Duke students, faculty and community partners discuss the importance of listening when it comes to teaching, learning and community engagement.
I think that listening is extremely important—sometimes even more important than talking. In working with students, I personally feel listening is the only way to actually know what their needs are and it’s important to craft my content around those needs. With service-learning in particular, I really strive to hear what are the impacts that students want to make in the world, and then try to craft their service-learning experiences around that.
When I first started to teach as a grad student, I noticed how we, as professors, tend to be scared of silence. As I got more experienced, I learned that part of listening means allowing more time for silence; it’s not so much about actual production, but allowing time for people to actually hear what you’ve said. And so I learned to listen to the silence, and then listen slowly to the answers. And it’s true that if you allow the silence to be there, eventually people raise their hands and start saying things.
Listening is fundamental to my success as a physician who has to pay attention to the stories that my patients tell me. If I don’t listen to their stories, I’m not going to be able to determine how I can help them.
I cannot imagine life or learning without listening. Listening helps me to plan my lessons and to understand what my students, and the refugees they serve, need.
I think listening is really hard. I’m a talker, so it’s been a struggle for me to hear with the purpose of listening instead of to hear with the purpose of planning how I’m going to respond.
From left to right: Denver Jameson, Quisha Mallette, and Julian Xie, community partners for the service-learning course “Health, Culture, and the Latinx Community” (SPANISH 306)
Listening is the most important part of deciding what to do with anything—whether it’s personal relationships, designing a program, or writing a policy. The experience of people and the solutions that they are able to come up with through understanding their own personal lives are the most important pieces of wisdom that we can integrate into what we do.
When you take the time to listen and engage with others in a listening space, it helps to establish trust. It gives you an opportunity to better understand and reflect upon what others are saying. It also allows you to not jump to conclusions in terms of what you might expect to hear.