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It is undeniable that English has become a language for international communication. In globalization process, it is considered as the mean for promoting the relationship, development , cooperation and understanding among the nations worldwide. And it is unmissable luggage for anyone who wants to discover the new world or get ahead in their career. Therefore, there has been an explosion in the demand for English in all conners of the world.
In Vietnam, in recent years, particularly after the Education Reform, the country's entry into the World Trade Organization together with opening its market to the world outside, English has gained momentum. In fact, this drives people to English classes with the hope to be able to communicate in English to catch up with the rapid expansion of information and technology and to integret into the new world. English is not only taught at schools, universities but also at many foreign language centers, in part -time classes.
At Sydney foreign language center (SFLC), the number of learners keep increasing recently. Certainly , they come to the center with the hope to have command of English to use it effectively. Being asked about their learning English, most of the learners taking part in the interview in this study considered listening skill as of the great importance since listening has a role in speaking and it is very helpful to them to improve their language skill. When communicating, people are prepared to give response after they listen to the speakers. Therefore, the problem of how to teach and learn listening skill is always of the learners and teachers' great concern at Sydney center.
However, at Sydney center where I am teaching, learners'listening skill of most of the learners is bad. Learners face a lot of difficulties when they listen to the tape in English, and they found listening lessons boring. One hypothesis is the current method of teaching listening skill is still performed with traditional way in which while-listening is the dominant stage of the lesson. Learners are not well-prepared for what they are going to listen. Consequently, they become passive and less confident. They found it challenging while listening to English.
Being a teacher of English at Sydney center, I am well aware of this situation. And it is the time the teachers at this center did something to improve the situation. This drives me to my study on "the techniques for improving listening skill for non-major students of English at Sydney center"
2. Aims of the study.
This study is aimed at answering the following questions:
What methods are implemented in teaching listening at Sydney center?
What are the techniques for improving listeninging skill for non-major students of English at this center?
3. Scope of the study.
I and two of my colleagues observed a class of 27 students of Pre-intermediate at Sydney center during listening lesson. To improving listening skill for learners of Pre-intermediate level at Sydney center, the teachers can make use of various techniques and a number of things should be done. However, I only intend to describe the current methods of teaching listening for students at my center and to find the problems that appear in teaching and learning process so as to suggest only some techniques that are suitable with the learning and teaching context at my center.
4. Method of the study.
I used quatitative method in this study. Measurement instruments designed for data collection included live observation sheet for listening lesson and six questions for interviewing 9 students.
Suggestions, recommendation and conclusion in this study based on the data analysis.
Part 2: Development
I. Literature review:
There have been numerous articles and books talking about learning and teaching listening skilll over the decades. To have appropriate strategies and approaches applying in diferrent teaching context, it is necessary to take into consideration and have good understanding of the factors relating to listening.
In order to fullfil the study, relevant theoretical concepts are presented in this part of the study. They are as follow:
1.Nature of language skill
According to Harmer J, four major language skills are summarize in the following way
Listening and understanding
Reading and understanding
It is clear from the table that listening and reading belong to receptive skill as they involve receiving messages whereas speaking and writing involve language production and are often refered to as productive skill. However speaking and listening usually happen simultaneously. That is why teaching listening is always associated with teaching speaking skill. And teachers should select listening task more carefully.
2. The basic methodological model for the teaching of receptive skills.
Harmer J (1991: 189) showed a basic model for teaching receptive skill which consists of five basic stages as follow:
- Teacher directs comprehension task
- Students listen or read for task.
- Teacher directs feedback.
- Teacher directs text-related task.
Lead- in and Teacher directs comprehension task are the two satges done before listening or reading, in which students and the teacher prepare themselves for the task and be familiar with the topic of the listening/reading. It aims at creating expectation and arousing students' interest and the teacher explains, direct the students' purpose for listening or reading.
In the third and fourth stage, the students read or listen to a text to perform the task the teacher has set and the teacher helps them to see if they do it sucessfully or students can check the answer with each other.
In last stage, teacher directs text related to task, teacher organizes some kind of follow-up task related to the text.
