Virtual learning lab title - Becoming an expert learner

8 Essential Lessons, Unit 6: Active Listening


As students, we face many challenges to our ability to listen effectively in class and focus our attention on the subject at hand. We are faced with a number of distractions, both internal and external, that draw our concentration away from the professor’s lecture. 

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the difference between the speed at which people speak, and the speed at which we listen. Lecturer’s speak at an average rate of 100-125 words per minute, but listeners think and process at a rate of about 400 – 500 words per minute (Nichols, 1960). We listen four times faster than the words being spoken to us! This speech/thought differential allows for our attention to be pulled away from the lecture and occupied with the myriad distractions we face in the classroom. One way to close this gap and regain our ability to concentrate is the use of active listening.

Active listening is a tool successful students use to increase comprehension, retain lecture material, and take more effective notes. Active listening asks the student to be a participant in the lecture and study of their subject, rather than a bystander..

During this unit, you will learn a number of active listening strategies to implement both inside and outside the classroom. These strategies fall into three categories: resisting distraction and maintaining attention, class preparation, and in-class active listening techniques.

Unit Objectives

At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. Describe how active listening functions as a component of self-regulated learning.
  2. Identify 3 categories of active listening strategy techniques.
  3. Use active listening to improve note-taking and lecture comprehension.