Effective Listening Strategies
Physically showing up to class is important (especially if attendance is taken), but what you do once you’re there is equally important. Getting the most out of class time involves listening effectively, which means more than simply hearing what your instructors say. Effective listening involves engaging with the speaker and the material you hear in an active way. To maximize the benefit you get from attending class, try to use the following active listening skills:
- focus your full attention on the speaker
- ask questions, either out loud or internally, in response to what is being said
- paraphrase ideas in notes
- listen nonjudgmentally
- show empathy for the speaker
Restating what you hear is a powerful strategy for being an active listener, but it’s obviously impractical in a roomful of other students. That’s why taking notes is so important. Think of it as a “silent” way to restate what you’re taking in. Focus on capturing the key ideas and on paraphrasing what you hear (rather than writing things down verbatim). Putting ideas into your own words will deepen your understanding and strengthen your ability to recall the information later.
Preparing ahead of time will also make listening more useful and engaging. Do any assigned reading before coming to class, using effective reading strategies discussed elsewhere in this course.
The Power of Listening
Listening is a skill that can (and should) be developed. This video addresses the importance of listening.
Effective Participation Strategies
Like listening, participating in class will help you get more out of class. It may also help you stand out as a student. Instructors notice the students who participate in class (and those who don’t), and participation is often a component of the final grade. “Participation” may include contributing to discussions, class activities, or projects. It means being actively involved. The following are some strategies for effective participation:
- Be a team player: Although most students have classmates they prefer to work with, they should be willing to collaborate in different types of groups. Teamwork demonstrates that a student can adapt to and learn in different situations.
- Share meaningful questions and comments: Some students speak up in class repeatedly if they know that participation is part of their grade. Although there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, it’s a good practice to focus on quality vs. quantity. For instance, a quieter student who raises her hand only twice during a discussion but provides thoughtful comments might be more noticeable to an instructor than a student who chimes in with everything that’s said.
- Be prepared: As with listening, effective participation relies on coming to class prepared. Students should complete all reading assignments beforehand and also review any notes from the previous meeting. This way they can come to class ready to discuss and engage. Be sure to write down any questions or comments you have—this is an especially good strategy for quieter students or those who need practice thinking on their fee.
The resource Class Participation: More Than Just Raising Your Hand can help you evaluate what you need to work on in order to participate in class more effectively.