Overall, I think it's a good thing for a teacher to be a listener. Over time, however, my views of what this the metaphor means have changed. I am more interested in how a teacher listens than if they listen.
One kind of listener I see I would describe as a "misconceptions listener". The misconception listener has several characteristics:
- They almost exclusively listen to students' ideas through a lens of correct and incorrect (rather than listening for the possible productive beginnings of ideas, or whether or not a student's idea involves appeals to evidence, or to consistency, or whether or not a students' reasoning is plausible, mechanistic, compelling, particularly lucid, etc.)
- They are often aware of lots of misconceptions and difficulties. They often, but not always, utilize classroom strategies that aim to elicit and confront them.
- They have a difficult time letting incorrect ideas become the focus of discussion (unless it's to discuss why the incorrect ideas are wrong). They subconsciously fear that an instructor's engagement with (or silence about) wrong ideas is tacit endorsement for those ideas being correct.
- When students are off the mark, they use Socratic questioning strategies to guide students back toward saying the right things (and almost never use dialogic questioning strategies to help everyone, including the teacher, get to know their ideas better).
- They often have developed a good poker face to use with students. Because of this, they too often engage with students in a way that involves a significant degree of deceit.
Let me state that there is nothing wrong with (1) listening for and having concern about the disciplinary knowledge that may or may not be evident in student ideas, (2) being aware of common difficulties and building instruction around them, (3) using questioning strategies that aim to nudge students along, (4) deciding at times not to discuss with an entire class a confusing idea, and (5) having a good poker face.
My concern is with instructors whose whole range of listening behaviors falls narrowly within the confines of "misconceptions listening". Misconceptions listeners never really listen to their students' ideas on their own terms, because they are always on the look out for what's wrong with students' ideas. Because misconceptions listeners never really listen to their students' ideas, they are unlikely to grow as a teacher. My concern is that misconceptions listening is not a generative practice. In my experience, it seems to be a dead end for many instructors.