Learning Strategy 23: Active Listening 

Robert Harris
Version Date: January 14, 2016


Active listening involves a set of behaviors that help you remember the speaker's words (whether a lecture in class or a personal conversation). Practice these techniques and learn more effectively.

Focus: Pay attention to the speaker.

 Offer Non-Verbal Support

Show  that you are interested in what the speaker is saying and that you are thinking about the content. Your physical attitude expresses a lot and influences your own listening effectiveness.

Examples of non-verbal support include:

 Contrast this with someone whose arms are folded, who is looking at the floor (are floors really that interesting?), and whose facial expression makes other listeners sit a few seats away. Not only is that impolite to the speaker, but it means that little knowledge will be transferred into the listener.

 Offer Verbal Support

A more interactive way to show support for the speaker is to provide appropriate verbal cues when the speaker pauses (don’t interrupt).

 Verbal support is best in a one-on-one situation. It could also be effective in a very small group (three or four total) to keep the focus on the speaker (especially if another member is interrupting pointlessly).

As you listen, process what the speaker is saying. Hearing only, even if you take verbatim notes, will be less effective than if you mentally interact with what is said. As appropriate, you can apply these interactions to the learning environment by stating them aloud.

 Show understanding of the speaker’s message

In  the process of responding to a speaker, prefix your statement or objection by showing that you understand the point you are responding to:

 Demonstrate analysis of the speaker’s message

Connect the dots.

High Performance Learning

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Learning Strategy 1: Mnemonics
Learning Strategy 2: Paraphrasing
Learning Strategy 3: Summarizing
Learning Strategy 4: Self Monitoring
Learning Strategy 5: Self Explanation
Learning Strategy 6: Mental Rehearsal
Learning Strategy 7: Self Assessment
Learning Strategy 8: The SQ3R Reading Method
Learning Strategy 9: Note Taking
Learning Strategy 10: The Leitner Flash Card System
Learning Strategy 11: Maintaining Interest
Learning Strategy 12: Conversation
Learning Strategy 13: Group Interaction
Learning Strategy 14: Idea Mapping
Learning Strategy 15: Drawing Pictures
Learning Strategy 16: Study Cycles
Learning Strategy 17: Sleep and Rest
Learning Strategy 18: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 19: Learning Strategy Checklist
Learning Strategy 20: Asking Questions
Learning Strategy 21: Idea Linking
Learning Strategy 22: How to Use a Book
Learning Strategy 23: Active Listening
Learning Strategy 24: Close Reading
Learning Strategy 25: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 26: Power Thinking
Learning Strategy 27: Planning for Learning
Learning Strategy 28: Outlining
Learning Strategy 29: Analogies
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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com