#Edslowchat question of the week

I was inspired the other day when I read the #edslowchat question of the week as shared above. My immediate response was:

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I found it noteworthy that in thinking about developing empowered communities, listening was part of my first reaction. After spending many years teaching a variety of k-12 students, and, more recently, adult learners, how well one “hears” what the speaker is saying is a common topic of conversation. No matter where I work, invariably, I encounter teachers speaking of students who “do now listen” or “cannot follow directions.”

For the purpose of thinking and reflection, it is important to consider the difference between hearing and listening.

  • Hearing is an involuntary act of perceiving sound by ear.
  • Listening is something you choose to do and leads to the construction of new knowledge.

As teachers and parents, we must create a listening culture.

Listening as been described as a skill, an art form, as well as a character trait. Regardless, listening needs to be modeled and practiced as the skill and art of it contribute greatly to the character of a community (school, work, family). Through listening, we contribute to conversations, build relationships and develop shared understanding.

Many recently published articles and blogs focus on listening as a form of compliance. Essentially, how can teachers “get: students to listen. Often, this involves strategies that are counterintuitive to developing an empowered community. When authors suggest ideas such only saying facts or instructions once, or providing students with rewards to listen, control is exerted over students and their autonomy is eroded.

We can do better for our students, in a much more organic and natural way.

While listening is a complex topic, when considering how to use listening to develop an empowered community, teachers and students must consistently focus on the following, seemingly simply points, when sharing ideas or concepts:

  1. Listen (But Be Prepared to Respond Meaningfully)
  2. Talk (With Flexible Groupings)
  3. Reflect (With focus)

These ideas provide a simple protocol for listening, and can serve as the foundation for many thoughtful discussions.

Listen (But Be Prepared to Respond Meaningfully)

Yes, when someone is speaking one should listen to them. However, in an empowered community, one strives for more than just “hearing” information. The listener has a responsibility to respond in some meaningful way. This can be in the form of a verbal response, appropriate body language, as well as writing. At times, a meaningful response can be purposeful reflection. The idea here is that students begin to understand that listening requires meaningful response.

Talk (With Flexible Groupings)

There is also a responsibility to talk. Listeners need an opportunity to respond to what they have heard. They can use what they have heard in conversation, or what they have written in their notes, in order to engage in small group or whole class conversation. There is great power in giving people opportunities to speak in flexible, small groups (with at least one and up to three other people). Not only is it personally validating, in the time it would take to have three or four students respond to the whole class, you can have every single student an opportunity to speak and be heard.

Reflect (With focus)

In school, and in life, reflection is often neglected, but providing students time to be with their thoughts in order to integrate ideas and concepts can help to maintain academic stamina and retention of knowledge.

Habits of MindIn the book Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind (2008), Art Costa and Bena Kallick put forth their thinking about structured, systematic reflection.

Among other things, teachers must: Provide time for reflection as well as set the tone for it through questioning and opportunities to write.This will allow students time and opportunity to fully integrate information and be prepared to use it in practice.

In short, by listening in a way that allows for accountable conversation and active reflection, educators and parents can help to empower students as part of a vibrant learning community.

Please share, and comment below:

What are some ways you have developed community through thoughtful listening in your classroom?


#Edslowchat is a an educational community on Twitter that seeks to discuss relevant educational issues, the focus of which changes on a weekly basis. The group was created by Ryan Steele @R_H_Steele You can read more about the reasoning behind, and the creation of, #edslowchat here.

EmpowerScreenshot 2015-07-10 at 10.24.02 AMed Education, LLC is a collaboration of professionals with a variety of experiences at all levels of education.  We seek to start an educational revolution through the development of knowledge and compassion. For more information, please visit us at www.empowereded.org and follow us on Twitter (@empowered_ed)

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