What is the impact of developing active listening skills (using roles) on pupils’ understanding of new topics?

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Millo, Emma
Sherrington-Scales , Will
Tofts Waters, Jess
Issue Date
Educational Level
ISCED Level 2 Lower secondary education
ISCED Level 3 Upper secondary education
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background and purpose: Active listening has been proposed to give the best outcomes for learning.
Aims: The aim of this study was to see if encouraging active listening through the use of different roles aids pupil understanding of new topic areas. This study was carried out across a range of different age groups (from Year 8 to Year 12; ages 12-17) and different subjects (geography, psychology and learning support) to see the effectiveness of allocation of roles to active listening and retention of new information.
Methodology: A cycle of observation was scheduled where each teacher would be observed by two others, starting with an observation of a geography lesson being taught to 13-14 year old pupils. Each teacher planned their own lesson and identified key pupils for the observers to focus on during the lesson. After each lesson the triad met to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the lesson in order to adapt the teaching focus for the next lesson in the sequence.
Findings: Adapting to given roles allows pupils to focus on certain pieces of information. When they are instructed to focus on certain parts of the information being presented it allows pupils to understand their specific area more quickly. However, the tasks do have to be well thought through and allow for collaboration later on so that pupils can put their part of the information back into the ‘whole’. It is also important to take into account other aspects such as the subject information being presented, the dynamic of the class, their age and experience of oracy tasks. This study suggested that active listening may be more effective for older pupils (sixth form age 16-18) as they are more established with their basic learning techniques and also potentially approach lessons in a more focused manner as they have chosen the subject and have their sights set on their targets for Higher Education. It would be wise to trial different active listening tasks with a range of classes to establish the most effective form of active listening for different age groups.
Implications for practice: This study suggested that active listening can be encouraged through the allocation of different roles and that this, in turn, can produce effective learning of new topic areas. It was also found that the technique may be more effective for older pupils and needs adapting for those in younger year groups.
Keywords (free text)
oracy , learner roles , introducing new topics , active listening
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