This agreed with Davies P(2000: 76) that to make coursebook or listening practice more realistic and interesting, the specific stages should be followed: Pre-listening, While-listening, Post-listening.
3. The importance of listening
According to Harmer J, in order to develop communicative effeciency in pronunciation the students need to understand how sound are made and how stress are used. There are several ways to do this. They can listen to their teacher or native- speakers. And it is important for the students to be exposed to the other voice, that is why listening to tape is so important.
4. The principles behind the teaching of listening.
According to Harmer J (1998: 99), listening activities differ from other classroom exercises in the following ways: the tapes go at the same speed for everyone and the spoken language use especially when it is informal. Therefore, the teacher need to ensure that students are well-prepared for listening and be clearly able to hear what they listen to. He suggested six principles behind the teaching of listening as follow:
- The tape recorder is just as important as the tape
- Preparation is vital
- Once is not be enough
-Students should be encouraged to respond to the content of a listening, not just to the language.
- Different listening stages demand different listening tasks.
- Good teachers exploit listening texts to the full.
Motivation plays very important role in teaching and learning as " positive attitudes and motivation are related to success in second language learning" ( Gardner, 1985). And motivation is " a key consideration in determining the preparedness of learners to communicate" ( Gardner, 1985:10).
According to Harmer J ( 1991: 3) motivation is some kind of internal drive that encourages somebody to pursue a course of action. For language learners who are motivated often perceive goals of various kinds including short-term goal and long-term goal. Long-term goal might have something to do to expect to get a good job in future or desire to master a language to communicate with other people. Short-term goal might include things as wanting to pass an exam or finish a unit in a book.
Harmer J seperates motivation that students have into two main categories: Extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation.
*Extrinsic motivation concerned with factor outside the classroom and there are two main types of such motivation: integrative motivation and instrumental motivation.
-Instrumental motivation: when learners need English as an instrument to reach a particular goal such as getting a job or a pay rise or rewards. In this case, therefore, motivation is the reflection of an external need.
- Integrative motivation: when learners internally want to integrate himself into the culture of target language ( English).
*Intrinsic motivation concerned with what takes place inside the classroom. It plays a vital part in most learners' success or failure as language learners. For them, what happen in the classroom will be of vital importance in determining their attitudes to language and in supplying motivation. There are some factors affecting intrinsic motivation including physical conditions, method of teaching, the teacher and success. ( Harmer J, 1991:5).
In short, motivation plays a vital part in developing language skill. It can be considered as both the cause and the result of language learning achievement. That is, learners who experience success in learnin may become more or in some context, less motivated to learn. Learner can be both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated at once and at the same time.
II. Design and analysis of the research.
1. Design and methodology
1.1 An overview of the research site.
Sydney informatics language center is located in Xuan mai town, Chuong My district, Hanoi city. It trains students and people in this area and neighborhood informatics and foreign languages including English, Chinese and Korean. Like many other centers, the learners at Sydney are various in terms of ages, professions and abilities. They are students, working learners, school leaver and school children. The learners at this center are aged from ten to forty or over. A large number of them have learnt English for quite long time before. While some have had three years of English at high school or six to ten years of English at primary school and secondary school. Some other only experienced certain knowledge of English from a group of part -time or evening classes.
Of eight full time teachers teaching at the center, three have been trained at Hanoi university of foreign studies. Three other graduated from Hanoi Open University and two teachers have been trained from in-service training course. All of them have experiences in teaching, however the language knowledge and new teaching approaches should be more consulted..
At Sydney center, English teaching covers all levels from Beginner to Intermediate or Advanced. Each course normally takes three months ( three lessons per week, each lesson lasts 120 minutes). Coursebooks are major means in teaching and learning and they are chosen based on students' need, ability and ages. Coursebooks are being taught here including three books of New-headway and Lifelines. Also, Listening comprehension and note-taking ( By K. James, R.R. Jordan) and Speaking naturally ( By Bruce Tillitt) have been used as supplementary materials to develop listening and speaking skill.
