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University of Reading 2008 www.reading.ac.

uk
Listening in the languages classroom: Developing
teacher educators' understanding and practice.
(From the Esme Fairbairn Foundation project, Foreign language listening
comprehension: from current practice to improved pedagogy).

Seminar funded by the Higher Education Academy

Suzanne Graham, Denise Santos and
Ellie Francis-Brophy.
Aims
To develop understanding of what teaching listening and listening effectively consist of
To discuss the current scenario of listening pedagogy and envisage alternative ways of
approaching listening in ITE.
To familiarize participants with some listening strategies
To identify a framework that can be used for teaching listening
To apply that framework to the instruction of listening strategies
To apply the points discussed in the development of an ITE session on listening

Overview of session: Part 1
1. Discussion of pre-session statements
2. What is effective listening what do good
listeners do?
3. What are we doing now and what are the
problems with the current approach?
4. What our research tells us
5. How to fill the gap?
6. Listening as product x Listening as process
7. Looking at how learners listen

Overview of session: Part 2
1. The role of research findings in teacher development
2. A framework for teaching (listening) strategies: theory
3. A case study from our study
4. Planning a session with trainee teachers: a focus on
listening strategies

THE BACKGROUND
Part 1
Pre-session questions:
Which of these sentences are true?

Listening is the skill in which Year 12 and 13 learners feel its hardest to
do well.
For Year 11 learners, speaking is the skill in which they feel its hardest to
do well.
In the latest Ofsted inspection of MFL teaching across the country,
listening was a skill that was generally well-taught.
Textbook listening materials address all the aspects of the Programme of
Study that concern listening.
The most important thing when doing a listening activity is to help
learners find the right answer.
Teachers have a clear understanding of how to teach learners how to
listen effectively.
Giving learners more challenging texts to understand increases their
confidence in language learning.

1: Listening is the skill in which Year 12
and 13 learners feel its hardest to do well.

True
Graham (2002, 2004, 2006) found this to be the case,
using a large sample of Year 11, 12 and 13 language
learners
2. For Year 11 learners, speaking is the skill
in which they feel its hardest to do well.

True
This was the finding reported in Graham (2002, 2004,
2006). Listening was not an area of strength nor of
particular difficulty. That Year 12 and 13 learners found it
so much more difficult suggests there is a gap between
the listening skills we develop in learners lower down the
school.

3. In the latest Ofsted inspection of MFL
teaching across the country, listening was
a skill that was generally well-taught.

Not true
(Contd)
Ofsted (2011) says The overall progress made by
students at Key Stages 3 and 4 was good or
outstanding in over half of the 470 lessons observed.
However, there were weaknesses in too many
lessons, particularly in speaking, listening and
reading in modern languages.... Although students
listening skills were generally satisfactory, they were
not always strong because their development in
some of the schools visited relied too heavily on
exercises from text books.... Secondary schools
should....make more use of authentic materials to
help develop students language skills and their
intercultural understanding.


4. Textbook listening materials address
all the aspects of the Programme of Study
that concern listening.

False
Our analysis of textbooks for Phase 1 of our study shows
that there is very little attention to:
Textbook analysis findings
Focus on locating very specific, factual information,
matching or repetition
Very little focus on dealing with unknown words
Texts relatively short, little redundancy
Listening as finding information, presentation and
drilling. Little sense of dealing with the
unpredictable
Very little focus on listening strategies more so in
more recent books


Listening strategies in teachers guides
In books with an average of over 100 listening activities,
very few references to listening strategies and how
teachers might present these (min 0, max 16)
Strategies briefly included: prediction (but rarely
verification); using tone of voice/intonation; selective
attention/focusing on specific information but lack of
specific advice on how to implement: Encourage pupils
to listen for clues in Maribel's tone of voice
Greater focus on procedures, lack of clear advice:
They may need to hear this a few times and have extra
time to write;
Warn them that there is a lot of extraneous detail.
(Contd) Some aspects of the NC
Developing language-learning strategies
Pupils should be able to:
use previous knowledge, context and other clues to work out the meaning of what
they hear or read

