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Expansive Listening; An Essential Coaching Support

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Written by Joseph Kanke, Statewide Coaching Coordinator

I’ve often shared that boiling coaching down to its simplest definition is to envision a balance. As coaches, we must find the equilibrium between facilitating reflective thinking through questioning, and we must listen. For me, the latter has always been something that I’ve had to be mindful of, something that didn’t come easily.

In the era of COVID, as I’ve reached out to the various districts and coaches I support, I find that listening has been more important than ever. I stumbled upon an expansive listening activity in Elena Aguilar’s Onward Workbook and it offered me an opportunity to examine who I am as a listener. I used to think that being a good listener meant showing up, being quiet, clearing the clutter from your brain and listening deeply. While I still acknowledge this as a good place to start, expansive listening provides different ways of listening and suggestions on how to do so.

After sharing this activity with some colleagues, Wisconsin’s Disproportionality Technical Assistance Network added a visual representation to accompany the descriptions of expansive listening. Also included are some reflection questions, slightly modified from Elena Aguilar’s original text. The document invites you to, “cultivate awareness of how we listen, and as we become aware that we often listen with judgment or to fix a problem, we need alternate ways of listening.” Expansive Listening.

For my part, I have a printed copy of the document and it hangs above my desk as a reminder that in these times, and times to come, listening is an essential coaching support.

This article aligns with coaching competencies: 4.a & 5.a