Month: November 2013

Learning to Listen. Learning to Observe.

Okay, I know the question below is impossibly large. It leads to unwieldy amounts of information and makes for a discussion where anything is possible.

So what do you think deserves consideration when thinking about learning and education?

However, as an exercise in brainstorming it sure brings forth many VERY different ideas from people.  One of the ideas that came from a yoga instructor I spoke with last week was the following:

“Students…no, all people need to learn HOW to listen.  We are never taught these types of things directly but imagine if just by discussing how to listen students were able to improve because they connected something to the way they work.  It would take so little effort and yield a huge return.”

I have considered the value of thinking about your thinking (metacognition) for quite a few years in the context of my own students and then in my work with teachers but I had only taken baby steps into that seemingly formidable world of neurocognitive science.  So I started researching a bit about the value of direct instruction for functions like listening, observing, speaking.  Of course, one of my favorite writers, Annie Murphy Paul, recently wrote a great article on her blog entitled, “The Power of Intention”.  In the article she writes (read whole post here):

Skilled learners go into a listening session with a sense of what they want to get out of it. They set a goal for their listening, and they generate predictions about what the speaker will say. Before the talking begins, they mentally review what they already know about the subject, and form an intention to “listen out for” what’s important or relevant.

These are absolutely perfect traits of a skilled learner who has key skills in active listening.  Imagine the impact if students understood that they can improve simply by applying some basic listening skills to their daily effort.  It is the difference between, as Sherlock Holmes put it to Watson, “seeing and observing”.

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