“One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problems, can change our whole outlook on the world.” – Psychologist Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949)

“Listen up!” When that command echoes through a classroom, it most often signals that students need to listen to a teacher, coach, or other adult. But it’s a phrase teachers might use more in encouraging students to “listen up!” to each other.

Sure, students talk a lot with each other, whether it’s in person or via social media. It can be hard to get them to stop! But unlike talking, it’s much harder to really listen well to each other. In fact, really listening is a skill or habit many of us struggle to do all of our lives.

Really listening — which goes beyond hearing words — is the starting point for expressing care. It’s a habit and a skill that young people can, and need to, develop as they grow up. Not only will it help classroom relationships right now, but listening skills serve them well in the long term. After all, “listening effectively to decipher meaning” is a core 21st century skill.

Helping students learn to express care for each other by listening to each other is a key strategy for strengthening student-to-student relationships. These research insights and classroom activities highlight the potential ways educators can strengthen peer-to-peer relationships, which can go a long way to enhancing the culture and climate of your classroom and school.

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