By Jude Uchella:
I clearly recall one of the first classes I had as an undergraduate during a particular semester. The lecturer, who had never taught my class before, walked in gently and stood behind the lectern. The whole class was engaged in one activity or the other, but on seeing him the frenzy died a swift and natural death. The lecturer, who I will refer to as Dr. Ifeanyi, began to introduce himself, after which he reeled out his rules. One of them struck a chord in everyone, judging from the sighs and brief murmurings that culminated in noise. After shushing us, we then got to know that he hated noise and noisemakers. And so the lecture began.
In keeping to the rule that got everyone’s attention – which was that his lectures are a shared responsibility, after speaking for a few minutes, he would throw a question at us. Most lecturers would allow a volunteer to answer but not Dr Ifeanyi; he chose at random. The idea and the process of choosing someone sent shivers down our spines. He would count by rows, choose one and then pick someone he knew won’t know the answer. And so it would continue until someone answered the question. The punishment for not knowing the answer was simple – your rep would be affected and you’ll be asked to stand for a while – the first of which was a big deal for us. Following this first experience, serious-minded students started attending his classes well prepared for an interactive session. This boosted their confidence, and got them rewards for their smart work. The fact that they understood what Dr. Ifeanyi wanted from the class and responded accordingly is the point of this story, and it is the point of this article. Understanding the lecture and even the lecturer is vital for academic excellence. To do so, however, certain considerations have to be made, and they are categorized under the following;
Understanding the Lecture
To understand the lecture, you have to:
- Be attentive: You have to listen and not just hear what the lecturer is saying. All your senses should be focused on his frame and the ideas being communicated. Friendly distractions should not be permitted because missing out on an expression, a thought, a theory, can jeopardize your learning
- Note keywords and repetitions: These are ideas which are very relevant to the subject under discourse. His repeating them is not a coincidence, note and conduct a broader research on those words afterwards. These could determine whether you understand the course or not or even pass the exam.
- Take/form notes: Don’t have the funny idea that your brain can retain all the information it gets, it can forget. Better immortalize those words so you can read and re-read them for better understanding and retention.
- Ask questions: Don’t just sit there and pretend to understand everything you hear. Be bold enough to ask questions for clarification. One thing I have learnt about asking questions is that the information is usually relevant not only to you but others too. Ask away.
Understanding the Lecturer
Understanding the lecture has a lot to do with understanding the lecturer; consider these:
- Know his rules: In the same way that not knowing the rules of grammar affects your writing, not knowing the rules of each lecturer affects your learning from them. Do their dos and shun their don’ts. Learning should be fun when you do.
- Know their expectations: Every lecturer has expectations for their students – what they want you to learn, what they expect in tests, etc. Some lecturers don’t believe in long essays as exam answers, they prefer short but essential details that prove you understand the course. Knowing that would help you know what to focus on during lectures.
- Know their style: Just like Dr. Ifeanyi, every lecturer has a style, knowing and adapting to it is the key to learning.
- Know their temper: Some are cool, others are brash, and some others even get physical. Whichever is the case, let the knowledge be to your favour. It should inform the way you respond and relate with them.
All these points I garnered from personal experience as an undergraduate I am certain would be helpful to you as you make your way through the four walls of college.