Learning to Listen in English

Topics: Learning, Second language acquisition, Educational technology Pages: 24 (8745 words) Published: May 7, 2013
Listening skills research has tended to focus on strategy use in classrooms and on theory and practice of second language (L2) teachers. This study examined the teachers’ and learners’ perceptions of listening skills in non-classroom learning situations. Five (n = 5) study skills teachers and 19 former learners in a distance study skills course at the University of the South Pacific (USP) were interviewed for this study. The interviews with the study skills teachers sought their expectations of their learners’ listening strategies, their views about the learners they taught, and the skills their learners used for listening. Former learners were similarly questioned about their perceptions of listening strategies they were taught and used. Data was collected and managed usingNVivo, a computer assisted qualitative data analysis software. Besides revealing strategies that distance learners reported using their learning listening skills, the study identified a number of differences in views presented by researchers and L2 teachers, as well as differences in perceptions on listening skills between L2 teachers and L2 learners. The paper concludes that there exists a discrepancy between research and the practice of researchers, L2 teachers, and L2 learners on what works. The author also recommends further research in this area is needed, because research examining classroom-based learning situations will likely not apply to, nor fully inform, distance learning contexts. Keywords: Distance learning; listening strategies; University of the South Pacific (USP); learning strategies; learner perceptions; teacher perceptions Introduction

This paper aims to shed light on learners’ and teachers’ perceptions of language learning strategies (LLS) used for listening skills. It does so by using findings from a recent study conducted at University of the South Pacific (USP), which sought to examine the ‘listening needs’ of distance students for most of whom English is a second language. The larger project collected views from four groups at USP: former and present students enrolled in a study skills course offered at a distance by USP, study skills teachers who taught the course, and course teachers taking distance courses. Other forms of data collection included questionnaires which were distributed to two groups of learners and course material analysis. The focus of this paper will be on the former learners’ and teachers’ perceptions of the students’ listening skills, and specifically the differences reported by these two groups. Additionally, this paper aims to compare the findings with research by Berne (1995, 1996, 1998) and reviews by Mendelsohn (2001a, 2001b), which show that teachers rarely refer to studies conducted on listening to inform their practice, and that they tend not to spell-out the strategies they want students to use in their classrooms. This paper first provides readers with the current theoretical background on listening skills, language learning strategies, learners’ and teachers’ perceptions of language learning strategies, and the researchers’ views on classroom practices. Next, the background to the study is presented, which includes participant details, and data collection methods and analysis used. This will be followed by discussion of the results, conclusion, limitations of the study, and possible directions for future research. Theoretical Background

Listening plays an important role in language learning (Anderson & Lynch, 1988; Dunkel, 1991; Rost, 1990; Rubin, 1994) and is possibly the most essential language skill ( Oxford, 1993). It is also “the least explicit of the four language skills” (Vandergrift, 2004, p. 1) – speaking, listening, reading and writing: the four academic skills – because it is the most difficult to observe. Research on ‘listening’ began with Rankin (1930) who found listening to be the most frequently used mode of communication amongst humans. According to Brown (1987),...
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