MODULE 4: ACTIVE LISTENING AND OPEN COMMUNICATION
AIM OF THE MODULE
The module provides an opportunity for teachers and educational support staff to think about how to address current problems arising from the lack of communication and democratic dialogue that lead youth radicalisation and take initiatives to increase the resilience of students and prevent the process of radicalization leading to violence. Moreover, it is envisaged that teachers and educational support staff will be aware of effective teaching tools and approaches on open communication & active listening to use them into their daily practices in the school.
This module provides opportunities to explore communication styles that teachers and educational support staff can adapt successful examples in personally and professionally both in academic and non-academic cognitive settings consisting of knowledge, comprehensive, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation.
At the end of this module, users should be able to be aware of the following topics:
- Listening process and different type of listening,
- Active listening and observing,
- How to be active listener
- Definition of communication & communication processes,
- Open communication and the techniques for open communication,
- barriers preventing communication & how to overcome communication obstacles
Argumentation & debate
- Openness to cultural differences and other beliefs, world views, self-efficacy,
- Socratic method for asking probe questions and Reciprocal Maieutic Approach,
- Tips for effective argumentation and debate
Listening process and different type of listening
Listening is a process of receiving and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages and is based on a circle consisting of these actions; hear, attend, understand, respond, remember.
General types of listening;
Discriminative Listening is the most essential form of listening and does not involve the understanding of the meaning of words or phrases but merely the different sounds that are produced.
Comprehensive listening is complimented by sub-messages from non-verbal communication, such as gestures, the tone of voice and other body language behaviours. These non-verbal signals can facilitate communication and comprehension but can also confuse and potentially lead to some misunderstandings. In many listening situations it is necessary to look for clarification and use skills such as reflection and comprehension.
Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills and there are three main types of listening most common in interpersonal communication:
- Informational Listening (Listening to Learn)
- Critical Listening (Listening to Evaluate and Analyse)
- Therapeutic and Empathic Listening (Listening to Understand the Feelings and Emotions of the Speaker).
Active listening and observing
Listening is not only hearing what the speaker in the conversation has to say but active listening, which involves paying attention, without judgement, reflecting, clarifying, and sharing,thereby listening with all senses. Poet Alice Duer Miller has a saying about listening “Listening means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us“.
It is important to focus fully on the speaker, whilst being aware of verbal and nonverbal signs.
Verbal Sign of Active Listening
- Positive reinforcement- Using positive words and phrases, such as: ‘’I see,’’ ‘’Yes,’’ ‘’Very good,’’ ‘’I understand’’, etc.
- Remembering- Remembering the details about the speaker and ideas on the speech to encourage the speaker.
- Questioning & Clarification – By asking relevant questions, it is possible to enable the speaker to think that the listener has an interest in the speech and ensure that the message from the speaker has been received in a correct way. Asking open-ended questions provides better clarification.
Open-ended question questions are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word (yes, no) answer.
- Reflection – It is based on closely repeating what the speaker has said, to demonstrate understanding.
Nonverbal Sign of Active Listening
- Smile – Smiling can be a powerful affirmation in affirming that messages are being listened and understood and also it signals that you are approachable, trustworthy and cooperative.
- Eye contact – Maintaining eye contact can be powerful to encourage the speaker.
- Posture – Open and receptive body posture, it is required that legs are uncrossed, and arms are open with open palm gestures.
- Mirroring – It starts by observing a person’s facial and physical gestures and then taking the same facial and physical gestures.
- Distraction – It is necessary to avoid looking at your watch or phone, playing with hair or picking fingernails.
How to be active listener
Complying with verbal and nonverbal signs of active listening that have been provided above. Other tips for those who want to be active listener:
- Avoid judging what’s being said and make sure you focus on understanding what the speaker means;
- Don’t interrupt and wait for ending of delivery of the speaker if you have something to say;
- Resist distractions;
- Give positive feedback;
- Listen with empathy to see the speaker’s point of view;
- Summarize and try to see the lines in the speaker’s speech;
- Remove distractions from the environment or ignore them;
- Don’t finish speaker’s sentences;
- Finally, don’t forget that active listening is a skill that can be developed with practice.
Active listening in the classroom
Active listening is critical to the student/teacher relationship. Knowing their teacher and otherdeliverers in the school enables students to feel that they are considered important and emotionally connected to their school. Moreover, active listening is an effective way that can be used by teachers in the classroom for; gaining self-understanding, making students feel understood and making the learning process of students easier.
