Monday, 6 November 2017

When we listen, do we clearly hear?

As teachers, we know that students are not always ready to hear what we say. Therefore, we explain things over and over again, trying to use different words each time in order to give everybody a chance to hear and understand what we are explaining. During my last interview, the teacher I interviewed said: "I always give several images because everyone has his own image to the image I give. We need to allow space."
So, not everybody hears and sees the same way we hear and see. But during our research, how can we help ourselves to clearly hear and see? How do I make sure that I listen AND hear? 
I noticed that those past weeks, I hear things related to my topic all the time. I didn't hear them before, because I wasn't looking for it. But I also noticed that now, I only hear what I am looking for. 
This morning, I did some reading about 'listening skills', and I guess what I do is called 'filtered listening' or 'evaluative listening'. And I believe we all do it. 
When I introduced my topic yesterday evening during our monthly skype chat, somebody responded straight away, but changed the topic. My concern was listened to, but not really heard. My fellow student filtered my concern because she has wanted to address a similar concern. The result: we didn't really talk about the topic I introduced. I wasn't upset or disappointed because the event itself gave me a lot of information about the issue of listening and hearing and helped me understand something important: Listening is a skill. But how do we train this skill? 
E.C.L. Goh writes in her article 'Integrating Mindfulness and Reflection in the Teaching and Learning of Listening Skills for Undergraduate Social Work Students in Singapore' that if we really wanna hear, or listen actively, we must put aside our own concerns. In order to do so, it is important to first listen to ourselves. When we hear somebody talk, we have an inner dialogue that we can listen to in order to identify possible thoughts that hinder us to really hear the other. 
I believe that by doing so, we could have more profound discussions about a topic and it would help us stay connected and open.


  1. Hey Maitee,
    I did 'HEAR' what you were trying to explain. I feel,it is an universal human tendency to filter what one really wants to hear and see as per one's personal interest. Only a keen and highly motivated learner in any given respective field could resonate and with what is being said or showed..this basically depends on one's 'NEED'and 'SEEKING MIND'. As far as our monthly discussion is is very evident that due to time constraint practically we cannot elaborate and discus on everyone's topic. We do learn something from those discussion but again we assimilate only what we think we can relate to. I do agree we tend to change the topic not intentionally but the discussion leads to something else eventually. Regarding our research, I guess we all are going through our own inner conflict of filtering and analyzing and interpreting our data, and also discovering new things in this process because we are creating variations in our learning by identifying and changing the dimension of learning.

  2. Hi Maité, its a very interesting topic you have raised. And its funny, in yesterdays Skype discussion, there was something wrong with my microphone and so I couldn't participate in the usual way. And while, as Adesola said, this discussions are an opportunity to talk about our practice, I found it was an interesting experience to only being able to listen. I could focus much more on what people were saying, and realised how often, while somebody is speaking, we are only half listening, because we are already preparing an answer in our minds and I think this gets worse, the more people are involved in an exchange. And I agree listening, really listening is a skill and I think like every skill we can practice it. Maybe the first step is already being aware of the filter, we all use, when we listen. (Which some times can also be useful, little kids can't filter impressions (visual or acoustic) as well yet, and they often get overwhelmed with information, so I guess you could see this filter as a tool, if you are aware of it, it can be useful in some situations, but not in others. And I agree, you can only hear, when you are ready to hear and what is relevant to where you are in a certain moment of your life. Or like a good book, each time you read it, you find new or different things in it, that you haven't paid attention to before. Thank you for bringing up this topic, it is so relevant to teaching (and any other situation, where we engage in dialogue with someone else), but usually gets very little attention.

    1. You are right, during the Skype discussions I always tell myself that I have to participate and ask or answer questions so I'm filtering everything I hear. I try to find key words or topics where I can jump in the discussion and already prepare what I want to say while the other person is still talking. I would love to listen once to the whole conversation, hopefully next time my microphone won't work either... ;-) No, I think as you say, we have to practice it. Some people are naturally very good in talking spontanuously but if you aren't, you have to practice but maybe without compromising the listening process.
      I see this filtering process also as a tool and I am now trying to apply it to my contemporary classes. I started this week to 'filter' perceptions. So, for example, I tell my students that we do a certain sequence only focusing on 'oppositions' in our body. And then only on 'breath'. And so on. It actually works quite well because as you say, they get overwhelmed with information, similar to what happens with children, so they just give up and move without listening to the inner processes. And I noticed that this 'filtering' actually helps them to ask questions and to verbalise things that happen within their body. So, the tool is very useful!

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  4. Thank you Maitee, I also spent most of the discussion listening. being very new still I am not completely confident in my input. But as a result I found I listened attentively. This was also because the sound was poor yesterday, so it had my full attention. This made me consider something about listening skills-how much the person speaking determines your response as well as the manor of delivery? I have in dance class experimented with very quiet music, so students have to listen hard to the music. I saw a change in musicality and some classes in artistry as a result. I wonder if in the modern world, where we encourage everyone to participate and have their say , there isn't enough emphasis put on listen skills? I feel its one of the fundamentals of teaching and learning -what are you thoughts?

    1. I like the idea of experimenting with the volume of the music. During my teacher-training I was always told that I have to talk louder. But I am now at a stage where I believe I talk too loud and that this has a negative impact on the class atmosphere and the children's mood. So, it is very interesting for me that you say that you had to pay extra attention because the sound was poor and that it made you listen more attentively. And that you saw a change in musicality with silent music. I will from now on play with the volume of my voice and see if they actually listen harder when I talk quietly. You would think that if you talk louder, the students hear you better, but that might not be true... I think we could focus more on listening skills: listening to the teacher, listering to peers, listening to our body, listening to our thinking... Yes, this definitely is very important and should be seen as a skill that needs to be adressed in class. But I am not sure that teachers do that?

    2. This is so interesting! Really enjoyed reading your blog.

      I worked in sales many moons ago and used to use a quieter voice in order to make the customers lean in to the book I was showing them which made them engage more but I have never thought of using it in the class room. I also read something a few weeks ago about writing letters in a difficult font if you wanted people to read them properly as they have to really engage with it to understand it. It resonated with me as I have trouble getting parents to actually read emails!

      I find I have to concentrate on my listening a lot more in a Skype session particularly, not only am I listening to pick out points I can engage with verbally but also I find not being in a room with everyone hard. I find myself flitting off mentally on my own thought pathway and have to draw myself back to the actual conversation. I don't know if this has something to do with the isolation of a Skype meeting in that it allows the mind to feel on the outside of the group rather than within it as such?

  5. This is so interesting topic, this is what I feel exactly during the process of learning. I am lost in books and my own things and I can not hear the noise from reality. I can ignore everything during writing and this is so horrible. I can not hear my family who try to talk to me because I have continuous conversation in my head. I think that, it can be very hard to write about this subject and pay attention to the people around you in the same time.
    I have noticed that on myself, what you mentioned, people hear that, what they want to hear, they select information because they have so much things in their head. Too much notes, advertisements, information and they are busy at work, busy at life and they are exhausted to listen to each other.
    So I think we consciously reduce the listening skill, unfortunatelly, but this blog post wake up my mind.