1.2. Subject of the study
I and two of my colleagues are observers to observe one listening lesson taught by one of the teacher in a class of 27 students of pre-intermediate students at the center. Listening situation in the class is an interview. To ensure the reliability and validity of the study, the three observers worked independently and the criterias for observation sheet (based on Ruth Wajnryb, Classroom Observation Tasks, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p.35) were discussed in details before being in used. The observers got permission from the teacher who was observed. The class was divided randomly into three groups of 9 students each. Each observer is in charge of one group to observe their behaviour and count the number of students who can do the task set by the teacher. These observers also observe teacher at the same time. The questions for interview were in both English and Vietnamese so that the interviewees could answer them properly.
1.3 Instruments of data collection
In order to have good understanding of the issues under discussion, it is essential to refer to an important source of data collection associated with the literature review. I hope to suggests teaching techniques that can be worked out to improve current listening skill teaching and learning at Sydney center by means of literature review comparision and by cross checking with the information obtained from the live observation and student interview. To fulfill the aims of the study, measurement instruments designed for data collection included observation sheet and 6 questions to interview students.( see appendix).
2. Data analysis
2.1 From live observation:
Table 1: Results from live observation ( Teacher and students' behaviours during 30-minute listening lesson).
What teacher does
What students do
Introduce the topic of the listening lesson.
Tell students what they are going to do after listening to the tape.
Listen to the teacher.
Open the book and read the questions for post-listening task.
Play the tape for three times.
The first time: the whole tape then ask if the students can answer any questions in post-listening task.
The second time: play the tape again with some pause to ask predicting questions.
The last time: play the tape and pause after sentence to repeat.
Listen to the tape and take note.
Answer the teacher's questions.
Ask students to answer comprehension questions then compare their answers with their partners.
Finally, work in group to summarize the content of the listening
Work in pairs and in groups to do the task.
Table 2: Number of students can complete while and post- listening task
Other comments: most of the students do the post-listening task with the help of tapecripts. The class atmostphere is very boring.
Tape recorder has poor speaker, sometimes go faster, sometimes slower
It is clear from live observation that, the teacher spent 18 minutes ( 60%) of the lesson on while-listening activity while only 3 minutes (10%) was for pre-listening task. More surprisingly, in pre-listening stage the teacher only introduced the topic for listening and then directed the students' purpose for listening by saying " you have to answer the questions about what you've listened to the tape". Meanwhile the students did nothing but listening to the teacher carefully and read the questions for the post-listening task. Looking back at what was presented in the literature review part of this study and in compared with a basic methodological model for the teaching receptive skills given by Harmer J (1991:90), it is obviously that the teacher almost ignored lead-in task in pre-listening stage. The teacher and the students didn't prepared themselves for the task and the topic of the listening. They were not equiped with vocabulary and structures for what they were going to listen to. In other word, the teacher didn't create expectations and arouse the students' interest in the lesson. That led to unsucessful results in while and post- listening stage. The results from table showed that only 8 students (29,6%) could do the while-listening activity and 11 students(40%) could complete the post-listening task with the help of tapecripts. These observers also commented that the class atmostphere was quite boring and silience. The students were not willing to participate in pairwork and group work set by the teacher. In fact, the teacher did nothing to motivate unwilling students.
2.2: From the interview:
To get better understanding about the current situation of teaching and learning listening skill at Sydney center, 9 students were chosen to take part in the interview right after the lesson finished. The inteviewers are also the observers. Each group ( Group 1, Group 2, Group 3) has three members to be interviewed. Among the three members of each group, the interviewer intended to choose the most active member, the least active member and the other was selected randomly. To ensure the reliability and validity of the study, the questions translated into Vietnamese. These are the six questions for the interview:
1, How do you feel about your listening skill? ( You feel you are learning very well / fairly well / don't know / not very well / badly).
2, How do you find listening lessons? ( interesting, moderately interesting / boring)
3, How do you find listening important to you?
4, What are your difficulties in listening lessons?
5, What would you like to do more in listening lessons?
6, What are your suggestions to your teacher in order to make listening lessons more effective?
These questions were designed to explore the students' attitude toward listening lessons and their desire.