Definition of communication & communication processes
“Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour” (Merriam-Webster, 2019) .
Every communication involves (at least) one sender, a message and a recipient. This may sound simple, but communication is actually a very complex subject. The transmission of the message from sender to recipient can be affected by a huge range of things. These include our emotions, the cultural situation, the medium used to communicate, and even our location: accurate, effective and unambiguous communication is actually extremely hard.
Open communication and the techniques for open communication
Open communication occurs when all parties in a conversation or debate are able to express ideas to one another. Open communication is facilitated by effective communication, but it is different from effective communication. Effective communication occurs when the receiver understands the message as intended by the sender.
Techniques for open communication
- Active listening -There is a strong link between active listening and open communication, so it is necessary to reinforce active listening for open communication.
- Giving feedback- feedback is an important part of open communication to learn how to accept criticism easily and well.
- Keeping the communication positive-it is necessary to use positive statements instead of negative statements.
- Trust, empathy, diversity, respect, patience and sympathy – it is necessary to be aware of these facts and use them while communicating with somebody.
Barriers preventing open communication & tips to overcome communication obstacles:
- Lack of attention, interest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver.
- Differences in perception and viewpoints.
- Lack of trust, empathy, diversity, respect, patience and sympathy.
Moreover, physical barriers, perceptual barriers, cultural barriers, emotional barriers, language barriers, language differences, gender barriers, interpersonal barriers lead communication obstacles.
Tips to overcome communication obstacles
- Be aware of the fact that everyone has different characteristic arising from different educational, social and cultural background and each person can adopt different communication style and know that these differences can lead to barriers in communication (such as identified above) and respect the differences in the classroom
- Use of simple language
- Active listening
- Build trust, empathy, diversity, patience and sympathy while communicating with someone
- Avoid information overload
Open communication in the classroom
Open communication gives everyone equal participation in the classroom. Moreover, it makes the learning process easier, enables students to achieve their goals, increases opportunities for expanded learning, strengthens the connection between student and teacher, and creates an overall positive experience for all actors in the learning and teaching process.
Teachers and educational support staff should be aware of listening, perception and oral barriers that prevent open communication.
- Listening barrier: The teacher should take care to keep emotional reactions to a minimum and focus on what the student is saying. Outside noise such as telephones or construction noise can sometimes make listening difficult. This outside noise should be minimized in the classroom. Moreover, teachers must teach the necessity of taking time to listen to what other people are saying, to the students.
- Oral barrier: Problems in oral communications include using words with ambiguous meanings. The teacher must make sure the students clearly understand the meanings of words.
- Perception barrier: Students may receive and hear the same message but interpret it differently. The teacher should also learn to focus on both positive and negative aspects of a conversation in the classroom.
In order to carry out effective, open communication in the classroom, it is necessary to try to understand different perspectives and realise the fact that the other person who you are debating with, is likely to assert different ideas and opinions. So, it is taken into consideration that other opinions have been formed by their experiences different from your own. Never tell someone that he or she is wrong. The first step in learning to appreciate others beliefs and point of views is believing that others can contribute something in your learning process and the perception of each person is unique and it is important to just listen to other people, and perhaps even change your way of thinking. These differences are based on cultural differences that are the various beliefs, behaviours, languages, practices and expressions considered unique to members of a specific ethnicity, race or national origin.
Here is a pretty clear and simple exercise that could be implemented in the classroom to promote active listening.
SLANT is a strategy where you can post this on a chart in your classroom and remind students to LIVE by it.
Sit up straight and sit as close to the speaker as you can.
Listen with your eyes, ears, and heart.
Ask and answer questions.
Nod your head showing that you are receiving.
Track the speaker with your eyes.
Communication is a bidirectional process which is close to creativity and human development. Conversely, the concept of transmission in learning is based on a channel connecting a sender and a receiver of a message, thus there is no active participation of the receiver in this case.
It is fundamental in education to foster reciprocal communication as a method to educate oneself and others, as well as a tool to decide all together and to value people as individuals. Planting questions enables answers to germinate.
A useful method to foster open communication in the classroom is the Socratic method for Probing questions and the Danilo Dolci Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, which derivatives from the first one.
