For many instructors, lecturing is part and parcel of their teaching strategy, given that it remains the primary mode of delivering knowledge to the class.
And while talk is king in classrooms and workshops, many teachers know that this method of teaching is not the best way to fully engage students as most of them ultimately end up somewhere else mentally while feigning focus on the lecture.
Thus, teachers must realise the importance of active listening in the learning – and teaching – process. Encouraging everyone in the class to pause, reflect, and share their thoughts lets them participate in their learning is undoubtedly an incredible concept. In everyday personal conversations, those with whom you converse appreciate it when you listen to them attentively without getting distracted. The same rings true in the classroom, where teachers and students can learn to listen to what the other is saying.
Understanding the Importance of Active Listening in the Classroom
As schools return to the classroom setting after prolonged use of virtual learning environments, teachers must build relationships with their students if they want them to work collaboratively and communicate effectively. The students’ inclination to listen is a marker of emotional regulation, but unfortunately for many of them, waiting to speak again instead of listening is what they believe to be the opposite of speaking. And while instructors can model effective listening skills, there is no replacement for students practising those skills themselves in the classroom with their peers.
Students that learn how to communicate constructively with their classmates frequently develop a social capital that will serve them well in higher education, at the workplace, and for the rest of their lives. Teachers can plan on developing such skills at every grade level to ensure their social skills improve seamlessly, starting from elementary school to college and beyond. Remember, listening is not a soft skill but an essential component of collaboration and communication. Hence, it must be included in a student’s social development in all subject areas.
Quick Tips on Promoting Active Listening in Class
Students have many options when practising active listening skills with a conversation partner or in a group. If the listener is puzzled, they can ask the speaker for clarification or questions that elucidate what the speaker intended.
Body language is one of the essential components of conversations that goes missing amid today’s online communications. Receiving a text, chat message, or email may lead to misinterpretations of its contents; at times, they may even be indecipherable. The recipient needing explanation or feedback associated with the message may be left hanging should the sender be distracted or unavailable to respond.
Thus, face-to-face communication offers immediate clarification or lets body language aid in conveying the speaker’s message clearly. Jeff Zwiers points out in his book Next Steps with Academic Conversations that students must use and practice nonverbal cues such as hand gestures, eye contact, and head nods with conversation partners in the classroom. Although instructors can model such cues, nothing is better than repeated practice similar to any other skill. He states that fluency gained through leveraging these cues is developed from immersion in communicating with various other people.
Students who step out of their comfort zone to share something with their teacher or classmates want to be understood. In such situations, the listener has an obligation to try and understand the speaker and let them know they are understood. While body language can help achieve this, pausing and paraphrasing help fully seal the deal. The momentary pause gives the speaker and listener time to relax and think. When the listener resumes the conversation by saying things like “What you’re saying is…”, it allows the speaker to hear what they just said in real-time and confirm if what the other party understands is true or a bit off the mark. Any confusion can then be immediately cleared up and helps the partner and conversation remain on topic and build up the intended idea.
Instructors must promote active listening among their students because it engages them in active learning, significantly reducing the odds of misunderstanding what they are taught. This leads to deeper and more comprehensive knowledge about their subjects with fewer gaps in their understanding. And thanks to this profound understanding of the material, students can easily complete their work. They are more productive and efficient at using and drawing upon the resources provided. Ultimately, active listeners gain a deeply established knowledge base to draw from and grow to become self-reliant.
Let StrengthsAsia help you foster active listening among your students with our renowned teacher training workshops in Singapore that leverage your unique strengths to develop your unique and engaging teaching style. Backed by testimonials from numerous institutional leaders all over the country, our CliftonStrengths education programs are proven effective at cultivating strengths-based education culture that underpins meaningful learning.