Design Successful Learning
, Experiential Listening:  Choosing the best input, Lateral Communications

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 storyActivate curiosity, narrative imagination Stories with “big ideas”
Human Interest StoriesMyths and fables 
SongElicit emotional responsePowerful songsUpbeat songsSongs from around the world (with captions) 
Dramatic scenePromote values clarification Movie ScenesSources for movie clips
Provocative lecture extractProvoke critical thinking, questioning, values clarification  TED talks for language learnersSaving the planet 
Revealing interview Stimulate curiosity and discussion Robin WilliamsZendayaBob Dylan 
Confrontational conversationPrompt emotional involvement Roger FedererCelebrity InterviewsCultural diversityControversial conversations