Listening to a Challenging Perspective: The Role of Interruption

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 112 Number 11, (2010), p. 6-7.
In her book, Learning to Teach Through Discussion: The Art of Turning the Soul (2009), the author presents a case study that shows students and teachers learning to listen. The reader sees that as they engage in what the author calls interpretive discussion that is, discussion about the meaning of texts they become more eager to understand their meaning and to understand the ideas of others in the group. In some instances, people work to listen to ideas that challenge their own, rather than eschewing them.

Purpose of study

In this article, the author continues her investigation into the conditions under which people try to listen to a challenging perspective and draws implications for the challenge of so doing for teachers.

Research Design
The research described in Learning to Teach Through Discussion moved the author to examine a fictional case and assert five hypotheses about the conditions under which listening to a challenging perspective occurs.
Then, the author examined a nonfictional, introspective case that focused her attention on the second of the five hypotheses.
Next, the author studied two nonintrospective, nonfictional cases. These analyses helped to clarify four conditions that obtain at the point identified by the second hypothesis.
Clarification of the four conditions enabled the author to identify a challenge that teachers face in trying to help students and themselves listen to challenging perspectives.


The author argues that when teachers allow their listening to be interrupted by a challenging perspective, they open themselves to recognition of heretofore tacit beliefs, to new questions, and to new ideas about the resolution of those questions.

Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon (August, 2009). Learning to Teach Through Discussion: The Art of Turning the Soul. Yale University Press.

Updated: Nov. 23, 2010