Why it is crucial to know everything about listening styles

Listening styles and how to use them

Listening styles and how to use them


  • Listening
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Using different listening styles allows teachers to better connect with students, understand their needs, and encourage meaningful participation in learning. 

In this article, we’ll explore these listening styles and how teachers can use them strategically in their classrooms.

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Learner’s listening styles

Listening styles refer to the various ways individuals approach and engage in the process of listening.

People may have different preferences and tendencies when it comes to receiving and interpreting auditory information. Understanding these listening styles can be important, especially for teachers, as it can enhance communication and promote effective learning.

Individual preferences, learning backgrounds, cultural influences, and cognitive processing differences can all contribute to learners’ varying listening styles.

Personal preferences are important, as some students may naturally gravitate toward certain listening approaches due to their interests, personality, or prior experiences. 

Additionally, learners’ cultural backgrounds can influence their communication styles and expectations regarding listening and speaking. 

Furthermore, cognitive factors such as attention span, processing speed, and working memory capacity can also shape how learners approach and engage with listening tasks. The combination of these factors contributes to the variety of listening styles seen among English learners.

Here are some common examples of the listening styles that our students can possess.

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Literal listening

Some English learners focus primarily on understanding the literal meaning of what is being said. They may struggle with idiomatic expressions, figurative language, and cultural references but excel at comprehending straightforward information.

For example, they are really good at fill-in-the-blank exercises with straightforward sentences or dialogues, listening to short passages and identifying specific details, such as names, numbers, or locations, and matching activities where students connect spoken words or phrases with corresponding written words.

Global listening

This style involves paying attention to the overall message and context rather than focusing on individual words or phrases.

English learners who adopt this style may have a better grasp of the big picture but might miss nuances or details. They are usually good at listening and summarising the main points, discussing the overall theme or message, identifying the main characters, setting, and plot, etc.

Selective listening

Learners with this style tend to tune in to specific information that is relevant to their immediate needs or interests. They may ignore irrelevant details or filter out extraneous information to focus on key points.

They are good at completing tasks based on instructions given in the listening passage, like following directions to complete a recipe or solve a problem. Listening to a news report and extracting relevant details related to a specific topic or event is another common task they easily cope with.

Interactive listening

Some English learners prefer interactive listening, where they actively engage with the speaker by asking questions, seeking clarification, or participating in discussions. This style encourages interaction and fosters deeper comprehension through dialogue.

Their favorite tasks may include participating in a role-play where students listen to their partner’s responses and provide appropriate follow-up questions or comments

They also love conducting mock interviews where students take turns asking and answering questions, and practicing active listening skills. Listening to a story or narrative and discussing reactions, interpretations, and predictions with a partner or group is also effective.

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Critical listening

This style involves analysing and evaluating the information being conveyed, including the speaker’s tone, intent, and credibility. English learners who adopt this style may question assumptions, detect biases, and assess the validity of arguments.

Students engage in tasks such as listening to a debate or argumentidentifying the main points and supporting evidence presented by each side. They love to analyze speeches or advertisements and discuss the techniques used to influence the audience

Listening to conflicting viewpoints on a controversial topic and evaluating the validity and credibility of each argument is another great critical task for such learners.

Empathetic listening

Learners with this style focus not only on the words being spoken but also on the speaker’s emotions, perspectives, and experiences. They strive to understand the speaker’s feelings and respond with empathy and support.

Empathetic listening tasks focus on understanding and responding to the emotions and experiences conveyed through spoken language.

Intensive listening

English learners employing this style listen with a high level of concentration and effort, often replaying or reviewing segments to fully understand the content.

Students might listen to a passage and answer comprehension questions that demand recall of specific information

Alternatively, they may transcribe spoken language word for word to practice accuracy and spelling, or take detailed notes on key points and supporting details.

Strategic listening

Learners strategically use various techniques and tactics to enhance comprehension, such as predicting content, summarising key points, or using context clues to infer meaning.

Students might preview a listening passage by skimming questions or headings before listening to the audio. They may also use context clues to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words, etc.

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Reflective listening

This style involves internalizing and processing what is being said, as well as reflecting on its meaning and implications.

Learners may pause to consider how the information relates to their own experiences, knowledge, and beliefs.

As teachers, we must be aware of various listening styles in order to effectively communicate with students and teach them individually in the classroom.

