On ACTP Thursdays, we highlight a member of the week, a resource of the week, or a best practice of the week. We’re a community of learning. We work best when we share our passions and practices.
This week, we are highlighting resources on a topic that is popular in tutor training circles — active listening! This post explores new perspectives on active listening that you can potentially use in your training practices.
Active listening is a topic that is valued not just in the field of tutoring, but also in fields that our tutors may go into — social work, medicine, business and beyond. It’s a staple in our tutor training.
Typically, active listening is taught as a series of practices someone should integrate into their verbal and non-verbal communication toolbox. Examples of what effective active listening include:
- Paraphrasing sentences or thoughts that were just heard
- Summarizing whole conversations so that students can confirm whether the tutor is on the same page
- Acknowledging the emotions of the student
- Integrating non-verbal cues such as nodding and having “open” body language
For reference, here’s a handout I created summarizing some of the best active listening techniques. Feel free to use it for your center! It’s been rather effective for me and I hope it is for you.
After many years of training tutors on active listening, I’ve been itching to re-see active listening in a different way. In today’s raucous national dialogue – where active listening may not happen often regardless of what you believe in – our students/tutors may have picked up some bad habits. I can certainly can say the same for myself!
One way to re-see active listening to train our tutors on the barriers to active listening. In an article in Social Work Education, Esther C.L. Goh writes about how mindfulness can help expand the ability for social workers to effectively listen to their clients – she also writes about the barriers we face when listening and references this Malcolm Webber article. Some of these barriers include:
- Filtering messages prematurely by beliefs, values, bias, assumptions, and expectations.
- Bad internal habits like jumping in before someone has finished their thought, interrupting, not being open minded about the subject matter, thinking ahead about what you’re going to say next, etc.
- Misconceptions from the listener.
- External distractions like noise, perhaps a language barrier, cell phones, etc.
- Use of trigger words
One activity our center is playing around with is having our employees engage in a conversation with one other person on a topic of their choice. Then, the listener will reflect on how they took in the conversation and mark, on a check-list, what barriers they had in fully listening. One final activity is to ask our tutors to come up with one listening goal for the year!
What active listening activities and tips do you use in training? Please feel free to comment below!