Question 1: Only 2 students ( 22%) said their listening was fairly good, while 6 others
(66%) said they learned very badly. Another didn't give her answer.
Therefore the teacher should do something to help the students to improve their listening skill.
Question 2: Unfortunately, when being asked about how they found their listening lessons, 7 students ( account for 77,7% of the inteviewees) said that their lessons were boring and quite difficult. More surprisingly, there was no answer for interesting lesson. Only two students found the listening lessons moderately interesting.
In question 3, most of the students agreed that listening is very important for them. They come to the center with the hope to be able to communicate well in English so as to pass oral exam at their university or to get a good job after their graduation from university. Since listening plays a role in communication, they should learn how to listen and how to speak well.
Obviously, the students have motivation, here is their instrumental motivation. Because they have both short and long-term goal for their language learning and they wanted to perceive their goals. So, the question is what the teacher should do to have good effect on their motivation?
When asked question 4, all the students said that they had difficulty in understanding fast natural native speech, identifying the main points, the key words and keeping up with all the information then not being able to thinking ahead or predicting. Also, the students have poor background knowledge and vocbaulary. They added that they are not used to listening to the tape because when they were at high school they often listened to the teacher reading and the forcus of the lesson was on grammar. So, what the teacher should do here is to find the way to help their students overcome these difficulties.
Question 5: Very interestingly, 90% of the interviewees said that they would like to discuss more about what they are going to listen before listening to the tape. That would not only help them to be familiar with the content of the listening but also give them chance to improve speaking skill. Especially, the students found it good to be taught and explained key words and structures that will appeared in listening text. Only 10% thought that they only listen with the tapecripts supplementary.
Question 6: The answers they gave were nearly the same as what they said in question 5. Furthermore, they want the teacher to ask more predicted questions while they are listening.
Part 3: Findings and recommendation
According to the findings from the live observations and results from the inteview, factors making listening class boring, difficult and unsuccessful are various. They are grouped into three main categories which are as follow:
* Current inappropriate teaching method.
* Subjective factors from the learners
* Objective factors.
1.1 Current inappropriate teaching method
The results from the live observation showed that the listening lessons at Sydney center are still performed in traditional teaching method in which text and teacher are center of the class. During the lesson there is much teacher talking time (TTT) but less student talking time and the forcus of the lesson is on listening to the tape. The students are not active in their learning. Although there is much TTT (she repeated sentence by sentence after the tape), it isn't given in the right time. Teacher should speak more in pre-listening stage than while-listening stage to prepare for the students with vocabulary and structures related to listening lesson. Also, the results from observation stated that, the students were not given the chance to discuss about what they were going to listen therefore they were not motivated and the class became less communicative. In class, learners only sit in silence, take note and answer the teacher's questions when necessary. They could only complete the while and post-listening task with lot of teacher's help and supplementary of tapecripts. Besides, it isn't necessary for the teacher to repeat every word and sentence after the tape since it is listening comprehension and extensive listening.
In short, when looking back at the basic methodological model given by Harmer J presented in literature review part of this study, it is clear that the teacher nearly ignored pre-listening stage which is considered an important stage to create expectations and arouse students' interest. So the lesson failed to success.
1.2 Subjective factors from the learners.
It can be easily seen through the inteview results that the almost every learner at Sydney center studies English to communicate and pass oral exam at their university, therefore; besides speaking skill, listening is a crucial skill for them. However they found it challenge while listening. The research results also draw the reasons for this as follow:
* Their low proficiency in English
* their lack of motivation
1.2.1: Low proficiency in English
Learners' low proficiency in English is one of major factor that make listening a challenge for them. Although the subjects of the study have learnt English since they were at secondary school, their vocabulary, grammar and even pronunciation are still very poor. Futhermore they get used to listening to their teacher, they are given a little chance to practice listening to the tape at their school or university. So, when they listen to the native speaker on the tape they often feel shocked.
1.2.2. Lack of motivation
Motivation is known as a very important factor in learning language, so lack of motivation influences study results a lot. Many students at this center bring extrinsic motvation to the classroom. However, as being suggested in the literature part, what happens in the classroom will have an important effect on students who are already in some way extrinsically motivated. Being a new-born center, Sydney hasn't been well equiped. And the method by which students are taught is sill inappropriate. According to Harmer J, physical conditions and teaching method have effect on learners' motivation.
