While growing up, quite a lot of us were told that listening is important, or that one should listen attentively. However, hardly any of us were formally taught how to listen actively. So that begs the question: is listening that important of a skill that it requires to be included in school curriculums? Well, yes!
Importance of listening in schools:
Learning skills required to be a good listener will not only help the students to develop a good interpersonal relationship with their peers but also equip them to develop empathy that extends beyond the classroom.
Active listening enables the students to take control of their academic and personal lives by helping them retain more information and increase attention spans.
In addition, improving a student's listening skills can enhance self-efficacy, which boosts confidence and helps minimize stress.
Students skilled in listening pick up on more knowledge to reflect on, and think thoroughly before responding, hence improving the way they present information.
Such students also tend to pick up on new languages with ease and are better at communicating as well.
Thus, listening skills help students sail through their roller-coaster academic journey with greater comfort and confidence. Let us understand how schools can help students improve their listening skills.
What can the curriculum include?
One of the first steps to inculcate listening skills in students is to establish the difference between active and passive listening. Active listening is paying attention to the speaker mindfully and empathetically to understand the contents of speech without interrupting the speaker. Passive listening is when the listener listens only to respond in a certain way without any regard to the speaker's emotions or intentions. More often than not, the majority of students have engaged in passive listening in their school life. Hence, it is important to teach students the difference between the two so that they would consciously try to avoid indulging in passive listening.
Just like learning any other skill, listening too comes with practice. Students can be paired up to practice listening skills, with one person becoming the speaker and the other listener and vice versa. The speaker can talk about topics such as a happy memory, a funny story, or a proud moment. Group activities where every student takes a turn to speak on a topic can also teach them how to listen attentively in a group discussion.
The curriculum should also focus on teaching non-verbal listening skills, including physical gestures to convey that the listener is fully invested in what the speaker has to say. These can include maintaining eye contact, attentive posture, and facial expressions which reflect genuine empathy for the speaker.
Finally, mindful meditation can help teach students to tune out their thoughts and focus on surrounding sounds, thus improving their listening abilities. If they can replicate this focus while having conversations, it will drastically improve their ability to listen mindfully.
Along with the above-suggested methods, students need to be encouraged to practice their active listening skills daily and focus less on making their opinions heard and more on listening, and responding to their classmates' ideas. Inculcating active listening skills would prove to be a paradigm shift for our education system. It will improve the students' social and interpersonal lives and help create a more empathetic and welcoming community as a whole.