Students in my country have less opportunity to participate and ask a question in lectures. - Sun Jung
Attending lectures will play an important part in your university studies in the UK. The way that lectures are delivered at British universities can vary, depending on the course and on the lecturer's individual style. You may find some differences from the lectures you have attended in your home country.
In these activities you will explore some possible differences between lectures that you have attended in your own country and those that you will attend in the UK.
Do you expect there to be more differences than similarities between lectures in your country and the UK? In this activity you are going to answer some questions about the lectures that you have attended in your own country and find out what you can expect in the UK.
Consider each of the questions below and choose the statement which most closely describes lectures that you have attended in your country. Then look at the feedback to find out whether lectures in the UK are likely to be similar or different.
To choose a statement, click on the button next to it. You can change your mind by clicking on a button next to a different statement.
1. How responsible are you for how much you learn during a lecture in your country?
In the UK, you will generally be expected to take responsibility for what you learn during lectures and to make effective notes for your own use later.
It is important to be well prepared for lectures and useful to have done some preparatory reading. If English is not your first language, it is a good idea to try and identify some key vocabulary that you might need because this will help you understand the lecture and take effective notes.
It is usual practice to take notes during lectures in the UK. Lecturers will expect you to be able to identify the main points that a lecture contains. It is also helpful to note useful examples and any diagrams. Your lecturer probably won't tell you what you should or shouldn't make notes on. Even if you are given a handout, it is advisable to take your own notes as well to help you concentrate actively on the lecture and so that you have a written record of things that were said for future use (e.g. revising for exams).
2. How formal are lectures in your country?
The level of formality of lectures at British universities can differ from university to university and according to the preferred style of the individual lecturer.
Typically in the UK, lecturers have a structure or lecture plan that they work from, but they might appear quite informal in the way in which they present their information. International students can sometimes find some lecturers' occasional use of humour surprising and slightly confusing.
3. What type of questions are asked, and when, in lectures in your country?
In the UK, rhetorical questions are quite commonly used by lecturers and occasionally students can also expect to be asked challenging questions during a lecture. These techniques are used to engage students; encourage them to reflect on the issues, and to check their understanding.
Questioning techniques like these may be unfamiliar to some international students. Rhetorical questions are questions which the lecturer asks aloud but does not expect someone else to answer; this is a stylistic device and lecturers who use this device will go on to answer the questions themselves. Some of the kinds of questions that are asked may require you to think about your own opinion, and may not have a clear right or wrong answer. At the end of a lecture, there may be a few minutes during which a lecturer is willing to take (and answer) more questions about the topic from the audience. This is a good opportunity to ask for clarification about parts of the lecture that you did not fully understand or would like more information about.
4. Do you take notes in lectures in your country, and if so for what purpose?
In the UK, it is considered important to take notes during lectures because they give background information about your subject area as well as often being important for assignments and for exam revision. A handout, if available, is unlikely to contain all the information or ideas that are mentioned in a lecture; therefore, it is important to be able to take you own notes to add to these.
5. What kind of notes do you make during lectures in your country?
At university in the UK you will be expected to make notes. An effective note-taking strategy is to identify the main points that the speaker makes and note these down as well as some supporting examples. Diagrams can also be useful when reviewing your notes at a later date.
Just copying from slides and other visual aids is generally not an effective method in the UK because lecturers include a lot of other useful information to explain the key points on their slides. It is not advisable (and also very difficult) to try to write down everything that the lecturer says, but you will need to listen carefully to pick out the main points.
Remember that you should use notes rather than full sentences, when you take notes. This means using key words, lists of points, abbreviations and symbols, which allow you to take down ideas on paper much faster. Some lecturers will allow students to record their lectures if they ask beforehand. However, this should be used to help improve notes, rather than instead of taking notes.
At most British universities you can expect lectures to last between 40 minutes and 1 hour. If you have not had to make notes during lectures before or are inexperienced at making notes in English, it may be a good idea to practise taking notes using radio or TV programmes of about this length.
