A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

Listening to Lectures

To Listen Better

  • Be rested and physically alert when you come to class – make sure you have eaten
  • Have a positive mindset – “I will learn why…”  “I just need to access his ideas.”
  • Become engrossed by the ideas
  • Listen for the lecturer’s ideas
  • Fine something interesting in the lecture to fasten your attention on.  (Reading before class helps to set your mind up to receive this information.)
  • Think about the ideas before the lecture (Do this by reading, highlighting, jotting down notes – whatever is appropriate.)
  • Take notes during the lecture (either sketchy notes, if you have a good memory, or more detailed notes if you have a poor memory.)
  • If prof moves fast, jot down main ideas and fill in details after class before you forget.
  • Pay attention to his/her cues about what is important:  VOCAL INTONATION;  ORGANIZATION PATTERN of LECTURE (this helps you know what is coming next)
  • If an opinion is involved, listen for the lecturer’s viewpoint and write it down (don’t let your mind get turned off by something you disagree with – you can argue it later when you fully grasp their position)
  • Remember you think faster than your prof. can speak – use the extra space for (try these ideas):  taking notes, anticipate what he/she will say next; make mental summaries, turn the idea over in your mind, listen for what their words imply/what points are they getting at.
  • Sit in class where you can listen best; this may be in front of the room where the activities of other students won’t distract your attention

If You Are Losing Attention

  • Use the spider technique during lectures to train yourself to attend longer
  • Try to visualize what the professor is saying
  • Use visual cues to pull you back (Ken’s idea)
  • Write main words down, at least
  • Follow points better by making relevant doodles on your notes
  • Sit so you look like you are paying attention – your facial expression should look like you are attending (this helps you actually pay attention)
  • Consider whether you are getting up early enough for your mind to be alert
  • Practice paying attention when people talk to you
  • Tape record and make your notes later; this is a last resort for use if you can’t take notes, the professor talks too fast to comprehend well, or you have severe attention deficit disorder.

Susan M. Hice, Ph.D. copyright 2006