Design Successful Learning
, Principles for Teaching Active Listening, Lateral Communications

When designing your own listening activities, it’s important to focus on “active listening”, that is what the listener does in order to make the listening experience meaningful. If we can get learners actively engaging in a listening experience, the essence of the teaching work is accomplished!

To create active listening experiences, three things are important: the input you use, the “task” itself, and the kind of coaching you do before, during, and after the activity. In terms of coaching, I think there are 4 principles that we need to observe:

, Principles for Teaching Active Listening, Lateral Communications

The first principle informing listening pedagogy is that listening is primarily a skill of actively constructing knowledge rather than of passively receiving and retaining information. This principle positions the listener as central to the communication process: whatever meaning is constructed depends crucially on the listener’s background and experience, as well as on the listener’s expectations, motivations, and mindset during a discourse event, such as a conversation or a lecture (Bergen, 2012; Rost, 2016). Each listener is different, so what each person “hears” and “interprets” is an issue of “agency” – how they “enter” each listening event. The most useful forms of listening instruction and assessment will then focus on the process of how the listener activates background knowledge and how the listener approaches and experiences the event. Although the outcome of verbal comprehension is important, understanding the process — and particularly the decisions the listener makes — is most essential for instruction purposes (Evans, 2015).

, Principles for Teaching Active Listening, Lateral Communications
, Principles for Teaching Active Listening, Lateral Communications

The third principle is that meaning in communicative contexts is co-created between speaker and listener. This principle implies that an essential part of listening ability entails initiating purposeful interaction and maintaining empathy and rapport with interlocutors in order to pursue a fuller comprehension (Rymes, 2015). Learning to engage others in meaningful interaction, explore one’s own perspective, and deepen understanding can also be modeled and taught through structured practice. Direct instruction in these skills raises learner awareness of the behavioral variables in “active listening” and assists learners in adjusting their attitudes toward becoming more collaborative in interaction (Goh & Burns, 2012).

, Principles for Teaching Active Listening, Lateral Communications

More Reading