Developing language skills
Pupils should be able to:
listen for gist or detail
respond appropriately to spoken and written language
deal with unfamiliar language, unexpected responses and unpredictable situations


5. The most important thing when doing
a listening activity is to help learners find
the right answer.

Teachers think this
Most frequent words in justifications:
Listening as a product (or as process)?
Feedback tends to focus on right answers

Without establishing why the errors occurred, we have no
means of assisting learners to get it right next time.
(Field, 2008:81)

Testing listening vs teaching listening

6. Teachers have a clear understanding
of how to teach learners how to listen
effectively.

Yes, but

Focus on procedures for task completion
Responses to our questionnaire: justifications =
procedures
Also in the questionnaire: large number of middle
answers
Our previous research: focus on topics

7. Giving learners more challenging texts
to understand increases their confidence
in language learning.

This was the finding of Macaro and Erler (2008)
for reading with Year 7 learners, leading the
authors to argue that we need for MFL a
curriculum which provides learners with a range
of [reading] problems to be overcome via
strategy use at a much earlier time, and which
has higher expectations of what they can
achieve in the first 2 years of their foreign
language study (Macaro and Erler, 2008: 116).


Pause for reflection
Has any of the answers surprised you?
If yes, which one(s) and why?

What is effective listening, ie
What strategies do effective listeners use?
Preparation strategies
Getting in the right frame of mind
concentration, calmness
Making predictions
Thinking of words and
phrases that might be
heard, plus synonyms
Making predictions
Thinking about the likely
topic and themes of the
passage
Preparing to
check out the
evidence and
verify predictions
Strategies used by effective listeners
Strategies to gain an overall
sense of the passage
Self-questioning
Comparing early and
later parts of the
passage
Looking at the
local and global
context
Controlling
my background
knowledge

Bringing it all together
Does my interpretation make sense?
Does my interpretation fit the context?
Does my interpretation fit in with what I know
already?
Evaluating
decisions
taken










Difficult words: weaker listeners (1)
(based on Graham, 1997)
Context

Sentence structure
Surrounding words
Tone of voice

Unknown word/phrase

Understanding?

Difficult words: weaker listeners (2)

Individual words
Thinking of English
Wild guessing

Context

Unknown word/phrase

Understanding?
Difficult words: better listeners

Context Tone Sentence structure Surrounding
words

Unknown word/phrase

Understanding
Pause for reflection
Do you feel that learners in general, at any stage of
their learning, adopt the effective strategies?
Do you feel that teachers receive enough information in
their initial training about those strategies?
What are we asking learners to do here?
(from)
Extract from Listos 2 Rojo, Pupils Book, p. 14, exercise
3a, plus transcript from accompanying Teachers Book
Audioscript: translation extract
- What is your sister Pili like?
- Well, shes always here and there. Shes never at
home. Shes very sociable. She really enjoys going out
and she has a lot of friends.
- What is your friend Marta like?
- Marta is a very serious person. I like her a lot.
- What is your cousin Julio like?
- Everybody likes Julio. Hes a very friendly and nice
guy.
(Listos 2 Rojo, Teachers Book, p. 29)

Pause for Reflection
What skills and/or knowledge are required for the
successful completion of the task?
What opportunities are missed?
To recap: we looked at
what teachers in England believe about listening;
how those teachers think listening is delivered;
how the above compares with what good listeners do,
and what the NC asks us to do

Our respondents
Random sample of 90 high schools in England, across
a range of contexts + 32 local schools
Replies received from 46 schools throughout England;
a total of 115 teachers in a range of state maintained
schools (91% in comprehensives)
Majority of teachers (approx 85%) non-native speakers
of language taught
Experience: 0-3yrs (20%); 4-8rs (22%); 9-15yrs (32%);
16+ yrs (26%)
Instruction on how to teach listening
How much instruction on how to teach listening
comprehension did you receive in your initial teacher
training?
1% A lot (more than for other skills)
46% A fair amount (the same as for other skills)
49% A little (less than for other skills)
1% None (didnt train as a language teacher)

