How much do you learn by simply listening? How well do you listen? You can gain a wealth of knowledge through listening. Learning to listen can be a prime source of information and can help you in your school work. Listening is a skill which must be developed. Try applying the following suggestions to becoming a more effective listener in class and out.
1. Determine why what the speaker is saying is important to you. If you don't have an immediate, vivid reason for listening to a speaker, you are an unmotivated listener.
2. Remember the responsibility of interest and understanding lies with you, not with the speaker (teacher). Learning is up to the learner. If you simply want to sit passively and blame the speaker for your lack of success, then you're not a serious listener.
3. If you can't hear, arrange things so you can. Move away from sources of noise-human or mechanical. Sit where you can see the speaker easily, and where other distractions are at a minimum.
4. Listen to what the speaker is saying. Don't tune the speaker out because you don't like something about him/her or the message. Be sure you understand something before you reject it.
5. Look for the speaker's pattern of organization. In a class or in a lecture, a speaker is generally referring to notes or some other source of information. You can understand much better if you are able to recognize what the speaker's driving at and how the speaker's getting there.
6. Look for the main idea(s) of the lecture or presentation. Facts are important only as they support the speaker's points. If you have trouble distinguishing between the important and the trivial, ask the teacher, a mentor, others in your class or anyone who can give you some direction.
7. Don't let your mind wander! Your thoughts move far more rapidly than the swiftest mouth, and the urge to stray is tempting. Your attention span can be increased, however, through deliberate effort. Continue to practice the habit of attention.
8. Take notes while you listen. Even if you recognize everything being said. Jot it down because you won't remember it later unless you do.
(Taken from the Academic Skills Center, Dartmouth College 2001)