Display this page in a printer-friendly format  Print

What is Listening?


What is Listening?

Which activity involves the most listening? Students spend 20 percent of all school related hours listening. If television watching and one-half of conversations are included, students spend approximately 50 percent of their waking hours listening. For those hours spent in the classroom, the amount of listening time can increase to almost 100 percent. Look at your own activities, especially those related to college. Are most of your activities focused around listening, especially in the classroom?

How well do you really listen? Take this test to find out.

If you ask a group of students to give a one word description of listening, some would say hearing; however, hearing is physical. Listening is following and understanding the sound; in other words, listening is hearing with a purpose. Good listening is built on three basic skills: attitude, attention, and adjustment. These skills are known collectively as triple-A listening.

Listening is the absorption of the meanings of words and sentences by the brain. Listening leads to the understanding of facts and ideas. Listening also takes attention, or sticking to the task at hand in spite of distractions. It requires concentration, which is the focusing of your thoughts upon one particular problem. One who incorporates listening with concentration is actively listening. Active listening is a method of responding to another that encourages communication.

Listening is a very important skill, especially for tutors. Many tutors tend to talk too much during a tutorial session. This defeats the purpose of tutoring, which is to allow students to learn by discussion. Rather than turning the session into a mini-lecture, tutors must actively listen and encourage their students to become active learners. Giving a student your full attention is sometimes difficult because you start to run out of time, or you find yourself thinking about your next question; however, the time you spend actively listening to your student will result in a quality tutoring session.

Poor Listening Habits and Good Listening Habits

Poor habits Poor listeners... Good Listeners...
Criticizing a speaker Criticize the speaker's voice, clothes, or looks. Therefore, they decide that the speaker won't say anything important. Realize that a lecture is not a popularity contest. Good listeners look for the ideas being presented, not for things to criticize.
Finding fault with the speaker Become so involved in disagreeing with something the speaker states that they stop listening to the remainder of the lecture Listen with the mind, not the emotions. Good listeners jot down something they disagree with to ask the speaker later, then go on listening.
Allowing yourself to be distracted Use little distractions -- someone coughing, a pencil dropping, the door opening and closing -- as an excuse to stop listening. Filter out distractions and concentrate on what the speaker is saying.
Faking attention Look at the speaker but don't listen. They expect to get the material from the textbook later. Understand that speakers talk about what they think is most important. Good listeners know that a good lecture may not contain the same information as the textbook.
Forcing every lecture into one format Outline the lecture in detail. The listener is so concerned with organization that he misses the content. Adjust their style of note-taking to the speaker's topic and method of organization.
Listening only for facts Only want the facts. They consider everything else to be only the speaker's opinion. Want to see how the facts and examples support the speaker's ideas and arguments. Good listeners know that facts are important, because they support ideas.
Calling a subject boring Decide a lecture is going to be dull and "tune out" the speaker. Listen closely for information that can be important and useful, even when a lecture is dull.
Overreacting to "push button" emotional words Get upset at words which trigger certain emotions -- words such as communist, income tax, Hitler or abortion. Emotion begins and listening ends. Hear these same words. When they do, they listen very carefully. A good listener tries to understand the speaker's point of view.
Wasting thought speed Move along lazily with the speaker even though thinking is faster than speaking. A poor listener daydreams and falls behind. Use any extra time or pauses in the lecture to reflect on the speaker's message. They think about what the speaker is saying, summarize the main points, and think about the next points.

Look at these sites for improving your listening skills:

Remember it is important for you to encourage your students to practice good listening skills. One way to accomplish this task is by sharing with them this simple mnemonic device on how to learn to listen. Active listening is a very demanding skill that requires practice and perseverance; however, active listening is also very rewarding

Go to Assignment