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Listening Effectively and Questioning Skills

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:05 PM
Listening Effectively and Questioning Skills

As a class teacher you will need to hone your personal and communication skills. In particular your listening skills, your questioning skills, your ability to give complex and difficult explanations and your ability to end classes effectively. Below are some useful hints:-
Listening effectively

1. Try to keep an open mind and listen to what is actually said.

2. Listen for meaning. For example a student maybe asks you a muddled question about a small detail. Actually, what s/he may be telling you is that s/he is completely lost and doesn’t understand this at all – or this student may be dyslexic.

3. Try not to pre-empt what a student is saying, by cutting them off mid-question and giving them an answer to a problem as you see it. As much as possible, let them explain their uncertainties and confusions. According to a reasonable body of the Higher Education research literature, concept development often requires that students first understand how the new ideas presented fit on to what they already know, and IF the new concept requires them to let go of some previous understanding, this needs to be actively acknowledged (ie: you can’t simply overlay a new and contradictory set of ideas before the old ones have been explored and deconstructed).

4. Try to find a workable balance between, on the one hand, thinking ahead in the discussion in order to maintain the flow and focus and, on the other, being overly directive and forcing the discussion along your set path.

Questioning skills

There are a number of techniques you can use to encourage students to ask questions and to open up discussion.
The most obvious is to draw on students’ questions and comments and to enlarge upon them with your own remarks. What do you do if the subject matter is new and your students are too? You may want to jot down several statements or questions beforehand and use these as a springboard.

For many quantitative subjects, you may want to plan out a sequence of short questions aimed at helping students work their way through a problem, or grasp a better understanding of a theory or model. A number of class teachers in Economics, Maths, Statistics and Accounting and Finance use this approach. Some will go round the class more or less sequentially, so students know when their “time” to answer is approaching and can prepare. Others take a more random approach, calling on people by name. Yet others ask questions to the group as a whole, and let whoever wishes to respond.



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