On Pretending to Listen

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 112 Number 11, (2010), p. 10-11.
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 of Study

The authors 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 the authors 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.


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, the authors then judge every deviation from this perfect model as a moral failing. This way of thinking about moral conduct, the authors conclude, is often misleading and counterproductive.

Updated: Nov. 28, 2010