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Can I Hear You Now?

Posted by on September 9th, 2011 Posted in: Qualitative Methods

“We are losing our listening.” This is the way sound specialist Julian Treasure begins his TEDtalk called “5 Ways to Listen Better.”

If he’s correct, that’s bad news for those of us who conduct interviews and focus groups.  With quantitative methods, we use data collection tools.  With qualitative methods, we are the data collection tools and if we can’t listen, we aren’t valid or reliable.

If you aren’t familiar with TEDtalks, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design; and TEDtalks are a series of 1000+ short video podcasts where highly creative people share “ideas worth spreading.”  I heard Treasure’s TEDtalk on a public radio station the other day and realized it had ideas worth spreading to the OERC blog audience.

His talk includes some short, fun exercises for improving our listening skills, but his RASA acronym, about interpersonal listening, is particularly pertinent to evaluators using qualitative methods:

  • Receive or pay attention to the speaker
  • Appreciate by using verbal cues such as “uh-huh” and “I see.”
  • Summarize periodically. (Sentences that start with “So…” work well.)
  • Ask questions afterwards.

TEDtalks are available on the web. Here’s the link to Treasure’s presentation, which is less than 8 minutes long:

Image of the author ABOUT Cindy Olney
Cindy Olney is the Assistant Director of the NNLM Evaluation Office. She leads NNLM's evaluation efforts, designs evaluation methods, and guides analysis and reporting of evaluation findings.

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