As a teacher it can be exceptionally difficult to allow children to demonstrate their own individual listening styles in class.  In an ideal, easy classroom the children would all be sitting still with their legs crossed with their eyes on the teacher and their mouths closed.  That however is very rarely the case.  In reality our children lie down, crawl under desks, close their eyes, wriggle and jiggle, think out loud.   It take s a while for our natural listening style to develop as lots of the wiggling and behaviours described above are linked to development and maturity.  Do you know what your listening style is?  The quiz below was developed for college students.  Have a go!

Personal Styles:  Determine Your Listening Style

Consider the following pairs of statements.  Place a check next to the statement in each pair that more closely describes your style.


_____ 1a.        When I’m listening in class, I lean back and get as comfortable as possible.

_____ 1b.        When I’m listening in class, I sit upright and even lean forward a little.


_____ 2a.        I let the instructor’s words wash over me, generally going with the flow of the lecture.

_____2b.         I try to guess in advance what the instructor is going to say and what direction the lecture is taking.


_____ 3a.        I regard each lecture as a separate event, not necessarily related to what the instructor has said before or will say the next time.

_____ 3b.        As I listen, I regularly ask myself how this relates to what was said in previous classes.


_____ 4a.        When I take notes, I try to reproduce the instructor’s words as closely as possible.

_____ 4b.        When I take notes, I try to interpret and summarize the ideas behind the instructor’s words.


_____ 5a.        I don’t usually question the importance of what the instructor is saying or why it’s the topic of a lecture or discussion.

_____ 5b.        I often ask myself why the content of the lecture is important enough for the instructor to be speaking about it.


_____ 6a.        I rarely question the accuracy or logic of the presentation, assuming that the instructor knows the topic better than I do.

_____ 6b.        I often question ask myself how the instructor knows something and find myself wondering how it could be proved.


_____ 7a.        I just about never make eye contact with the instructor.

_____ 7b.        I often make eye contract with the instructor.


If you tended to prefer the “a” statements in most pairs, you have a more passive/attentive listening style.  If you preferred the “b” statements, you have a more active listening style.  Based on your responses, consider ways that you can become a more active listener.

Robert S. Feldman, P.O.W.E.R. Learning: Strategies for Success in College (New York: McGraw Hill-Higher Education, 2003), 94.

So what is passive/attentive or active listening?

Passive/Attentive And Active Listening

Passive Listening is listening without reacting:

  • Allowing someone to speak, without interrupting
  • Not doing anything else at the same time

Active listening is reacting or doing something that demonstrates you are listening and have understood.

  • Giving non-verbal cues to demonstrate you are paying attention (nodding, making eye contact, making facial expressions appropriate to what is being said)
  • Reflecting back the main points and summarising what has been said

Non-verbal cues happen naturally, providing you really are listening. If you concentrate on making the non-verbal cues, then you probably aren’t listening