OF ALL THE skills in Socratic Seminar, active listening is arguably the most important and the least practiced or appreciated. For those reasons alone,
I feel active listening deserves its own chapter. It is tempting to assume that students know how to listen considering they have been doing so for years (even before kindergarten, of course), but active listening is a skill that must be practiced and honed, just like any other. Assuming that students will naturally develop quality active listening skills is like thinking that throwing a soccer ball to a group of children will make them a soccer team.
Considering how often students must actually listen in school—Ball and Brewer suggest up to 97% of class time—it is surprising that there is rarely direct teaching or practicing of active listening as a skill, especially past primary grades. Perhaps in the lower grades there are too many other language development skills that take priority. Perhaps in the older grades, teachers assume that the students can listen well since they have had hundreds of hours of listening. Perhaps, as Leonard points out, it is because much of our sensory learning is self-taught when we are very young. Whatever the reasons, many students do not know how to actively listen.
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