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Sylvia Stanley

Listening and Note-taking Strategies

by Sylvia E. Stanley

Going back to college brings a feeling of excitement to many adults as they re-enter the academic world. Enrolling in courses that are going to help you further or begin your career is a great adventure. As you begin to purchase your textbooks, a slight tingle of nervousness starts to set in. As an older student, listening to lectures and reading course material may cause you to wonder how you will retain this knowledge. Being the student in a lecture style course means fine tuning your listening and note-taking skills. Navigating your way through a lecture may seem daunting, but there are strategies you can use to ensure you obtain and assimilate what you learn. Good note-taking has been found to be an effective strategy to understand course material that is new to you. Everyone has a unique note-taking style and it is important to have a system in place to take and review notes.

Listening Strategies

Lectures are meant to prepare and inform as you advance through your coursework. Taking the time to listen to your professors is important as you grasp new ideas and concepts. Make sure to be physically and mentally alert at each lecture. Be on time, and pay close attention to how the information is structured. Each professor has a different teaching style, and will have a specific way of imparting information. Look for and notice any verbal, visual, or postural cues as to what information they consider important. Professors will often tell students through a variety of methods what needs to be written down. As you listen, put down this information in your own words. Be sure to ask questions about any material you may not understand or need clarification on. This is a critical component in active listening and learning.

Listening strategies do not end once a class is finished. If you still have questions about a topic that was raised during the lecture, be sure to ask your professor. Asking questions as soon as possible after a lecture is the best way to deal with any item requiring clarification. Classmate discussions and comparing notes will also improve skills.

Note-taking Strategies

One of the reasons students should take good notes is because it increases comprehension and retention. In order to take notes effectively, listen carefully and critically to what is presented. You are more likely to remember information that you write down, in your own words, than reading from a hand-out or textbook. It also helps you to stay focused, as well as more involved in class discussions or any questions that may be asked.

Many methods of note-taking are available, and it is important to implement a system that works best for you. Developing your own system is important to your success.


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