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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Paraphrasing to Acknowledge

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


September 14, 2015

With school beginning again, we bring students’ basic skills back to mind as they extend their learning. So, too, it is good for the adults to revisit the most fundamental skills of coaching, inquiry, and dialogue – pausing, paraphrasing, and posing questions. For the month of September we will provide a brief review of pausing and paraphrasing.

The work of Adaptive Schools and Cognitive CoachingSM includes emphasis on paraphrasing as a skill of mediation, collaboration, and inquiry. Conscious paraphrasing changes the way we listen to and understand one another. The type of paraphrase one selects is related to intention. This week we explore the acknowledging paraphrase.

We acknowledge non-verbally by offering eye contact, head nods, etc. The acknowledging paraphrase is a verbal response with two intentions. First, the acknowledging paraphrase builds rapport in the affective domain. By giving you my full attention and trying to understand you, we connect in a manner that provides safety.

Secondly, the acknowledging paraphrase supports the cognitive domain by checking for comprehension. The paraphrase invites common understanding and allows for correction of misunderstandings. The metaphor of the mirror is a simple reflection of what is being. It becomes mediative when new words used by the paraphraser are tested in the receiver’s brain tests to determine if the paraphrase captures the ideas that were expressed. For instance, the speaker says, “I can’t understand why we always start the school year with the same activities.” The paraphraser states, “You are questioning the value of our opening.” The speaker has to consider the paraphrase and test it for accuracy.

This week’s invitation is to heighten your consciousness about your own patterns of use of the acknowledging paraphrase. Do you use it more in groups or in a conversation with an individual? How comfortable are you with using this paraphrase before asking a question? How does your use of the acknowledging paraphrase affect rapport with students and colleagues?

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