Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Effective listening’

The LISTENing Educator…

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities on 21/12/2012 at 2:38 am
GUEST POST
by Laurence Raw
8
Listening (doggy ears)
8
It’s amazing what can be learned from isolated conversations.
8
I was talking to three separate sets of LEARNers this week in different departments, as well as from different educational levels (under- and postgraduate, as well as trainee educators).  All of them had plenty of work to complete for their courses – assignments, lesson-plans, assessments and the like.
8
Yet many of them admitted to finding such tasks extremely difficult, chiefly because they did not quite understand what was expected of them by their “educational peers”.  Did they have to produce ‘scholarly’ pieces, using examples taken from secondary texts; or were they expected to give their own opinions on the material?  What kind of criteria did educators use to distinguish a ‘good’ from a ‘bad’ submission, and how could LEARNers work towards meeting them?  And what kind of feedback could learners expect, apart from being given a grade?
8
The question of assessment is a complex one; too complex, in fact, for a short blog-post.
8
However I got the distinct impression that no one was actually listening to one another.  That term “to listen” is a complex one: it doesn’t just involve decoding words and sentences, but rather participating in a process described thus by Richard Sennett in a recent book: “though we may use the same words, we cannot say we are speaking of the same things; the aim is to come eventually towards a common understanding.”
8
It is that “common understanding” that is conspicuously absent from many classrooms.
8
The CLASSROOM - weapons of mass instruction
8
How can we improve the listening environment?  The public speaking consultant Lisa B. Marshall offers three effective solutions: 
8
1.       Tune In.  Make sure you give listeners your undivided attention.  Turn off your “mind chatter” and look at how they react to what you say.  If you feel they haven’t understood a point you have said, then try and clarify it.  Or better still, find another means to explain it – for example, by writing it down.
2.       Show You are Listening.  This is something many educators find difficult, especially if they are accustomed to monopolizing the learning environment.  The key is to concentrate on the words you hear and – perhaps more importantly – understand the body language signals you see.  Are learners smiling?  Are they talking amongst themselves? Are the words and body language congruent?
3.       Understand What You’ve Just Heard and/or Seen.  Educators need to translate and interpret their learners’ reactions.  They have to decide what they mean.  We all create meaning based on our own experiences, but sometimes that’s not enough.  We need to ask open-ended questions to confirm our understanding, and try to eliminate possible miscommunications.
88
21 TOBB Seminar (05 July 2012)
88
Such steps might seem rather obvious (aren’t all educators supposed to listen to their learners?) but it seems that their significance is frequently overlooked. However difficult it might be, we need to pay less attention to content, and concentrate instead on how we can communicate better.
8
Guy Claxton believes that this is the key to acquiring “learning power” for educators and learners alike.  By listening to others, we can learn how to ask better questions, and thereby learn how to co-operate with one another.  This is essential to learning: in this kind of environment, everyone can ask themselves what they don’t understand and why.  If they can’t understand something, they ask more questions – not only of themselves, but also of other members of the group.
8
What we’re (really) talking about here is a redefinition of the relationship between educators and their learners. Effective listening means treating learners on equal terms; to ask questions of them, as means to help them develop the confidence to ask questions themselves.
8
Wouldn’t it be great if more educators could shed some of their pride in their knowledge and/or status and actually initiate this process?
8
Laurence Raw
Baskent University.
Department of English, Ankara, Turkey.
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
www.radiodramareviews.com
@laurenceraw (Twitter)
Advertisements

What makes good “academic” or “pedagogic” discussion?

In Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 03/11/2012 at 10:45 am
As some of you will have noticed, I have been MIA in the blogosphere for a fair bit – been on me travels, seeing my big, little girl in big, bad London and buying stuff I really do not need!
8
A change is as good as a rest – and I wanted to do both…
8
I was just about to start banging away on the keyboard, when my old friend Laurence dropped me a line. He had noticed that I ain’t done a lot of blogging of late…and that he had not much guest-blogging either.
8
Laurence is an academic / educator here in in Ankara and is also the editor of the Journal of American Studies of Turkey (despite his very British accent) – he’s also the chappy that I am co-authoring my new book with…
8
I’ll let him take over…
8
8
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently, after having read posts on a listserv (which shall remain nameless) focusing on issues of academic freedom, bullying, and the right to express one’s opinion. Sometimes the posts have become quite libellous.
8
So what is “academic” freedom anyway? The right to express oneself is an important one, and should be developed in every educational sphere, whether in school, university or elsewhere. Group work is an ideal method of doing this, allowing participants to “uncover” new truths, as well as develop their own approaches to LEARNing.
8
However freedom of expression must be tempered by a concern for other people.  Respect for feelings, emotions, and beliefs is as important as developing one’s own perspective.  LEARNing depends on being able to LISTEN as well as comment.  If we don’t believe this, then we might as well give up the idea of discussion.
8
8
Just listen to THE JEREMY KYLE SHOW someday, or any one of those so-called ‘chat’ shows where people come and talk about their (failed) marriages, and just see how the guests shout at one another without giving anyone the chance to speak.  In that kind of atmosphere, no one LEARNs anything, either about themselves, or those around them.
8
The business leader John Bryan once remarked: “You have to be willing sometimes to listen to some remarkable bad opinions.  Because if you say to someone, ‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, get out of here!– then you’ll never get anything out of that person again, and you might as well have a puppet on a string or a robot.
8
Make no mistake: I believe in the importance of free speech.  At a northern university in England, an educator has been suspended with no right of reply, either in spoken or written form.  He should be given the right to put his point of view.  But there’s a world of difference between expressing one’s viewpoint and ranting for the sake of it.
8
8
The same goes for blog posts: people will listen to you if you listen to them.  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Learning depends to a large extent on asking questions; but to ask questions, you have to be engaged in what you’re reading or listening to.  Ranting turns people off, rather than engaging them; as a result, no one wants to ask questions.
8
So next time you feel like ranting against someone – in public, in print, or online, just bear the following idea in mind: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.  The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
8
8
That is what academic “freedom” truly represents – the power to be able to understand.
8
8
Laurence Raw,
Baskent University – Department of English
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
www.radiodramareviews.com
@laurenceraw (Twitter)