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10 Ways Educators Can Listen Better to Their Students

December 7, 2007

This week, my semester ended at Georgia Southern University. And as I do with the end of almost everything that I’m involved in, I like to take some time to analyze my successes and also determine what I might want to do differently the next time. One thing I plan to focus on for spring semester is listening better to my students. Oh, sure, like most people, I think I’m a pretty good listener. And I also know that this is something that I can improve upon. I remembered reading a list that a former board member at the International Listening Association wrote about listening to his students. Daryl Vander Kooi shared with me 10 ways that teachers can listen better to their students. Let’s see what he had to say:

  1. WAIT. Wait-time is important for students to analyze, to evaluate potential response, and to formulate that response. If you want to listen, wait. If you really want to listen, wait even longer; try to wait at least five seconds after a student finishes talking before responding.
  2. SIT. Place yourself in the physical position that encourages the student; sit at his/her level. This is important not only for teachers of young students, but also those who teach high school and college.
  3. TALK OFTEN. In order for students to recognize that you are indeed interested in what they say, talk with them frequently, and not only about school-related information.
  4. ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS. Many discussions with students can lead to important information about them, but those discussions need questions that promote discussion, not end it.
  5. REMEMBER JANIE . . Remember the student and the student’s background so that you can listen for more than the surface comment and immediate answer.
  6. REMEMBER JOHNNIE CAN’T READ. The point is that, if the student is unable to communicate well in reading and writing, you might have to listen more carefully—go beyond the stumbling style and disheveled syntax.
  7. PUSH FOR CLARITY. Good speech style encourages good listening. Help your students improve style including clarity by paraphrasing and restating. You can help his/her future listeners.
  8. LISTENING IS MORE THAN HEARING. It includes seeing and reading. Many assume that listening is the mental parallel to the physical activity of hearing, but all listeners should continually remind themselves that they should see the speaker’s actions and other movement; they should see the facial expressions; they should see the visual aid. Listen beyond simply hearing.
  9. REMEMBER GEOGRAPHY. Just as the teacher should remember geography when teaching geography—know the content area; so too remember also the content area, the context, when listening to students. However, also recognize that students are likely to shift the content or topic without announcement. Catch the shift and remember the prior information about that topic. This is especially important when working with students with ADHD or similar disabilities.
  10. WATCH FOR BEEN THERE; DONE THAT. It’s easy to think that this issue has been discussed many times before; but remember that those were different times and different students. Your present student probably wasn’t there and didn’t do that.

— Daryl Vander Kooi, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus, Dordt College

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2 comments

  1. […] Matters Open your heart, open your mind, open your world . . . Listen. « 10 Ways Educators Can Listen Better to Their Students 10 Ways to Show You Are NOT Listening December 10, 2007 In previous Listening Matters […]


  2. […] 10 Ways Educators Can Listen Better to Their Students […]



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