Socratic method is based on the practice of thoughtful dialogue. Socrates, the early Greek philosopher/teacher, believed that disciplined practice of thoughtful questioning enabled the student to examine ideas logically and to determine the validity of those ideas. In this technique, the teacher professes ignorance of the topic in order to engage in dialogue with the students.
The Socratic Questioning technique is an effective way to explore ideas of students in depth. It can be used at all learning levels and is a helpful tool for all teachers, and also can be used at different points within a unit or project. By using Socratic Questioning, teachers promote independent thinking in their students and give them ownership of what they are learning. Moreover, teachers enable students to increase their skills for effective argumentation and debate in the classroom through Socratic by learning how to ask good questions.
Asking probing questions about key issues and ideas when discussing a work of literature is a useful way to stimulate open communication in the classroom. Questions like, “Is truth absolute or relative?” or “What makes us human?” engage students, even though they’re questions impossible to answer in the span of a one-hour class (or a lifetime). To support the argument, students mine the text they are discussing. Within the discussion, multiple viewpoints arise, and the class thinks critically about how the text engages with these core questions.
Basing on the Socratic Method, Danilo Dolci developed a method called “The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach” (RMA): Socrates’ Maieutics is unidirectional, while for Danilo Dolci the concept of knowledge comes from experience and a reciprocal relationship is necessary.
RMA is a group communication strategy (Habermas, 1986) that enables all the elements in the group to give their ideas and opinions, contributing through this to the development of a final common idea, in order to make a change in the individual and collective social/political/economic/ educational spheres (Mangano, 1992). It has a wider applicability as an educational approach so it can be adapted to different topics and situations, fostering participatory learning in a non-violent, stimulating and cooperative environment for adult learners.
- Dialogue as a tool for reciprocal research and active participation.
- Each person has an inner knowledge that comes from experience.
- Knowledge is dynamic and in constant evolution and it should be built within a group. Everybody being in connection inside a group can be an element of change.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE APPROACH
- Emphasis on the individual and group experience.
- Deep grassroots analysis/participation of everybody in the process whereby we understand our real needs and our responsibility to make a change.
- Connection with reality in order to identify concrete problems, develop reciprocal awareness and find positive solutions.
- Building complex images of reality through the plurality of points of view and everyone’s contribution.
- The horizontality of the process: sharing of power instead of domination/concentration of power.
- Active participation. Active listening. Communication. Confrontation. Cooperation. Nonviolence. Creativity. Self-reflection. Openness.
THE RMA LEARNING PROCESS
The RMA learning process starts with a long-term process of analysis and discussion about meaningful themes for the group, getting deep into feelings, inner perspectives and needs that people have. The ultimate goal is not to understand some “true meaning”, but rather to verify how meanings “resonate” in many ways to different people and, more importantly, to reconstruct them through a shared experiential process of reciprocal discovery and respect.
Gradually through dialogue, a sense of group emerges as a process in which the participant learns that the group is an organism in which one can be valued as a person and participate in forming a democratic society.
In the RMA process, to educate is intended in the classical meaning of the word, that is “e-ducere”, to take out. It aims to discover, resolve, decide, learn, design, think, build together as well as to know themselves more deeply by fully valorising everyone’s contribution.
The educational process happens in two senses: the real discussions that happen and that might have concrete results and the development of competences through the discussions and group meetings. The experience of reaching decisions this way, of learning to modify and coordinate one’s own demands to those of others, and of learning to plan ahead, both personally and in a group, is important for everyone.
Conversation encourages learners to express themselves. The disposition to listen allows the educator to get closer to the learner’s way of thinking and seeing. In this sense, the RMA fosters the development of everybody’s potential to discover, it creates and pushes for essential confrontations and encounters in order to analyse, imagine and experiment the capacity to change reality and act non-violently.
GUIDE FOR A RMA WORKSHOP
PREPARATION TO THE RMA WORKSHOP
If a specific topic to be discussed is set before the workshop, it is advisable for everyone to prepare (by reading documents, researching, bringing articles, lyrics, pictures etc.). In this case, the subject matter that participants discuss is decided before the session, as it is necessary that everybody agree on the theme.
THE RMA WORKSHOP
In the first meeting, it’s important that participants introduce themselves in a personal way or by presenting their personal dream.
The RMA coordinator introduces the issue or a “good question”. For eg. What is peace according to your personal experience? What is war?
