Teachers College, Columbia University
The accessibility of video technology has made it possible to utilize both the auditory and visual channels to present listening texts in the second language (L2) classroom and on L2 listening tests. However, there has been little research investigating the extent to which L2 listeners actually watch the video monitor when presented with a listening video text. The current study investigated test-taker behavior on an L2 video listening test. Thirty-six test-takers were videotaped while taking a listening test composed of six separate video texts, and the amount of time test-takers made eye contact with the video monitor was computed. An analysis of the data indicated that the group of participants oriented to the video monitor 69% of the time while the video text was played. In addition, the study yielded valuable information concerning the consistency of the test-takers’ viewing behavior.
Traditionally, the aural input for second language (L2) listening tasks has been delivered by a teacher reading aloud a text for the students. Later, as audio technology developed, a text was recorded on audiotape and played for students. However, with the advent and dissemination in the 1980s of inexpensive, reliable, and high-quality video recording equipment, it became practical to deliver listening texts using video texts, which involve both the auditory and visual channels. Subsequently, the use of video to teach listening comprehension has become more common in the L2 classroom. As Nunan (2005) suggested, in many aspects technology has become as effective as humans in delivering content for L2 listening classrooms. As the use of video to teach L2 listening increased, researchers became more cognizant of the role of non-verbal communication in listening ability. A general consensus seems to have emerged among L2 listening researchers that the non-verbal components of spoken communication are an important component of L2 listening ability, and that L2 listeners are able to more easily construct the meaning of a spoken text that includes non-verbal input than a spoken text that does not include non-verbal input (e.g., Allan, 1984; Altman, 1990; Baltova, 1994; Gruba, 1997; Hasan, 2000; Kellerman, 1990, 1992; Progosh, 1996; Shin, 1998). The use of video texts allows listeners to utilize the non-verbal components of communication that can assist them in processing and comprehending aural input. In the majority of L2 listening situations (excluding situations such as talking on the phone, listening to the radio, or listening to loudspeakers, etc.), the listener is able to see the speaker. Depending on the purpose of the test, the inclusion of the non-verbal components of spoken communication through the use of video texts on L2 listening test tasks might be advantageous, because not only would the tasks more closely simulate the characteristics of authentic spoken language, but the inclusion of the visual channel in presenting the spoken input might lead to more construct relevant variance in the assessments, allowing for more valid inferences to be made from the results of those assessments (Wagner, 2006). While numerous researchers (Baltova, 1994; Brett, 1997; Dunkel, 1991; Gruba, 1993; Parry & Meredith, 1984; Progosh, 1996; Shin, 1998; Thompson & Rubin, 1996) have investigated how the use of technology to deliver listening texts that included both the aural and visual channel affected performance on L2 listening tests, there does not seem to be any systematic research on L2 listener behavior in relation to this technology. When presented with a video text, the listeners are not forced to watch the monitor. They can look away from the monitor, they can focus on their test papers, or they can even close their eyes. Listeners cannot utilize the...