Lectures are an efficient way of reaching a large group so they are common at university. Students sometimes fail to get the most from lectures because they misunderstand their purpose and expect to be given all the answers.
Lectures are designed to:
You might think of lectures like the warm-up stretches you do to prepare yourself before playing sport or doing exercise. You need them to get moving, but you then go on to do more active training (or studying).
Coming into a lecture unprepared - especially if it is on an entirely new topic - can soon leave you struggling to follow the lecturer and awash in a sea of unfamiliar terms and ideas.
Doing a little preparation beforehand can help you follow the lecture by giving you a basic framework onto which you can hang all the new information.
Things you could do before a lecture:
….and of course get all the pens, paper, and equipment you need, and set yourself a reminder alarm if you are likely to forget to turn up!
If you have dyslexia, or find it hard to follow lectures, then preparation before is really beneficial - make sure you get to see any handouts in advance and also look up unfamiliar terms.
What to avoid…
There is no need to do a lot of extra reading before your lectures. This is unnecessary and inefficient, as you may duplicate what is covered in the lecture anyway, or go off on the wrong track. Remember lectures are your introduction to a topic, so save in-depth reading for afterwards
Lectures can involve a lot of multi-tasking: you have to listen, comprehend, understand, interpret, and write down information, often all at once! So it will help to have strategies which will keep your mind active and organised.
Listening and understanding are often more important than trying to take lots of notes. Focus on the lecturer rather than having your head down scribbling notes.
Develop a system for taking notes that works for you. You might use abbreviations, colour, keywords, and pictures - whatever makes your notes meaningful. If you have handouts, find a way of annotating them or writing notes that link to them.
For more on this, see our guide to Effective note-taking.
To record or not to record…
Recording lectures can be a useful back-up to taking notes in the lecture in case you miss something. However you will find it very time-consuming if you try to transcribe everything afterwards - not an efficient use of your time! If you have a counter on the recorder, you can note down the times of key information to find it later. If you have a reported specific learning difficulty like dyslexia, you may have been advised to record lectures, but it will still help you to engage with the lecture if you expect to write some notes at the time. It's courteous to let the lecturer know that you're recording.
How long do you think you retain information after a lecture? If you simply put your notes away and don't look at them again, it is likely you will forget about 80% of the lecture within as little as a week.
So what can you do after a lecture to help you remember?
|Tip: Copying your notes out neatly afterwards is just decorative and won't help you to remember or process what you've heard. Try something more active and effective, like making your notes into a spider diagram, a series of flash cards, or a poster.|