EFAP memory archive workroom 3

‘Teaching to Listen: Listening Exercises and Self-Reflexive Journals’

Listening is critical to the oral history process. How does one teach students to listen? This article describes a series of listening exercises the author designed for her students and the reflexive journals they kept to record their responses to the exercises. One of the motivations for the deepening of listening skills was to assist students in becoming more sensitive to issues involved in listening to someone who was different from them in significant ways. While many of the students’ responses centered around increasing their perceptions of listening in general, some commented specifically on what it means to listen to someone who is racially different from the listener. Students wrote about listening as a very active process that deeply impacts the content, performance, and emotional tone of the narration. They acknowledged the significance of nonverbal affirmations, directed questions, unstructured environments, empathetic bonding with narrators, and the role of silence in listening. They also commented on the impact that power negotiations had on the interview, and how honesty, openness, and self-revelation eased discomfort in talking about racial issues. Many commented on the lack of intensive listening they engaged in during their ordinary lives, and sought to incorporate their new listening skills not only in oral history interviews, but in their personal interactions with family and friends.

Click here to read the full Oral History Review article by Martha Norkunas: EFAP memory archive workroom 3 – Teaching to Listen

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