Listening for clues to help you understand a lecture
You are now going to listen to part of an MBA lecture on Risk Management Infrastructure. The language and style of the lecturer contain various clues that can help you understand how the ideas and information in the lecture are linked together. In this activity you are going to practise learning to recognise clues that can help your understanding of the lecture.
Listen for the statements on the left, spoken by the lecturer, and think about how they can help your understanding of the whole lecture. Then select a lecture statement from the list and match it with a description of what the lecturer is doing from the list on the right. Check your answers and read the feedback.
Click once on an item in the list on the left. This will highlight it. Then click once on a corresponding item on the right. A line will appear linking the two items together. Click on a different item on the right to change your selection and a new line will appear and replace the first line.
Use the reset button if you wish to begin the task again.
To listen to the audio clip, click the play button once. You can move between parts of the clip by dragging the slider left or right.
There is a transcript for you to look at if you need help: Audio transcript (pdf, 12kb).
Here are the answers to the activity and some more explanation about how these clues can help you understand a lecture better:
Now just remember where we're going. We've already been talking about what we are looking at, the sources of uncertainty... Linking between what the lecturer has already said and what he's going to say A lecturer may refer to points they have already made in a lecture and also to what they are going to say. This kind of signposting language can help students to follow the direction of the lecture and understand how points fit together.
Now to begin with, let's be clear what we mean by infrastructure... Introducing and defining the main topic Lecturers will often start their lecture by briefly introducing the topic and they may also define any key concepts. For this reason, the beginning of the lecture can contain important information and explanation that can be useful to you.
So we're talking assets now, aren't we? And we're working our way through a list of assets... Emphasising the topic to guide students' understanding Lecturers want to lead their audiences to an understanding of some of the more complex arguments they are making. At times, they will use techniques such as repeating and summarising points in order to check that the audience is still following the argument. Listening for these markers can help you recognise the structure and main points of a lecture.
Moving on a bit...what else do you know about admissions? Signalling a change of direction in the lecture Sometimes you may find it difficult to distinguish what the main points are when making notes during a lecture or understand what the structure of a lecture is. Listening for signposting language which 'signals' a change in what the lecturer is going to talk about can help you get a sense of the structure of a lecture and identify some of the sub topics that the lecturer is addressing.
In other words, a whole bunch of descriptions... Using informal language to communicate and create a relaxed atmosphere In this lecture, the lecturer uses a mixture of formal, academic, subject-specific language, and also informal or 'colloquial' language. How much informal language lecturers use when lecturing depends on the individual, but it is highly likely that you will hear colloquial language used from time to time in lectures in the UK. Some of it may not always be easy to understand but you do not need to worry too much about this. Informal language is more often used by lecturers from time to time to convey information that is less important. In many cases, you should also be able to guess the meaning of colloquial language from the context.
With for example UCAS, the method of working is well standardised, isn't it? Giving an example to help explain the main point Examples are widely used by lecturers to help their audiences understand some of the more abstract concepts they are talking about. Examples help the lecturer to explain a concept in practical terms, which can be useful if it is a complex idea. They are also used to support and provide evidence for ideas, theories or issues that the lecturer refers to.
Now what I find extraordinary is that so often the notion of Risk Management infrastructure and Risk Management process are not properly separated... Using voice stress to highlight an important point Voice stress is a useful way for a speaker to mark or highlight an important point that they are making. Stressed language is often slower, more clearly pronounced (often slightly louder), and different in pitch from surrounding language.
Listen to the extract again with the transcript above if you need to check your understanding. The parts of the transcript containing the extracts used in the task are highlighted.
Would you like to review the main points?
Lecture styles vary within the UK and may also be different from you previous experience in your home country. Generally, it is important for students studying in the UK to see themselves as active participants who need to take responsibility for learning from lectures and also take notes that they can refer to afterwards.