If you are teaching a class in which you will be using student teams and choose to invest a homework assignment in helping your students develop their communication skills, then you might select the following learning objectives and use the following classroom activities:
Learning Objective Students will be aware and practice active listening techniques in order to more effectively communicate with team members.
Classroom Activity Ask students to review "How might I improve my ability to listen?" prior to coming to class. Have students participate in the Active Listening exercise in "How might I improve my ability to listen?" Review the techniques for active listening listed below. Finally, have students practice the four active listening techniques in the exercise below. (Exercise reprinted with permission.10)
Techniques for Active Listening
Encouraging Encourage the other person to keep talking. Show that you are interested in what they are saying. Example: “Can you tell us more?”
Questioning Ask questions to get more information or to better understand the problem. Examples: “Where did this happen?” “How long have you known each other?”
Restating Restate in your own words the basic ideas, i.e., facts and feelings. Example: “So you were in the parking lot, and he tripped you, and you’re angry.”
Summarizing Summarize the important ideas and feelings as each person said them. Identify the things they have in common. Example: “This seems to be what happened, and you’re feeling ___ (or you’re both feeling __). Is that right?
Practice Exercises for Active Listening
Each of the following examples presents something that might be said to be an active listener. After the quote, write down possible questions or statements that you might say as the active listener.
Teammate: “She’s always taking things of mine without asking permission. I don’t know. I’m just angry at her because taking my report was the last straw.”
What might you say to encourage this person to keeping talking?
Teammate: “My professor is always blaming me for everything. It doesn’t matter whether I talk in a meeting or not. She thinks I’m the one who does it.”
What questions might you ask to get more information or to understand the problem better?
Teammate: “Sometimes Dr. Imbrie talks very fast, and I have a hard time understanding what he says, but I’m afraid to ask him to repeat. I’m afraid he will get mad at me.”
How might you restate these ideas and feelings?
Teammate: “She was spreading rumors about me that I was talking with the other teammate and trying to influence his opinion. But that’s not true at all. It was the other teammate who came up to me in the dining hall and started talking. She’s making a big thing out of nothing.”
What important ideas and feelings can you summarize from what was said?