Become a Better Listener in the Classroom
What are the most common obstacles to classroom listening?
Let us face the facts here: In order to be a good student, you have to become a good listener. There is no way around it. You cannot take notes unless you are really listening to what is being said. The difference between merely hearing what your instructor is saying and actually listening to them is engagement. Once you become engaged with what the speaker is saying, you will be able to latch on to the important points and thus make good notes – and greatly improve your overall performance in the course.
Everyone is guilty of poor listening to a certain extent. The key is to identify what obstacles to quality listening you have, and then writing down in great detail how such an obstacle might be best overcome. Let us look at some examples.
You might find that you are more of a “talker” than a “listener.” But a good student is able to maintain an equal balance between the two. After all, someone who talks all the time is not really listening.
Another obstacle that a lot of listeners have to overcome is thinking of what they are going to say, rather than listening to what the current speaker is saying. We all want to be clever and impress those around us, particularly in a classroom setting. This is especially true for those classes in which you are expected to contribute something (i.e. seminars.) But do not focus all your energies on thinking of what to say. If you are really listening to the dialogue that is taking place, then your contribution should come naturally. If you “block out” what others are saying because you are too busy trying to come up with something, then when you do begin to speak it might bear little relation to what is currently being discussed.
What are “Internal Distractions”?
Internal and external distractions can be major barriers to effective listening. By “internal distractions,” we mean things that are going on in your head that do not necessarily have to do with what is happening in the classroom. You might find yourself mentally arguing with your instructor while they are speaking, thus impeding your chances of listening to them in an effective manner.
Another common internal distraction is simply thinking of other things while the instructor is addressing the class. This might be out of a lack of interest in what the speaker is saying at the moment, or a more general feeling of boredom.
How can I improve my classroom listening skills?
The best way to improve your listening skills in the classroom is to first off be prepared. If you have not done the assigned reading or are otherwise insufficiently prepared for the class, then you cannot be expected to perform at your best.
If you find that you are having trouble focusing when the instructor speaks, then try to sit as close to them as possible. When you are seated in the front row, this makes it incredibly difficult for your mind to wander. When the instructor is speaking, look directly at them. The only other place you should allow your eyes to wander is down to your notebook when you feel compelled to make notes. But that does not mean you should use your notebook as an excuse to “doodle” while the instructor is speaking!
You should also show up on time to class – or even early. The sooner you show up, the more settled you will feel when class begins, and the less distractions you will be able to find in the room, since you will already be familiar with your surroundings. Your surroundings will thus bore you, and the only “interesting” thing will be what you are waiting for – the class to begin.
Are you an Active Listener?
It is not enough to sit there and merely “hear” what the instructor is saying. You have to actively engage with them. Even when it is a lecture, there are ways of doing this. One of them is by constantly making notes, picking up on interesting points that the instructor brings up.
If you have the opportunity, ask questions as often as possible, particularly on any points that were not clear to you. This will demonstrate to the instructor that you are engaged with the subject of the class. After all, giving off the impression that you are listening is just as important as listening itself. So be sure to monitor your body language. What are your eyes doing when the instructor is speaking? If you find your gaze directed out the window or at another student or off in the distance, then the instructor will recognize that you are not listening and might even call you out – this can be quite an embarrassing experience, and definitely one that you wish to avoid at all costs.