Are We Losing the Art of Listening?
But are the students and teachers these days, listening to each other enough?
What exactly, is good listening, and why does it matter when it comes to learning? Is “close listening” a doorway to understanding that too many of us are keeping only half-open?
Are we listening?
Conscious listening is very largely overlooked in the mainstream of education. It is such an important skill in life. And yet we expect children to pick it up from home or from peers informally.
” But we do not teach explicitly, or test in the main, either speaking or — much more importantly — listening.”
Educators and parents are so focused on measuring reading, writing and math skills that the arts of speaking and listening often get pushed to a dusty corner of the pedagogic agenda.
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What are WE doing?
We must listen to our students as if what they have to say is the most important thing in our lives at that moment. One of the most frustrating issues for the young is that they often feel no one listens to them. We should look directly at the student talking, ignore other distractions, and actually explore what students say, to enhance their motivation and engagement. It seems that in our hurry-up world, listening seems to be a lost art. People often are doing one of two things while someone talks: waiting for their own turn to talk or focusing on something other than the speaker. In teacher’s training, we are not taught to listen as much as talk to and direct the students.
So, when we listen to our students as if what they are saying is brilliant, valuable, and worth exploring, we are basically saying we care about them; that what they feel and believe actually matters to us; and that we expect them to think. When we truly listen to each student, we model for the entire class how it looks and sounds to listen closely.
Listening is a critical teaching skill.
When a student shares an interesting or even a confusing thought and we earnestly ask, “What made you think that? What in the text led you there? What do the rest of you think about what he/she just said?” we are asking students to listen, respond with ideas of their own, and think. When we say, “Do you agree more with what he/she said or with what he said?” we are showing that we truly listened to what each of those students had to say. We are teaching students to think as well as communicate their thoughts.
Rich open-ended questions
Along with sitting on the edge of our seats, there are other ways in which we can truly listen. One is to not have a set answer in mind when we ask questions. We need to ask rich open-ended questions with no “preconceived notion” of how the students should or will answer. Another is to not assume we understand what a child means and do the summing up or explaining to her. Whether or not we understand what a child is saying, we need to let the child do the explaining for the rest of the class. We need to say to the child, “Can you share more of your thinking about this?” and not, “ he meant such and such.” This is very hard for teachers to do. We often feel that we are in charge of what children need to think.
There are, however, practical classroom steps teachers can take, and it starts by making links in an active, conscious way. Long-term memory research shows that learning happens best when students can make connections, build and attach information to other things swirling around in their cerebral cortex.
This is a skill. This is not something that is just natural that we can expect everyone to be brilliant at just because we are human.It is something we have to work out. Listening is an activity. It’s not passive. We are creating the world by listening all the time.
We need to move from the stance of deciding what students should think to a stance of getting them to think. One of the best ways to do this is to truly listen to all that they have to say. So let’s scoot our butts to the edges of our seats and truly listen to our students talk. Their thinking will astound us.
If we educators want to make sure the art of listening does not become a lost art, which could lead to the demise of the arts like music and theatre as well, we can be sure to spend more time teaching listening. This may not only preserve the art of listening and help the children become better students but it might help them be better people as well.
*This article is contributed by Ms. Kavita Sharma, a professional Counseling & School Psychologist with over five years of experience working in a student-focused learning environment and mental health field. She is experienced in counseling school students, conducting life skills workshops and career counseling. Well versed in psychological testing, Counseling and Psychotherapy services. Some of the core competencies include Behavioral Monitoring and Evaluation, Psychological Testing, Therapeutic Intervention, Child & Adolescent Counseling, Skill Training Workshop Facilitation and Career Counseling.