying attention in class. Take notes when you are asked to and when you are not. Also, write down everything on the board. Write down new words, definitions and other important information pertaining to the topic being taught.

It’s also important that you write things down the way you understand it; in your own words. When you write something that way, it’ll help you to remember what you’ve learned. Sometimes, your notes can get over-crowded and untidy. Re-copying your notes quickly afterward in a more organized manner will help you remember the lecture more vividly. Re-copying notes is similar to relearning what was taught and is a good way to listen and learn effectively. Taking notes also helps ensure your mind stays on topic and doesn’t wander.

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Moses Asuquo is a Journalist and a media consultant with over 8 years of experience. Trained at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) he has since being actively different stories. You can reach him out on