Active listening - to help students to learn effectively

Active listening skill is a key element in effective learning. When we listen, we remember 20-50% of what we hear. As as a student if you could make the best use of this great faculty that

active listening(64432)Credit: you have, your job is half done as you leave school or college everyday. You could improve your listening skills to a large extent and make good use of your lectures at school/college to better your grades and save yourself considerable effort and time. Developing  your active listening skills would help you become a top-notch student as it changes your attitude and the way your respond to people. It is not enough to study hard, but it is also important to make every minute that you spend in a class room, your college life and academic journey a pleasant experience. One of the benefits of active listening that I have experienced and personally cherished is that your teachers’  attitude towards you becomes totally positive and very motivating that you can do nothing, but get better and better all the time.

What is Active listening?

Active listening is making a conscious effort to focus and pay close attention to what is said. It involves hearing, comprehension, interpretation and evaluation of  the message that is delivered. It is an effort to  keep an open mind to what is being taught or said while responding appropriately through verbal and nonverbal methods. It is about getting actively involved in the class or lesson and getting the best out of the speaker. Most people seem to be listening while they are busy thinking about something else or being distracted or even busy getting their responses ready.

Tips to improve your active listening skills.

The most important key to improve your listening skills is to get rid of your prejudices and negative perceptions. Especially the ones like - I don’t like/ I listening(64431)can’t understand - this teacher or lecture or subject. This person/subject is boring etc. Such thoughts are bound to kill your attention, decimate of comprehension and whatever little motivation you have. You have already sent a message to your brain saying ‘dont try.. it is not worth it’ with your preconceived notion.  You need to remember that to learn, you need to have an open mind. Openness to all ideas and readiness to receive what is imparted is the first key to improving your listening skills.

Avoid distractions. Finding a place free from distraction and disturbance of any kind is important, as it provides the right atmosphere for active listening. Ensure that you are away from people who are talkative and fidgety while lectures are on. These distractions can hinder effective learning .

Focus on the speaker. Active listening is focusing on the speaker and listening not only to what he/she is saying, but also to the clues and the nonverbal messages that come from the person. You need to listen with your senses. This will indicate what is important and what is not and cues you in to those facts that are absolutely vital to the chapter or topic that he or she is teaching. Paying attention to  the teacher's voice or mannerisms or style should not be your focus, it is the message that is of concern to you.

Take notes. Taking notes keeps your concentration steady and provides you with visual material for later use. It helps keep your attention and thoughts from wandering off during the lecture. While taking notes you process information and write key points and phrases that are important. You also utilize the time effectively as the speed of thought is faster than the speed of speech. You could jot down doubts and questions as they arise so that, you could ask them later at the time scheduled for questions or clarification.

Examine your motives. Watch what you are paying attention to. Though we listen we are often listening to enjoy or be entertained, to find fault or flaws or maybe we even pretend to listen. If you are listening for entertainment value you will remember all the details that have little or no value to the lesson at hand. If you are framing arguments or questions in your mind while the lecture is on, you have an agenda to fulfill. Active listening determines the quantity and quality of your memory retention. If you are listening to find fault or criticise, then your mind is alert to that and not on the actual content of the lecture. It is very important to check your motives because at the end of the day it is your responsibility to study and do well and it has  nothing to do with your teacher’s ability. Actively listen to obtain information, listen to gain knowledge, listen to gain understanding and experience that comes from the learning of others.

Stop activities that distract. If you have the habit of day dreaming texting, shaking your legs or doodling or any activity that may take your attention away from the speech - stop it. They not only distract you but others as well.

Prepare for a lecture or class in advance. When you read up a chapter or prepare in advance you are familiar with the concept to a certain extent, you can ask pertinent questions and contribute by adding information which will enrich the class or lecture and keep you highly motivated. If this is done subtly it will keep the teacher /lecturer motivated and eager to share more information. This has to be done judiciously as some speakers cannot tolerate distraction or take questions in the middle of a speech or lecture. When you prepare in advance  also know which are the areas where you need more clarity or information and you tend to absorb information more easily in those areas.

Be involved. Nonverbal communication like maintaining eye contact, smiling nodding, leaning forward etc. keeps you listening actively and highly motivated while the speaker/lecturer is energised by your body language. This also helps build a  great rapport between you and your teacher. Your body language send messages to your brain that your are interested and that your brain needs to be at its alert best.

Summarize  it is always best to recapitulate at the end of a session, this help you to organize things in your mind and retain them in your memory. It would be a great idea to sum up your understanding while you ask a question, it helps double-check your understanding of the concept and helps the teacher explain and focus on areas where there is a gap in your understanding.

Active listening could be made more effective by using the gaps or spaces between points to recapitulate the main point previously discussed in your mind so there is no scope for distraction. If you can make the best use of the time you spend listening by reading up the notes and making additional notes in the margins, highlighting key points and writing a little summary to help your brain to retain the information more effectively. With active listening you can make the best of your school/college hours and be at the top of the class.