After I present my ideas about experiential listening (see the post by this name), I am of course asked by teachers: “How do you implement Experiential Listening in a language class?”

I have talked elsewhere about my seminal experiences as a high school teacher in Togo. Just as I realized that improving my Togolese high school students’ listening required — above all else — getting them involved (my “aha moment”), making a shift from the traditional approaches of teaching listening to this more holistic approach requires a conscious change of mindset..

To develop this learner-centered approach to listening,  it is essential to consciously include — even overemphasize —  subjective (interpretive) and inter-subjective (interactive) activities as part of listening instruction   In a nutshell, the new paradigm has to be: teaching listening = probing the listeners’ subjective and inter-subjective experience (Rost, 2016).

We can bring about this shift by making adjustments three instructional areas, the first of which is: Choosing and staging the most “impactful” input that promotes engagement.

Because the goal of experiential listening is engaging the learners in meaningful learning experiences, the optimal type of input is usually a text involving an interesting conflict— just the kind of thing that worked with my “model students” in Togo.   I call these “impact texts,” an audio or video text — a short story, a song, a dramatic scene, a lecture, or presentation extract, an emotional conversation or confrontational debate. To create an impact, the text should contain a diversity of ideas and a range of possible conclusions. Essentially, listening to the text should invite curiosity, discussion, and values clarification.

Input Genres  Instructional focus  Sample Sources
Short story Activate curiosity, narrative imagination Stories with “big ideas”
Human Interest StoriesMyths and fables
Song Elicit emotional response Powerful songsUpbeat songsSongs from around the world (with captions)
Dramatic scene Promote values clarification Movie ScenesSources for movie clips
Provocative lecture extract Provoke critical thinking, questioning, values clarification  TED talks for language learnersSaving the planet
Revealing interview Stimulate curiosity and discussion Robin WilliamsZendayaBob Dylan
Confrontational conversation Prompt emotional involvement Roger FedererCelebrity InterviewsCultural diversityControversial conversations

About The Author

, Experiential Listening: Choosing the best input, Lateral Communications
Michael Rost, principal author of Pearson English Interactive, has been active in the areas of language teaching, learning technology and language acquisition research for over 25 years. His interest in bilingualism and language education began in the Peace Corps in West Africa and was fuelled during his 10 years as an educator in Japan and extensive touring as a lecturer in East Asia and Latin America. Formerly on the faculty of the TESOL programs at Temple University and the University of California, Berkeley, Michael now works as an independent researcher, author, and speaker based in San Francisco.