Whenever students make a report, I combine that with an opportunity to practice Active Listening. For example, in Journal Entry 26 in the On Course text, one suggested activity is to have the students write a list of their "incompletes." They are instructed to choose one action to complete and report back to the class the following session.
Before the reports, we go over the principles of Active Listening described in the On Course text: 1. Listen to understand. 2. Clear your mind and remain silent. 3. Ask the person to expand or clarify. 4. Reflect the other person's thoughts and feelings.
I vacate my chair to join the circle, and label my chair the "hot seat." The first speaker sits in the hot seat, and the person to her left is the "facilitator." The speaker takes as much time as she needs to report to the class. Then the facilitator uses the conversation skills part of active listening to draw the speaker out. When they run out of steam, anyone in the class is welcome to join the conversation, asking questions and reflecting thoughts and feelings. This process is repeated for each student, so all have the opportunity to be a speaker and a facilitator.
Here are some of the results I have observed:
1. A lively conversation ensues. 2. We learn more about the speaker, who often learns more about herself as well. 3. The speaker has the refreshing experience of being actively listened to, possibly for the first time in her life. 4. The students refine their active listening skills. They move from trying to "fix" their classmates to wanting to understand them. 5. The students are empowered to express themselves. Occasionally I will make an empowering observation, but for the most part, they run the class themselves. 6.The class bonds as we learn more about ourselves and each other. 7. We all have a lot of fun!
--Joanna Brandt, Faculty, College Success Seminar, Baltimore City Community College (MD)
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