Recognising and respecting diverse listening preferences allows teachers to adapt their teaching style, form positive relationships, and create an inclusive learning environment

By addressing the various learning strengths and challenges, we can improve student engagement, support those with special needs as well as optimise overall educational results.

By incorporating activities that cater to different listening styles, teachers can create a more inclusive and motivating learning environment where students feel empowered to actively participate and succeed.

Teachers are also encouraged to develop effective communication skills and promote a culture of respect and inclusion in the classroom by understanding different listening styles.

Teacher’s listening styles and their application in the classroom

Teachers, much like their students, exhibit diverse listening styles that shape their interactions within the classroom environment

Active listening: promoting student engagement and confidence

Active listening involves fully concentrating on what the student is communicating, responding to it, and remembering the details.

For example, imagine a student sharing their concern about a difficult task. The teacher should listen actively, maintaining eye contact, nodding in acknowledgment, and changing key points to convey understanding. This encourages open communication and trust.

Conversely, teachers who struggle with maintaining attention or exhibit passive listening behaviors may inadvertently convey disinterest, which can hinder effective communication and rapport building with students.

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Reflective listening: strengthening the teacher-student connection through reflection

Reflective listening appears deceptively easy, but it takes practice and skill to do well. In reflective listening, the listener tries to clarify and restate what the other person is saying.

For example, during a personal discussion about a student's struggles in a particular subject, the teacher engages in reflective listening by saying, ‘It seems that you find the exercise /test /homework overwhelming.’ This not only enhances understanding but also encourages the student to clarify their concerns.

On the other hand, teachers who rely on surface-level listening may miss important nuances or insights shared by students, leading to misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Appreciative listening: valuing diverse perspectives in the classroom

The goal of appreciative listening is to make the speaker feel valued and truly understood without judgment. By combining active listening with positive psychology, our appreciative listening framework makes it simple to listen to our students.

Additionally, do not forget to praise your learners, which significantly increases their motivation and willingness to study. Focus on what your students did well instead of what they did wrong.

For example, during a class discussion, the teacher practices appreciative listening by expressing genuine enthusiasm for the diversity of opinions presented.

The teacher might say, ‘I appreciate the effort and creativity, I know it might have been difficult for you,’ which promotes a positive and inclusive learning environment.

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Empathic listening: communicating with students on an emotional level

Empathic listening involves tuning in to the student’s feelings, acknowledging them, and responding with compassion. By being strategic in our listening, we can better understand the needs and concerns of our students and provide more effective support.

For example, during counseling, a student may talk about personal challenges. The best way to support your student is by saying: ‘It sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed. I’m here to support you.’

This style creates a strong emotional connection and provides a supportive space for students.

Selective listening: focusing on important information for effective teaching

Selective listening involves consciously focusing on specific aspects of the student and the message while filtering out irrelevant details.

For example, during parent-teacher conferences, the teacher practices selective listening by focusing on the main academic concerns raised by the parents.

This approach allows the teacher to provide targeted guidance and support.

Enhancing teacher-student communication: practical tips for effective interaction

Now that we have explored various listening styles in teacher-student communication, we would like to share some practical tips for effective interaction:

  • Be actively engaged with students by eliminating distractions, maintaining eye contact, and avoiding multitasking. Attentive presence is the basis for effective teacher-student communication.
  • From time to time, paraphrase or summarise what you hear from students to reinforce understanding. This will not only put students at ease but also reinforce your understanding of their academic concerns.
  • Show genuine interest in students’ perspectives and take pleasure in sharing ideas. This fosters a positive and inclusive classroom atmosphere.
  • Show empathy and understanding by attending to students’ emotional nuances and messages, acknowledging their feelings, and responding empathically to build strong teacher-student relationships.
  • Identify situations where selective listening is appropriate, especially during parent-teacher conferences or individual student consultations. Focus on core academic issues while filtering out peripheral details to provide effective guidance and support.

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In conclusion, creating a positive and enriching academic environment is impossible without mastering listening styles. By understanding and applying these styles, teachers can improve their ability to connect with students, meet their academic needs, and foster open communication and trust.

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Article authors & editors
  • Yuliia Fedochenko

    Yuliia Fedochenko


    Teacher of General English & Business English

  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna


    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English



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