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On Pretending to Listen


by Nicholas C. Burbules & Suzanne Rice 2010

Background/Context: This article is part of a series of studies carried out by the authors in this special issue on the general topic of listening and its specific relevance to teaching.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We examine the common activity of pretending to listen and argue that thinking about it carefully reveals some important insights into the practice of listening more generally. Then we turn to the question of pretending to listen in the context of teaching.

Research Design: This is a conceptual and normative study drawing from relevant philosophical literatures.

Conclusions/Recommendations: A romanticized view of listening suggests some kind of totally encompassing focus and understanding: The good listener is hearing everything, understanding everything, blessed with profound insight and infinite patience. Having set up this ideal type, however, we then judge every deviation from this perfect model as a moral failing. This way of thinking about moral conduct, we conclude, is often misleading and counterproductive.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 11, 2010, p. 2874-2888
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15797, Date Accessed: 10/16/2017 6:15:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Nicholas Burbules
    University of Illinois
    E-mail Author
    NICHOLAS C. BURBULES is Grayce Wicall Gauthier Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy of education from Stanford University. Over the past 10 years, he has also held visiting professorships in Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. His research focuses on philosophy of education; technology and education; teaching and dialogue; and critical social and political theory. He has published several books; his most recent is Showing and Doing: Wittgenstein as a Pedagogical Philosopher, coauthored with Michael Peters and Paul Smeyers (Paradigm Press).
  • Suzanne Rice
    University of Kansas
    E-mail Author
    SUZANNE RICE teaches courses in the Departments of Curriculum and Teaching and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Kansas. Her research interests include topics in philosophy of education, educational policy, and curriculum studies. Her recent work appears in Learning Inquiry and Educational Studies.
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