Are you listening?

 The internet, and technological advances generally, mean that there is an avalanche of information now available to us. Yum, yum! Mind-candy…

 Is information mostly flowing one-way? Are we developing shorter attention spans? How does this phenomenon reflect on classroom interaction? Is there a need to focus on the basic skill of active listening to balance the information avalanche? Listening is a symbiotic process that is a fundamental element of successful group-based activity. It creates a space where everyone has a voice.

Pride – last week, I felt it during my Year 9 English class. Teachers will identify with the moment. You have spent so long building the foundations, sometimes feeling like you are talking to a brick wall and then, without prompting, it happens…

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[Figure 1: Students working collaboratively ]

 In groups of three, my Year 9 English class each came up with a sample exam topic. Each group then had to form a hypothesis per topic with three supporting points. The way they debated and deconstructed the topics was truly moving. Every contribution was valued and considered by others. I was seeing active listening in action.

I consciously taught this skill to these students and found that focusing on four key concepts was successful. I share them here: 

  1. Show respect: send body language signals that show you are listening to the speaker.
  2. Be present in the moment: pay attention rather than just waiting for your chance to speak.
  3. Listen with an open mind: the moment you make a judgement, the mind closes.
  4. Summarise in your head: paraphrase quickly what the person said before yo reply.

 Students need to be good listeners. They need to be capable of not only comprehending but also evaluating what they hear.

Teachers need to be good listeners. Listening to students talk about their learning can help them become more active partners in their own education-journey, more engaged in the classroom and it also shows them that their thoughts are truly valued.