Where does notetaking start?

Notetaking depends on active listening. Unfortunately, few students are taught how to do this. You can improve your listening when you determine positively to hear and understand, even in settings or with subjects that may be difficult.

Essential Listening Skills

Listening well is an active process which requires determination, energy, and attention. The following can help you listen thoroughly, accurately, and actively:

  • Overcome distractions. No matter what the distractions may be — noises, worries, or people — you must take responsibility for concentrating on what a class provides. No one else can listen for you. Make a commitment to listen even when it is difficult and reduce any distractions for yourself.
  • Focus on central themes. As you take notes, imagine that you must summarize the information you record to others after class. This will force you to decide on essential information to pass along. Use your extra speed of thought to make sense of what you are hearing. Of course, this kind of thinking requires concentration. If you prepare for class by doing assigned reading and reviewing previous class notes, you will be well prepared position to take in and organize new information you hear. Come prepared to learn.
  • Maintain your focus. When your mind wanders, refocus. Bring your attention back to what you hear. If you feel confused or lose interest, ask a question for clarification or leave a question mark in your notes. You can discuss the point later with your instructor or another student. Always keep up with your notetaking so that your record of each class will be complete.
  • Judge the message, not the messenger—Not all instructors are excellent presenters, but the information that they are presenting is still valuable. Focus on what you are hearing, not how it is being presented. Determine to learn from every class presentation.

Without active listening, you cannot take effective notes. Without effective notes, you will have no lasting learning from a class session. Learning begins with listening!


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