Have you received subsequent training (e.g. INSET) on
how to teach listening comprehension?
18% Yes
82% No

Findings: the purpose of listening


Purpose Mean
To teach learners how to listen more effectively 2.1
To increase learners opportunities to practise
listening
2.3
To provide learners with a model of
pronunciation
3.1
To assess how well learners can listen 3.5
To extend learners vocabulary 3.8
Findings: Pre- and post-listening
PRE: Most emphasis on reminding learners of
vocabulary (80% - always/frequently), some
prediction of vocabulary (48%)
Less emphasis on ideas/content (40%) or
possible answers (20%)
POST: asking learners how they felt (51%),
advising on dealing with difficulties (50%),
asking learners how they dealt with task ( 21%)
Procedures and justifications
Common first procedure: explaining or going
through as a class the task requirements; pre-
teaching key words
Justifications: ensuring pupils readiness and
preparedness to effectively answer/complete the
task and building student confidence; pupils
preparedness, correct task completion leading to
implied understanding and self-efficacy
Findings: beliefs
It is possible to teach learners how to listen more
effectively
1.5
When learners don't understand a word they should work
out its meaning from the context
1.9
When learners don't understand a word they should work
out its meaning from the word/phrases that precedes or
follow the unknown word
2.1
When learners don't understand a word they should work
out its meaning from their linguistic knowledge
2.3
Learners' main problems lie in the difficulty they have in
identifying where word/phrase/sentence boundaries are
2.4
After listening, students should discuss how they completed
the listening activity
2.6
After listening, students should discuss how they felt about
the listening activity
2.6
Pause for reflection
Based on the discussion so far, list key issues
characterising current practice in MFL listening as
opposed to ideal practice
Then reflect: is there a gap between those two
scenarios?
What is the role of ITE in closing that gap?
Current
practice
Ideal
practice
GAP?

THE
ROLE
OF ITE

How to fill the gap? The role of strategies
In a helpful summary of attribution theory, Dickinson
(1995) explains that if learners attribute their lack of
progress to fixed causes (such as their level of ability),
they tend to give up the minute they encounter any
difficulties, believing they are no good at languages
anyway. They are more likely to persist if they feel the
outcome of their learning is not predetermined and
they have some control over it. Strategies can play an
important part in giving them that sense of control and
changing their perceptions of themselves.
(Harris et al , 2001, p. 16)

Often poor learners dont have a clue
as to how good learners arrive at their
answers and feel that they can never
perform as good learners do. By
revealing the process, this myth can
be exposed.
(Rubin, 1990, p. 282)


Pause for reflection
Observe some student quotes about their listening.
Which of those students seem to be in control of their
listening process? Which are not in control? Why?
Control/no control
Making links with ITE
Think of a training session you have done with your
current cohort on listening.
Write down the steps you have followed during that
session.
Now read this excerpt

Picture this scene during a listening lesson. A teacher
introduces the topic of a listening text and invites students to
say what they know about it. She writes their ideas and
unfamiliar words on the board. Next, she tells the students to
read the instructions for the listening activity carefully to find
out what information in the listening text to pay attention to.
After this, the teacher plays the recording and the students
listen attentively.
(Contd)
They complete the activity by giving appropriate written
responses (for example, choosing the correct options, filling
in the blanks, sequencing information, drawing a diagram,
jotting down notes). The teacher plays the recording again
and instructs the students to confirm or change their
responses. After that, she tells the class what the correct
responses are, and the students find out where they have
gone wrong.