The workshop should begin as a process of dialectical inquiry that should be easy and based on a democratic open structure, without any constraint, imposition, mystical deviations or dogmatic closure.
The RMA coordinator harmonizes the group discussion in order to allow each participant to have the proper amount of time during each session, so that each one can express her/himself on the issue and according to her/his own style and personality.
During the session, participants ask when they want to speak, creating an order that should be respected. It is good practice for all participants to express their opinion on the subject matter as it then calls for the individual responsibility that each of us should have in our own lives.
It is important that everybody listens actively to each other’s voice.
The coordinator might also invite participants who are silent, giving them the possibility to accept or refuse the invitation.
However, it is up to the RMA coordinator to allow and even inspire moments of silence where people are not pressed to give necessarily some kind of answer, but rather to silently reflect on what they have just heard from other people and then talk.
It is important to put into practice the mosaic metaphor, to find nexuses, to connect by association of ideas and analogies. The fragments of knowledge, experience, the hypothesis made by everyone, are gradually related to one another, thanks to each contribution.
The RMA coordinator might intervene and give his own contribution in order to enable true reciprocity. However, he should not influence the group discussion by expressing his/her personal opinion on the topic being discussed; but rather, on a more methodological level, he/she should favour reciprocal communication, re-launch the discussion, ask for further explanations and/or examples taken from personal experiences of participants etc.
It is important during the discussion that the RMA coordinator records what the participants say.
At the end of the workshop, the RMA coordinator closes by asking a short evaluation to all participants about their personal experience and about what they have learnt within the group. This final evaluation will allow the participants to have reciprocal feedback.
The RMA coordinator closes the workshop by making a short summary of what has been said during the session and drawing conclusions on what emerged from it.
CHALLENGES AND TIPS FOR IMPLEMENTATION IN DIFFERENT CLASSROOMS CONTEXTS
Potential challenges for implementation in different classrooms contexts
- Differences in perception: Each student has a different perception of the Try to learn as much as possible about your students before the communication happens.
- Expectations: The students’ expectation from the subject and learning process can vary. It is required that teachers should be aware of different expectations and should determine students’ expectations and observe students’ progress.
- Emotions: The emotions of both the teacher and the students can seriously interfere with the understanding of the message. That is why the teacher should develop his/her Emotional Intelligence in order to be able to better understand and manage his/her own feeling and the emotions of the students
- Listening: Teachers may be tired or distracted during the learning process, teachers should be aware of different methodologies to decrease the lack of interest or motivation in the classroom.
- Overloaded message: The students cannot process all of the information contained in the message. Teachers shouldn’t give too much information and it should be balanced on practical and technical learning processes.
Tips for implementation in different classrooms context
- Build and keep trust with the students in the classroom, keep in mind that trust between teacher and student is crucial to deal with different classroom contexts.
- Strive to learn about the students’ language, values, emotional status social customs and learning styles, individual needs, the level of support of their family,
- Adapt different teaching strategies considering the students’ needs and expectations and choose strategies and resources that make use of each student’s strengths and interests
- Conduct assessment tools to monitor students’ progress closely
- Develop a classroom culture that helps to develop self-motivated learners regardless of their learning level, cultural background and interest
What is the SLANT Strategy and How does it Improve Student Achievement? [online] Available at: https://k12teacherstaffdevelopment.com/tlb/what-is-the-slant-strategy-and-how-does-it-improve-student-achievement/ [Accessed 26 Jun. 2019].
Merriam-webster.com. (2019). Definition of COMMUNICATION. [online] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communication [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].
Unl.edu. (2019). Asking Good Questions: Socratic Method in the Classroom | Graduate Connections | Nebraska. [online] Available at: https://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/connections/asking-good-questions-socratic-method-classroom [Accessed 26 Jun. 2019].
What is Open Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/open-communication/21169.
What is Cultural differences? HR Definitions & Examples. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mightyrecruiter.com/recruiter-guide/hiring-glossary-a-to-z/cultural-differences/.
EDDILI – To EDucate is to make possible the DIscovery of Life – RECIPROCAL MAIEUTIC APPROACH In adult education – Edited by Amico Dolci and Fausto Amico – Lifelong Learning Programme – Sub-Programme Grundtvig [Available at https://danilodolci.org/media/English.pdf]
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Coordinator – Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci – Italy