The teacher is an active listener and open to diverse viewpoints.

Listening can appear to be a passive activity where one person sits quietly, receiving information, but effective listening is far from passive, and is a lot of work! Good listening behaviors not only increase the likelihood of true understanding between people, but they can also increase feelings of empathy and liking. Giving another person your undivided attention with aim intent of understanding their perspective is an act of kindness. When we listen attentively, we show we care, and people can feel that. 

Active Listening

Active listening (Rogers & Farson) consists of behaviors and strategies aimed toward a meeting of the minds (Rogers & Farson). Active listening is accurately comprehending messages, remembering them, and responding appropriately. 

Be there mentally and physically. 

  • Use good eye contact; let your students know you’re focused on their message. 
  • Nodding and facial expressions also indicate your attention.
  • Avoid being distracted, looking around, etc. 
  • Let the person student speak; try not to interrupt.

Listen for content. What is the meaning conveyed by the language being used?

  • Check for understanding – after hearing the message, use paraphrasing, repeating, summarizing, and questions to be sure you’re understanding correctly. 
  • Withhold judgment or “reading between the lines;” the goal is to seek understanding. 
  • Focus on the student’s thoughts, not what you want to say next. 
  • Take notes when appropriate. 

Listen for feelings. What emotions are being conveyed? 

  • Pay close attention to nonverbal behavior – it’s often where the real meaning is! 

  • Accept the student’s feelings and seek empathy. 

Avoid roadblocks.

  • Be sensitive to cultural differences in the use of verbal and nonverbal behaviors. 

  • Remember that individuals can be triggered by language. 

  • Know your own biases and tendency to affix to your own positions. 


Openness to Diverse Viewpoints

Openness to Diverse Viewpoints goes hand in hand with active listening. Our goal in the classroom is understanding and perspective-taking in the interest of expanding our minds. Use your syllabus to set standards for civil behavior in the classroom; model these behaviors and discuss them with students. Some additional ways to demonstrate your openness to cultural differences include the following from the Drexel University School of Education: 

  • Get to know your students. Take the time to learn about each student’s cultural background, hobbies, learning styles, and what makes them unique
  • Maintain consistent communication.  Throughout the school year, strive to know your students on a one-to-one basis.
  • Acknowledge and respect every student. Encourage students to learn about their diverse backgrounds. Use an ice breaker assignment, allowing students to give presentations about their family traditions and culture to help expose the class to concepts outside of their own familiar comfort zone.  
  • Practice cultural sensitivity. Make sure you’re being sensitive to everyone’s culture, beliefs, and language concerns. Take the time to understand each student’s cultural nuances – from learning styles to the language they use – and use these insights to design your lesson plans. 
  • Incorporate diversity in the lesson plan. For example, broaden history lessons so that they encompass the world beyond United States history and culture. Or, use references and analogies to other cultures in your lessons and assignments to help students with diverse backgrounds personally connect. Another great strategy is bringing in diverse speakers to add varying points of view and real-life context to different subjects. Also, consider your course texts and materials – do they include diverse authors and perspectives? 
  • Give students freedom and flexibility. Allow students to read and present their own materials that relate to the fundamental lesson so they can approach the topic from their own perspective. As a teacher, you can act as a facilitator and encourage conversation and healthy debate between diverse opinions. Group assignments are also a great way to expose students to diverse perspectives, allowing them to work together to explore and solve a problem. 

While these strategies focus on cultural viewpoints, they can be adapted to focus on other types of viewpoint diversity, such as political, feminist, Marxist, etc.