Contd
Does this sound familiar to you? Well, that
was what I used to do when delivering listening
lessons. My emphasis was on the product or
outcome of my students listening. What
mattered most was how accurate or complete
their responses were. In retrospect, even though
I did many listening exercises, I was not
teaching my students how to listen effectively. I
was merely testing their comprehension without
showing them how they could improve their
listening.
(Goh, 2010:179-180)
Product or process?
The audio: extract from Authentik en franais (2001)

Alors, bien sr, tous les secteurs sinistrs vont avoir, euh,
du mal sen remettre car les dgts sont normes et le
bilan humain est dj trs lourd, donc: 26 morts et au
moins 3 disparus. Cest le dpartement de lAude qui a
pay le plus lourd tribu ce phnomne exceptionnel.
The task: For each question, tick the correct answer:
4. The number of people killed or missing runs to at
least:
a) 3 b) 29 c) 26 d) 500



And now?
Hum, vingt-six morts! Voil numro quatre! Il
a dit vingt-six morts et trois and three
people missing. [] So, do I take it twice?
Or, do I add it up? (reading from the sheet)
The number of people killed or missing
amounts to Of course, when you add up
the numbers, its going to be twenty-nine.
(Alan, p.63)
Yes, I heard vingt-six morts. So, twenty-six
dead, I think, so its probably that one. (Sue,
p. 62)
(from Graham et al., 2008)
Exploring thinkalouds
The task: m/c task (in English)
The topic: French politics
The procedure: student thinks aloud while doing the
task
What can the thinkaloud tell us about how the students
listening process? (See Preparation)
Your turn
What are the strategies used by the student to answer
question 1?
1. The passage is about:
a) The decline of Jean-Marie Le Pen
b) The defeat of Franois Mitterand
c) A socialist mayor
d) The rise of the National Front in France

Use Appendix 1 for reference.
Thinkalaoud

The audioscript (extract)

Le Front national est n en 1972, avec pour objectif de
regrouper diverses tendances dextrme-droite. Quand le
socialiste Franois Mitterand devient Prsident de la
Rpublique en 1981, le Front national prsid par Jean-
Marie Le Pen est au plus bas.
(Pillette & Graham, 2000, p. 39)
THE POSSIBILITIES
Part 2
To recap: Overview of Part 2
1. The role of research findings in teacher
development
2. A framework for teaching (listening)
strategies: theory
3. A case study from our study
4. Planning a session with trainee teachers:
a focus on listening strategies

A reminder of our findings from Phase 1
Questionnaire and interviews teaching
effective listening vs lack of evidence of this
happening
Observations task-focussed work, little
prediction+verification, strategy discussion or
feedback
Textbooks: product, levels-focussed approach,
lack of guidance, short texts, extraction of
information/details, lack of challenge
Possibilities of teacher growth?
Indirect approaches?
Engagement with research can help teachers make
deeper sense of their work (new ways of seeing) (Borg
2010, p. 414)
Borg (2010, pp. 413-414) A mismatch between
teachers narrative experience of classroom life and the
portrayal of learning and teaching they encounter in
research papers need to help teachers see parallels
between research reports and their own learners, and
to reconcile and meld () research knowledge with
their own practical knowledge (also Hemsley-Brown &
Sharp, 2003), with teachers valuing research that
meshes with their experience (Zeuli, 1994, p. 52).


A model for intervention/strategy instruction
Based on several accepted models (e.g.
Macaro, 2001):
Awareness-raising/exploration of possible strategies
Modelling of possible strategies
Practising combinations of strategies on a task
With support, applying strategies
Evaluation of strategies
Removal of support
Further evaluation and monitoring
Intervention
Based around key findings effective listening;
teaching listening as a specific skill; prediction and
verification; inferencing/key word focus;
sounds/segmentation; feedback.
Two 2-hour workshops (6 teachers) and 6 online
modules over six to eight months.
Four additional teachers viewed the filmed workshop
presentations.
Four completed all or some of the online modules
consisting of worksheets and reflection on practice
activities; one, observation and further interview.

