Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching (Jun 2016)

Balancing Openness and Interpretation in Active Listening

  • Joseph Topornycky,
  • Shaya Golparian

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9


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Active listening is an important communication skill in a variety of disciplines and professions, including the profession of Educational Development. In our roles as educational developers, we engage in a variety of processes, all of which rely heavily on the practice of active listening. Emerging strategies of active listening praxis have allowed us to highlight the risks involved in applying techniques of active listening while engaging in our day to day practices as educational developers. In this paper, we share a short historical review of theories and approaches to active listening and identify its two inherent orientations: humanism and professionalism. We highlight openness and interpretation as two pillars of active listening and explore ways of maintaining a balance between those pillars as they relate to techniques of humanism and professionalism. We explain aspects of the interactive session we facilitated during STLHE 2015 where, as a group, we named and discussed ways that active listening could go wrong. We explore ways that we, as educators and educational developers, might recognize when we may be foregrounding technique over listening, and how to correct some of these issues.