At a wonderful conference on Educational Leadership earlier this month, I attended a workshop on the power of effective listening.As a Middle School Head, oftentimes, when a teacher comes to me with a concern, I attempt to solve the problem for them. Instead, I should ask what they need from me, dig deeper into their thought process and listen. This is an opportunity for professional growth. The same strategies can be applied to the students we teach and the children we raise. These interactions can empower students because we are not just telling a child what to do, but we are asking them to reflect on the why.
Here are five ways to draw out a person:
· Attend to non-verbal cues (tone of voice, body language, etc.)
· Be empathetic
· Notice the positive; be affirmative
· Ask questions that require reflection or provoke a different perspective
· If appropriate, identify next steps or an action plan
Effective questioning is the game-changing part of this process. For example ask:
· What went well?
· Where do you need more experience or guidance or practice?
· Why do you think that?
· What was your thought process?
· What would happen if you changed this part?
· How could you do this differently?
· How is this connected to something else you know or can do?
· What might you do differently next time?
Pushing students (and teachers) to analyze and debrief the work they do creates an environment of continuous growth. Creating space for a student to reflect on their writing, problem solving or other output gives them ownership of their learning process. They identify their areas of strength and opportunity so they can develop in the way that is most productive for them. In a similar vein, asking teachers to reflect on their work in the classroom through scripted observation or videotaping has the same effect. Listening to them identify what went well and where they saw positive student outcomes enables me to then ask them questions about where areas for growth might be. The process is theirs instead of mine, affirms their abilities and gives them ownership over their own growth. Now students and teachers are armed with tools and a road map to use everyday. All by becoming a better listener.