3U: Active Listening and Feedback

Yesterday, we completed a diagnostic about writing. Today, we will complete a diagnostic exercise focusing on active listening and feedback.

  1. We will briefly define active listening and feedback
  2. You will work with a partner to write a short script featuring active listening and feedback
  3. You will read a short article from our textbook and apply active listening and feedback skills

Active Listening establishes a connection between the speaker and the listener. If done well, it breaks down barriers (such as strong emotions) that may prevent real communication. The key steps of active listening are:

  1. focusing on the speaker (eye contact, for example)
  2. listening without interrupting/evaluating
  3. Using brief acknowledgments like yes or uh-huh to demonstrate that you are listening
  4. briefly restating speaker’s central point(s). Tone is important here. Avoid judgement; use words that the speaker may have used.

Feedback is closely connected to active listening. For feedback to work effectively, active listening (or viewing/reading)  must occur.

  1. Even if you are sure you are correct, you need to approach feedback collaboratively. Opt for language that leads to discussion; avoid orders and commands.
  2. Start with a positive statement about the student work.
  3. Next, identify something that the student may have to work on. Consider beginning your constructive feedback with “I notice that….”, “Tell me about”, or a question. (notice how a question can lead to active listening; this approach lets the speaker explain their goal in their own words).
  4. Finally, agree on a next step. This can start as a question or a statement, but should also lead to consensus.  It is essential that both parties agree on the next step, whatever it may be.

How Are We Going to Bring These Ideas Together?

I’d like you to find a partner and create a scenario in which one of you provides feedback to the other’s piece of (non-existent) writing. Some possible scenarios include:

  1. the writer makes repeated grammatical errors
  2. the writer’s ideas seem rushed or underdeveloped
  3. the writer has made a significant factual error
  4. the organization of the piece needs considerable work (for example, the piece is actually one long paragraph)
  5. the purpose/focus of the writer’s work is unclear.
  6. the piece contains inappropriate commentary (for example, a sexist or racist comment)

The Steps

  • Remember to demonstrate active listening when the student speaks.
  • Identify a strength in the student’s writing
  • Identify something the student needs to develop or improve. Choose your language carefully.
  • Agree on a next step
  • You may write a script if you wish, but don’t get lost in getting every word “right”.


Finally, I’d like you to read Reaction-Interaction on page 314. When you finish, I’d like you to write 3/4 of a page in which you give advice to ONE of the people the author encounters in her article.  Make sure to use our brief discussions about feedback and active listening to shape your advice.

  1. acknowledge how awkward he/she may have felt when meeting the author (even if you think his/her behaviour was completely inappropriate)
  2. identify something specific that the person needs to change or correct
  3. provide  a next step the person can use the next time he/she is in a similar situation

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