An activity that encourages sharing through engaged listening.


This protocol is used to create a safe space for students and teachers to become better at listening and talking in depth. It enables the speaker to be heard uninterrupted and the listener to be aware of their role in supporting the speaker. Directions can be found below, and a slide to guide participants through Constructivist Listening can be found in the Attachments section.

1. Introduce a prompt to the group.

2. Have people pair up.

3. Each person is given two minutes to respond to the prompt. The person who is listening should not interrupt or respond to the speaker during their 2 minutes. Prompts can vary based on purpose of the activity. Some example questions are:

  • When is the last time you remembered being fully listened too? How did it feel?
  • Growing up, what was your experience as a learner? What felt supportive? What interfered with your learning?
  • How did race, class, or gender impact your experience as a learner in school?

4. Thank your partner for listening.

5. After the pair shares, reflect out to the rest of the group:

  • What came up for you using this structure? What came up for you reflecting on the prompt?
  • What worked for you? What was difficult for you?
  • What purpose do you think it might serve?
  • When could it be useful?

Time Required

Around 15 minutes

Preconditions for Success

  • There is an understanding from both participants to simply listen and not interrupt/respond to the person talking
  • Understand the guidelines for Constructivist Listening:
    • Each person is given equal time to talk (Everyone deserves to be listened to.)
    • The listener does not interpret, paraphrase, analyze, give advice, or break in with a personal story. (People can solve their own problems)
    • Confidentiality is maintained. (People need to know they can be completely authentic.)
    • The speaker does not criticize or complain about a listener or about mutual colleagues during their time to talk. (A person cannot listen well when they are feeling attacked or defensive).

Connection to Equity

This activity provides an opportunity for individuals to vocalize their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on a subject and be heard by another individual. When encountered with developmental experiences, there must be times for reflection so that individuals can make meaning out of those experiences. This activity helps facilitate that meaning-making process by engaging individuals in uninterrupted reflection.This reflection could be beneficial for individuals in working out equity-related issues individually before coming together in a larger group.

Preferred Citation

"Constructivist Listening" developed by the National Equity Project