Listening is an important life skill, not just in terms of becoming a better learner, but also in terms of making you a more effective employee, friend and all round person. Listening is not the same as hearing; you can hear something without actually listening to it – that is, without actually engaging with what you have heard.
Here’s an easy way to distinguish between listening and hearing: hearing is biological; it happens whether you are consciously telling yourself to do it or not. Listening, on the other hand, is mental – the process of receiving, attending to and assigning meaning to what you are hearing and seeing.
Not surprisingly, the ability to listen well is key to success in all areas of our lives. When it comes to learning, making sure that you are listening, as opposed to just hearing to what is presented in class, will help you to consider and understand the material better, which in turn could save you valuable time that otherwise might have been spent revisiting what you’ve heard or read over and over again.
Here are 7 tips on how you can listen better in class. In adopting these tips, it is likely that you will increase your engagement and interest in the content taught; improve your ability to apply what you have learnt; and improve your capacity to digest new information.
- Keep an open mind and be ready to consider different perspectives of an idea or issue, even if you don’t agree with what is being said.
- Actively seek to determine the central concept or idea of the material delivered in class. This greatly helps with your understanding of the topic at hand, and prevents you from going off on a tangent.
- Focus, focus, focus! Identify the things that distract you easily while you are listening in class (mobile phones, anyone?) and curb/avoid them.
- Try to connect with the material / presentation/s delivered in class on a personal level. If you are interested in the contents of what is being delivered in class, you are more likely to engage with it and retain the information. Don’t dismiss something without first giving it a chance.
- Find a way to respond to the material presented in class that helps you to retain the new information. You could summarise what you’ve learned, jotting down notes on your thoughts and perspectives, or even share your opinions with your teacher/tutor, fellow learners, friends or colleagues.
- Be curious – ask questions! One of the best ways to ensure that you understand the content delivered in class is to ask questions to clarify your understanding.
- Don’t forget to listen to yourself – not only will it help you to organise your thoughts and give you a chance to filter your prejudices and remove distractions, it will also make you a better listener because when your thoughts are in order, you’ll be more effective at listening to the thoughts of other people.
If you would like to undertake further training or learning near where you live, the Learn Local network can help. Learn Local organisations offer adult learning courses in local communities across Victoria.