Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

A New Approach for Listening

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

This post is mainly about listening to faculty as faculty developers, and listening yo students as teachers. It is triggered by several things that happened the past couple of days. By someone telling me they always kept their facdev faculty-centered before they read the article by Autumm and me on Promoting ownership, equity and agency in faculty development via connected learning. And my thoughts (though I do not know her context in detail, but I know a bit) that I think people need to listen more widely and differently to be able to do that (all of us can do better on this). Also, someone on Twitter on how she wishes faculty would try X in order to promote Y and Z learning in students…and my thought that…hey, we need to put ourselves in faculty’s shoes and imagine what might discourage them from doing something, or indeed, what would motivate them to do it in the first place….keeping in mind that Y and Z might not be priorities for them, or if they are, X might not be a modality they are familiar or comfortable with themselves, let alone letting students do it. I’m also looking at some of my students’ blogs and thinking how certain assignments give me the opportunity to listen to them and know them better and I love that. But also how not all of them will take the opportunity to show that depth (for many reasons) and how to read between the lines. I also critiqued something on Twitter by allies and got a really positive response by someone from that organization that they will try to do better. In another lifetime, I would have gotten pushback from public critique like this, but I am glad they listened. Hopefully they will take action. Finally, was reviewing an article where someone tried to make some generalizations about academics based on a sample of people who wrote comments on online articles and I was like…dude, academia is full of people who would never post a comment online.

So anyway. I am not into frameworks so these are just suggestions for an approach to listening. It may not be rocket science but these are my thoughts…it starts with recognizing that our listening is limited by what we hear (how widely we are exposed to diverse ideas and how deeply we interact with them) and also how we hear (how open we are, how aware of our own biases and where others are coming from) and how we notice what we don’t hear (silence, between lines).

Listen wide

Listen to many people of different kinds. What diversities need to be there for your listening to be comprehensive? Depends on context. Important in the case of facdev is to listen to faculty from various disciplines, gender, background, degrees of job security – and yes, the ones who don’t wanna do facdev.

Listen deeply

Listen to all they’re saying for as long as possible. Don’t have just one or two people as your token adjunct, minority.

Listen openly

Listen with an open mind to find something that does not already fit into your own mental maps.

Listen repeatedly

Don’t listen to them just once but sustainably. People change their minds, but also, you are more likely to absorb and idea if you are constantly listening to different versions of it, than if you hear it once and it’s a novelty.

Listen out

Seek to listen outside your circles. You may find really valuable input in places you don’t expect . My PLN from various contexts heavily influence my local work.

Listen in

Listen to your own voice and be hyperaware of your own biases and potential defensiveness that would make you resist an idea. Listen inside your department and context for this as well. Listen even to administrators and understand why they do what they do.

Listen to silence

Notice absence as much as presence. This is really important as the silence might indicate something and you need to dig deep to discover it.

Listen between the lines

Recognize that no everyone trusts you enough to say it all, or they may just not feel comfortable saying it all for a variety of reasons (e.g. students, because you have power over them; or administrators, because they are not authorized to share with you). It’s frustrating and difficult to make projections and build assumptions, but we need to assume they are there.

Listen for Hidden Power

It’s always there. Account for it.

Listen even when you don’t need to

It may come in handy some day and help build your views of how everything works

Listen and take action

When possible, take action. Amplify or try to apply and let others know you have listened and plan to do something about it within your circle of power or influence.

And now…to try to implement all this in my life…and even more difficult in my personal life (marriage, parenting) where so much is between the lines…

One Comment

  1. I LOVE this! Thank you. I have shared with other Learning and Education Developers (using the hashtag #loveLD) – and potentially with students via our #studychat FaceBook page – and using that hashtag in Twitter.

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