Active listening, paraphrasing and academic integrity

Sometimes academic integrity misconduct is not maliciously employed, but stems from an inability to paraphrase. Concomitantly, students who are asked to participate as a group in tablework are often not able to do this as effectively as they could because they are not skilled in active listening. I contend that we can kill both of these birds with one stone by training students to be active listeners. If we rectify the root cause of the misconduct, we will eliminate it.

There might be many reasons why students don’t actively listen when participating in table work in a tutorial. They may get distracted, they may not pay attention because they don’t value what they are hearing, they may not have a connection with their peers on the table, or they may simply not listen because all they are doing is waiting for others to finish so they can speak. But for table groups to be cohesive, there must be respect and trust between peers, and one way to achieve this is by acknowledging what others are saying. Paraphrasing what was said back to the speaker not only facilitates this necessary acknowledgment, but it also ensures that what was said has been understood. This paraphrasing is likely to help all of the students on the table as they too confirm what was said or are able to seek clarification if there is a misunderstanding. Tanya Pidgeon insightfully extends the value of active listening below:

Active listening active listening is relevant beyond the collaborative student table…it needs to reach organisational, corporate, social and family tables. Active listening fosters personal integrity, and empathic meaningful connections. People feel valued when truly heard. The world is richer for it. It’s a human skill that is hard to do well…definitely not a ‘soft skill’.

Tanya Pidgeon

Proactively setting up a culture of paraphrasing is imperative if we want students to develop the skill and to practise it often. When we do so, students who are learning what paraphrasing is by practising it physically in the tutorials actually learn to truly understand what paraphrasing is. It is only when a skill is understood that it can be applied, so if students learn to understand what paraphrasing is through active listening, it is much more likely that they will be able to transfer the skill when they need to with written text.

I’m Paul Moss. I’m a learning designer at the University of Adelaide. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger or on LinkedIn

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