Listening to lectures and taking notes
One of the main ways in which information is communicated at university is through lectures. Lectures highlight and reinforce essential knowledge in particular disciplines, guide your reading and research and stimulate your interest in the subject.
Through active listening and sensible note-taking, you will be able to:
- capture the main points of the lecture in note form
- discriminate between more important and less important information
- pose questions for further investigation/clarification.
Preparing for the lecture
Making yourself familiar with the topic before attending the lecture is a very useful way of ensuring that you get the most out of the lecture. If the lecturer has provided you with notes or suggested specific readings either hard copy or online, it is useful to read these before the lecture so that you are familiar with the topic that will be covered.
During the lecture
If you are attending a lecture as an internal student, sit in the first few rows of the lecture room as you will find it easier to focus on the lecture from this position.
Make sure you have a note pad, laptop or other electronic devices and take down notes throughout the lecture (see Taking notes in lectures).
Listen carefully in the first 5 minutes of the lecture as the lecturer will often outline the purpose of the lecture and map what they intend to cover in the lecture. This orients you to the topic and gives you a broad overview of the material that will be covered in the lecture.
If you feel that your attention is wandering, become more actively involved by thinking about a question that might need to be addressed or focus on what you have learned by summing up what has already been covered.
If the lecturer invites questions at the end of the lecture, consider what else you might need to know to have a more thorough understanding of the topic. If the lecturer has presented an argument, think about alternative points of view and whether the lecturer has presented sufficient credible evidence to convince or persuade you. You might like to undertake further reading to explore the topic more fully. Keep in mind that taking notes does not mean copying every word of every PowerPoint.
Listening in tutorials
One of the main reasons for holding tutorials is to assist students to gain a better understanding of the topic by participating in discussions in small groups. Students find it stimulating to debate issues, ask pertinent questions, compare what has been said with something they have read, disagree with a point of view and suggest alternative ways of thinking about the issue.
It is important that all students are given the courtesy of being listened to when they are speaking and that all students are aware that each person in the group is entitled to speak and make their contribution to the discussion.
It is often the case that some students will dominate the discussion and this is discourteous to other members of the tutorial.
When participating in tutorials, remember that it is possible to learn a great deal from others by listening to them.