Workshops
Discussion interspersed with research evidence
Consideration of what effective listening is
summarised findings from UK-based classroom studies,
comparisons drawn with participants own learners;
analysis of think-aloud materials from previous studies
Textbook and lesson analysis amalgamation of our
observations (anonymised!) contrasted with a teaching
listening approach
Summary of key points from Phase 1 survey;
participants reflect on differences between current
practice and what we might be aiming for
Awareness raising:
Discussion of lesson outlines
Reflect on some outlines of listening lessons
we have observed.
In pairs, read the outlines and answer:
Was listening approached as product or
process in the lesson?
What skills/knowledge were presupposed
and/or developed? (What was neglected?)
Is there any trace of strategic work in the
lesson?
Lesson outlines

Awareness-raising: unknown words and
prediction
Nonsense word activity Lotticks and
Izzids teachers carry out this task
themselves
Prediction reflecting on what learners
do:
What is going on here?
The listening passage:



The task:

Three French departments have been hit by:
a) Strikes
b) Riots
c) Floods
d) Snow storms

Ce quont vcu ce week-end les dpartements de lAude, du Tarn, et des Pyrnes
orientales, la France ne lavait pas connu depuis (passage continues, giving several
details about floods in France)
neige
During & After listening
The choice
a) Strikes
b) Riots
c) Floods
d) Snow storms

The thinkaloud
Number one I guessed, only because I thought I heard
the Pyrnes, and I thought it had something to do with
snow, but Im not sure, because I dont know the words
for strikes or riots. I just didnt hear anything else.
PAUSE FOR REFLECTION
What does this suggest to us about the potential
dangers involved in learners predicting what they
might hear?

How could we lessen these dangers?





Exercise from Expo 2 PB, p. 82)
Whats going on here?
The task
Pupils listen to the recording and work out from
the venues given where each conversation is
taking place. They need to understand the gist
of each message to work out the answer.
(Expo 2, TB, p. 129)
Extract from transcript: 4 - Excusez-moi,
madame, mais il ne faut pas fumer ici quand les
autres mangent. Si vous voulez fumer, vous
pouvez aller sur la terrasse ou bien au bar, si
vous prfrez.
Participants task
Read through the two lesson outlines in
Appendix 2, both based on the same passage
and answer:
- How do they differ?
- Can you identify for each one the following:
The aims/objectives of the tasks
What knowledge and/or skills each presupposes
and/develops
What knowledge/skills seem to be neglected.
The extent to which the suggested procedures
follow a cycle of strategy instruction

Modules
Modules took this further, leading teachers through
stages of reflection:
topic contextualised in relation to teachers survey
responses and observed classes or connected back to
either the live workshop presentations or the previous
module own lesson observations and questionnaire
responses included in their module version
excerpts from studies showing learners listening;
participants reflection on these

Modules
Detailed suggestions for alternative
approaches using same textbook
materials and invitation for participants to
try these out in their own classes
Module evaluation reflection on what
learnt, how new approaches worked with
classes, changes needed, etc.
See Appendix 3

Areas covered
Module 1: Awareness raising: How learners listen and
how they can listen more effectively
Module 2: Prediction and verification
Module 3: Identifying key words
Module 4: Developing learners understanding of key
sounds, how to segment streams of speech and to
use intonation to help them understand.
Module 5: Giving feedback on listening
Module 6: Adapting existing listening materials






Findings: a case study
Maggie shared characteristics with majority of
teachers who completed the questionnaire
Teacher in a mixed 11-19 comprehensive secondary
school; 9-15 years experience teaching French; non-
native French speaker
Selected agree strongly with the statement It is
possible to teach learners how to listen more
effectively. Just over 60% of respondents to the survey
also chose agree strongly
Data from her questionnaire, interviews, 3 observations,
module responses and evaluations
Beliefs and practice Time 1 (questionnaire)
What do you do and/or what
students do?

Why do you do this? Why is
this done?

Get them to turn to right page, find
correct exercise, write 1-10 or
whatever
To prepare for the exercise
Ask pupils to suggest what they
have to do/look at example
Get them to focus/take
responsibility for task
Point out level (NC) of exercise
and explain why so hard/easy
Familiarise pupils with the level
they're working at
Play tape twice, with pauses;
check progress
Ensure all pupils had fair chance
to complete task.
Effective listening changes (interview)
T1: Effectively, to be able to be sure that you have
gleaned as much as is humanly possible from what
youve just heard by concentrating as fully as possible
and drawing on the context, grammatical knowledge,
word before and after, what are we listening for,
knowing vocabulary thats preceded it. And I think the
four things that I said to you that I do where I make sure
that theyve got the right page and the right exercise
and they know whats coming up and thats part of my
preparation to make sure that they do try and listen
effectively.


