Listening: A critical factor to learning

But what if you can’t hear?

What works when digital technology improves learning?
When all pupils are able to hear and understand what is being said in learning spaces as a result of audio distribution technology they can engage in tasks confident in the knowledge that they are clear about what has been asked of them. They have more time to engage directly in learning tasks and teachers have more time to support small groups and individuals because time wasted repeating instructions has been significantly reduced.

Where audio technology allows teachers to unobtrusively listen in to small groups to check on pupil’s on-task behaviour, their level of task understanding, their rate of progress, their quality of individual contributions to group discussion and to reinforce new learning or re-direct the group when progress is slow without disturbing the whole class, the pace of learning is improved and improved learning outcomes are achieved. Teachers also have an improved understanding of their pupil’s language development and self-confidence in contributing to discussion, which, in turn, allows the teacher to provide more accurate and targeted feedback to pupils and to refine subsequent lesson plans to provide greater challenge to pupils.

Technology facilitated two-way dialogue between teacher and small group helps prevent a slowing of pace in lessons, especially where pupils can alert the teacher as soon as they feel they need support.

What does not work?
Leaving pupils struggling to hear and understand instructions due to poor classroom acoustics, high levels of reverberation and high external and internal noise pollution. The more effort pupils put into hearing clearly what has been said the less energy remains for undertaking and successfully completing set learning tasks. Disjointed lesson introductions where repetition of instruction is required does little to help pupils get a clear overview of the nature of learning tasks and the strategies they will need to employ to successfully complete the tasks.

When working in small groups pupils are tempted to go off-task when the teacher is preoccupied with other groups. Audio distribution technology changes the attitude of pupils and research shows that they are far less likely to go off-task when they know their teacher can listen into their conversations at any time. Without such technology teachers are far less likely to know what their pupils are capable of when contributing to discussion. Once a teacher approaches a group to listen in, pupil behaviour is affected with the more confident tending to take centre stage and the less confident adopting passive roles.

What should Government do?
Provide the funding for more research into the impact audio distribution technology has on pupil learning, especially for those with SEN where research already undertaken shows that poor hearing is often overlooked when diagnosing the causes of a range of SEN conditions. Improvement in the diagnosis of SEN conditions is required to prevent current levels of mis-diagnosis.

What should Government not do or stop doing?
The government should not allow the large number of pupils in our schools to struggle in their learning because of poor classroom design, poor acoustics and a lack of resourcing to allow the installation of new audio distribution technology systems that overcome this problem and that help create high quality learning environments for all pupils.

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