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Is Anyone Listening?

Neil Reid

Listening improvement programmes appear to be rare in New Zealand schools, possibly because listening is something we tend to take for granted. A case of familiarity breeds neglect perhaps? Teachers will say: 'Oh yes, listening is terribly important as a means of learning,' but if you ask what they do to actively foster and develop listening skills they often say: 'Well, no, I don't really do too much about it.' Maybe that is why a recent report on educational standards' in state schools contained some rather gloomy statements on the topic:
'They (listening skills) are not improving, and may instead be declining slightly.'
'Very few teachers ... take specific lessons to improve the students' listening skills.'
However, the report does say that most teachers are aware of the importance of listening; the problem appears to be that they are unsure of how to go about improving it. So it would seem that it is really lack of knowledge that produces the state of apparent neglect. To remedy that situation most of the rest of this item is devoted to discussion of the steps teachers can take to help their pupils become more accomplished listeners. But first, let's look at the question of whether it is in fact possible to teach children how to listen.

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