Effective listening changes (interview)
T2: Um, to be able to glean enough from it to
feel that was a positive experience even if you
havent ticked all the boxes. To have made
progress and broadened your vocabulary. To
have gained in confidence. To accrued new
skills to how to approach it next time. That
comes up in the next section that Im going to.

Subtle changes (interview)
Change in approach to textbook use: I tend to now start
with the script, the audioscript. And then see what we
can do with it. In the planning
Once youve overcome the fear of doing something a
new way and youve seen a positive result from it youre
more inclined to then try it other ways
Listening experience for pupils had been more positive
and enjoyable...Yes I would use it again as it gives
pupils confidence that somewhere in the wall of sound
they will encounter, there are items they are already
expecting! ...anticipat(ing) filled them with hope they
might actually understand some of it. They are less
defeatist!

New insights hard won
Maggie: Ive done 4 [modules] nowwhich makes
my brain ache. I sit there saying I cant think
this through

Interviewer: Is it the way we writeis it how we write?

Maggie: No its the hardreading the question,
reading the rubric, what is this
presupposing? But it is making me realise
the ineffectuality of some of those exercises.

Learning about the process of reflection
Time 2 future plans: I might reflect on the
processes weve done like the prediction, like
the listening for, like the using the rubric.
Whatever the processes weve had, um, or
anticipating these problems we came up with,
how can they arm themselves and therefore be
less reliant on me to address these things when
they have another listening, I suppose.
Observed changes in practice?
Time 1: Listening as being quiet: The whole point of a listening
exercise is that youre listening, not talking
T seems to feel that the task is too hard; starts spoon-feeding
the ss towards the end to guarantee success? Sense of
accomplishment?
To check, ss unscramble missing words on slide, as in a game
General: T seems to be concerned about getting things
done, about guaranteeing that pupils will be
successful. A strong concern with NC levels. T as
doer, page turner, box ticker
By T2, emphasis on finding the right answer lessened.
Time 2 observation?
But change only partially evident in observed class:
hectic pace, one activity after another, no
thinking/talking about what was being done
Senses however improved efficacy: adapting &
incorporating new teaching strategies required a lot of
concentration and brain power in the preparation stage.
Thought it paid off for ss learning experience and her
own skills at teaching listening
Specific question to interview suggests subtle, initial
changes in thinking 'do you think I overplayed what I did
today?







Implementing these principles and
practices with beginning teachers
Lotticks and Izzids as first awareness-raising
Modelling traditional approach
Trainee reflection on advantages and disadvantages of
this approach
Video clip of alternative approach predictions clip from
ESRC workshop
Reflection on the differences between the approaches
Looking at materials: how could they use them
differently?
Where could they start? What would be possible for
them?
Conclusions
Changes in beliefs may not lead directly to changes in
practice (Johnson & Golombek, 2002)
Knowledge about teaching and the classroom
becomes instantiated only after it has been integrated
into the teachers personal framework (Rankin &
Becker, 2006, p. 366)
But evidence of a range of developmental processes
(Borg, 2011, p. 378)
Facilitated by data collection methods that encouraged
teachers to reflect not only on their own work, but also
on that of other teachers, on materials and the
relationship of all these to research evidence
Your task
Group Work: Applying the framework to work
with trainee teachers
What could be applied to your contexts? Which
aspects of what we have presented today could
you use in your own work with beginning or in-
service teachers? Draft an outline session
What problems might trainees/teachers
encounter? How could you help them with
these?
References
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Borg, S. (2011). The impact of in-service teacher education on language teachers beliefs. System 39, 370-
380.
Field, J. (2008). Listening in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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