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Active Listening for the Classroom

An Important Motivational Strategy

Listening--really listening--to students is critical to the student/teacher relationship, for knowing their teacher
is interested in what they are saying, makes students feel cared about and emotionally connected to school.
Since research shows that feeling connected is requisite to students' motivation to learn, showing that we listen
is important not only as a matter of kindness, but also as a motivational strategy.
t is easy to perform routine tasks while listening to students. n fact, at times teachers are evaluated for their
multitasking ability! however, unless you appear to be completely focused on the student speaking to you, he is
apt think you care neither about what he is saying or him. Consequently, in addition to really listening to
students, we must also show we are really listening.
"n effective way to demonstrate your attentiveness is to use active listening, a technique e#traordinary
for gaining self-understanding,
for improving relationships,
for making people feel understood,
for making people feel cared about,
for the ease with which it is learned.
$y using active listening with students, you build the relationship of trust and caring essential to students'
motivation to learn. By teaching active listening, you help students overcome poor listening habits
such as:
%&urning a speaker off and dwelling on the plethora of internal distractions we all have.
Letting an early remark of a speaker, with which one disagrees, develop a pre'udice which clouds or
puts a stop to any further listening.
"llowing personal characteristics of the speaker or his poor delivery to prevent understanding.%
Since these poor listening habits interfere with classroom learning as well as interpersonal communication,
learning active listening, specifically, the feedback step, may also improve students' study skills. n the
feedback step the listener summari(es or paraphrases the speaker's literal and implied message. )or e#ample,
in the following dialog, *ara provides feedback to a student by guessing the student's implied message and
then asking for conformation.
"Student: I don't like this school as much as my old one. People are not very nice.
Para: You are unhappy at this school?
Student: Yeah. I haven't made any good friends. No one includes me.
Para: You feel left out here?
Student: Yeah. I wish I knew more people."
"lthough some people recommend giving feedback with a statement rather than a question, the ob'ective
remains the same--to clarify either the factual and/or emotional content of the message. $y refining the
listener's interpretation of his statements, the speaker gains greater insight about his own feelings, he may
reap benefits of a catharsis, and he knows the listener is really paying attention to him. &he listener improves
his ability to focus on a speaker and to think about implied meanings.
Steps and Instructions
Active Listening Steps
"lthough the feedback step is at the heart of active listening, to be effective, each of the following steps must
,. Look at the person, and suspend other things you are doing.
-. Listen not merely to the words, but the feeling content.
.. $e sincerely interested in what the other person is talking about.
/. 0estate what the person said.
1. "sk clarification questions once in a while.
2. $e aware of your own feelings and strong opinions.
3. f you have to state your views, say them only after you have listened.
&hese steps, quoted from The Self Transformation Series, Issue no. !, are simple! however, becoming
skilled in active listening requires considerable practice after the purpose and steps are thoroughly e#plained
and e#amples are analy(ed.
*erforming the steps effectively depends on skill in giving appropriate feedback and sending appropriate verbal
and non-verbal signals.
erbal !ignals
''m listening' cues
5alidating Statements
Statements of Support
0eflection/mirroring Statements
Non"erbal !ignals
6ood eye contact
)acial e#pressions
$ody language
$ecause most of us are occasionally guilty of sending messages that interfere with communication it should be
especially helpful to review 6ordon's " #oad$loc%s to Communication.
Active Listening #esource Lin% Li$rary
have given only brief introduction to active listening here since an abundance of related 7eb pages e#plaining
active listening are available. "fter hours of reading, have created a list of those considered the best. n this
list have also included several papers which do not focus active listening but might be useful for developing
active listening lesson plans--one containing numerous e#amples of miscommunication between pilots and
controllers demonstrating the life and death importance of being clearly understood, and two others showing
e#amples of unacceptable verbal behaviors which we hear all too often. n addition, you will find a slide show
e#plaining the use of active learning for problem behaviors. hope you will find the sites in the Active
Listening #esource Lin% Li$rary helpful.
1. &he "rt of "ctive Listening
2. Lesson -+ *romoting 8ommunication
3. Lessons in Lifemanship