Sunday, November 27, 2005

Developing Listening Comprehension Skills in IDI English Language Students

Current System of Listening Comprehension Laboratory Attendance

In the current IDI, or Institute of Languages of the Santiago de Cali University system “independent” EFL students, that is those learners who are not registered in a university career program, are “exempted” from listening laboratory attendance. In my opinion, this is a serious error that negatively impacts on the English language skills of registered university students and independent English as a Foreign Language students alike. Listening comprehension is a language skill which cannot be explicitly taught as elaborated on in “What Makes Listening Difficult?”. (Lynch, 2005) This also ultimately results in several ongoing problems.

- Students are given the message that laboratory attendance is unimportant

- Students do not actively pursue any form of development of their listening comprehension skills

- Students undergo increasing difficulty with listening comprehension in class, on quizzes and exams

- Student do not feel a need to practice listening skills using the cassettes or CDs when outside the class environment

- Students often arrive at intermediate and upper levels with woefully inadequate listening comprehension skills

The quality of English language learning is moderately to severely impacted by students’ decided lack of listening comprehension skills. Since speaking skills and listening comprehension skills are inter-related, albeit disproportionately, speaking skills development can likewise be negatively impacted, under-developed or otherwise diminished in capacity

Due to these aspects, among others, I disagree with the policy of automatically “exempting” independent IDI students from listening laboratory attendance. It may be better perhaps to implement the following strategies into current IDI policy.

Possible Solutions for Independent Students

In consideration of the fact that often independent students may be time-pressured due to employment, family responsibilities, health and other commitments solutions could be to:

- Encourage listening laboratory attendance upon early arrival , or if possible, on another day

- Schedule special listening comprehension practice sessions in the laboratory or library at the request of the students

- Allow listening laboratory attendance sessions to be conducted during class hours – i.e., for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class a portion of Friday’s class could be held in the listening laboratory

- For a Tuesday & Thursday class, a portion of Thursday’s class could be held in the listening laboratory

Allow for listening comprehension practice sessions using lab materials in class by special arrangement thus aiding in lowering of the students’ Affective Filter (Krashen and Terrell, 1993)

Listening Comprehension Study Results

Studies conducted over a period of five semesters, two and a half years, from the three partial exams given during each semester clearly demonstrate that students who regularly attend the minimum required number of listening laboratory hours (four per partial exam period and a total of 10 for the semester) achieve consistently higher listening comprehension scores than students with little or no listening laboratory attendance. Those students who attend a disproportionately higher number of listening laboratory sessions consistently have the highest scores on the listening comprehension portion of the partial exams. During the last, and previous semesters, students have attended as many as 35 listening laboratory sessions on their own time during the course of the semester. Independently conducted studies during the 2003B, 2004A, 2004B, 2005A and 2005B semesters have unequivocally borne out these results. (Lynch, 2004)

Graphed results of mean and mode listening comprehension exam section results clearly indicate three distinctive trends:

· Series 1 Blue – higher general scores for students with higher than average listening comprehension laboratory attendance

· Series 2 Purple – a broader range of exam scores than the blue series but with few failing students and no students with excessively low scores

· Series 3 Orange – a full range of listening comprehension exam section scores with scores from all correct down to zero, or none correct. In addition, about half of the students have failing scores.

This being the case, it appears to be obvious that mandating listening laboratory attendance across the full spectrum of IDI students would result in benefits for both the quality of learning and the English language skills of the students. Especially in the listening comprehension skills of a large percentage of LEP, or Limited English Proficiency, students who are now enrolled in English classes. By effectively addressing the listening comprehension skills of EFL students, any language institute can inherently improve the basic English language skills of its students.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He lives in Colombia and teaches at a university in Cali. Want lots more free tips, help and information on learning English or another foreign language? E-mail the author now at: .

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