What is active listening?

One skill everyone needs for collaborative discussions is active listening, a way of responding to what other people say with your own questions and comments. Active listening is based on the idea that you can't add to a conversation in a meaningful way unless you listen carefully and think about what you hear.

children listening to one another speak in the hallway at school

When discussing a story that you read, for instance, you should think about how your own ideas about the story relate to what someone else has said, and then describe that connection, before explaining your own idea.

If your discussion happens in an online course instead of in a classroom, active listening will look a little different. You may be typing a response in a discussion thread instead of speaking with your classmate's face to face. If so, you can use the same tools that allow you to post comments to reply to your classmates. 

Use this exercise to practice active listening:

The Point of Conflict

What did author Langston Hughes want readers to think about Miss Jones because of the way she handled the conflict in "Thank You, M'am"? What did he want readers to think about Roger?

Write your answer to these questions in a new discussion post. Then, reply to the posts of the other students in your class. Respond in a way that demonstrates active listening, which means that you have considered your classmates' ideas and thought about how they relate to your own ideas.