In short, the students at Sydney center lack of intrinsic motivation.
1.3. Objective factors
1.3.1. Difficulties from the textbook.
As mentioned above, the main textbook used for level B at Sydney center is New-Headway pre-intermediate. This book is not designed for teaching listening only, it covers four skills at the same. In one 120-minute lesson, students learn all things: speaking, listening , writing and speaking. Some listening in this book is quite long with lot of vocabulary. Many students find it difficult. Although, having some supplementary book for listening, the teacher has to finish listening in the textbook first. That is the reason why the teacher cannot often give extra listening activities.
1.3.2. Poor physical conditions.
Tape, CDs especially the tape recorder are not good enough for the learners in all corners of the class to listen. A part from that, there is noise from vehicles outside ( because the center is next to high way N0 6). All these factors effect the learners' learning.
2. Suggested techniques for improving learners' listening skill at Sydney center.
2.1: Suggested for the teacher:
According to the results from live observation, it is unedited that the teaching method currently applied in teaching listening skill at Sydney center is problematic. This affects learners' study results a great deal. I suppose that it is high time the teachers at this center did something to improve their teaching method.
To make learners in general more interested in listening lesson and the lessons more effective, teachers at Sydney center are suggested to:
Use the three-stage teaching method: pre-listening, while-listening and post- listening, or in details follow the five stages in basic methodological model which was presented in literature review part of this study. This agreed with Davies P (2000: 77) that listening practice and coursebook can be made more realistic and interesting by following specific stages: pre-listening, while-listening and post-listening. He recommended using specific techniques for different stages. Pre-listening stage is very important as it is to prepare for learners what they are going to hear. Therefore teachers should let learners discuss a relevant picture or experience, associate ideas and vocabulary with the topic, predict or write questions about the topic.
According to Harmer J (1991:232) when the tape is extremely difficult and long. There are number of things the teachers should do:
* Pre-listening stage activities:
- Preview vocabulary: teacher should choose a small number of key words that students may not know. And then get them to guess what will be said based on the words.
- Give students the first third of the tapecript: teacher can use this technique if the listening situation is an interview programme, a story. By giving them the first third of the tapecript to read at home and then in class discuss with each other about how it is going to end or what is going to happen, learners are more excited to listen to the tape so as to know whether their prediction is right or wrong.
-Give students the interviewer's questions: this technique is especially useful with interview. Students may be given interviewer's questions to predict what the interviewee's answers will be. They can even role play the interview before they listen to it.
By doing these things, the teachers create students' expectation and interest because they are prepared for what they are going to listen to.
And for Ur P (1991:110), by providing the students with some ideas of what they are going to hear and what they are asked to do with it helps them to succeed in the task, as well as raising motivation and interest. To do this, Ur P suggested to use a visual focus such as a picture, diagram, or map.
* While- listening stage
- Don't play all the tape straight away: Harmer J advises teachers to play half of the tape and then get students to predict what will happen next.
-Use the tapecript: if the students are having difficulty in coping with the tape, the teachers can let them look at the tapecript after the first couple of listening. The teachers could also cut the tapescript into paragraphs- or even smaller pieces- which they have to put in the right order as they listen to the tape.
* Post-listening stage
As for Davies P (2000: 77), in post-listening stage, teachers should organize some activities so as the learners can give their opinions, relate similar experiences. They can role play a similar interaction, write a brief report, write a similar text or debate the topic.
In short, there is a number of techniques that teachers can apply in different stages of a listening lesson. Depending on situation of listening and characteristics of the class, the teachers can choose the ones that help make the lessons the most effective. And more important thing the teachers should have a careful lesson planning.
2.2 Suggestion for the center.
In comparision with what was presented in literature part of this study, it is clear that listening lesson at Sydney didn't meet the principles behind teaching listening in term of tape and tape recorder. The tape recorder has a poor speaker, sometimes it goes faster, sometiimes it goes slower. Therefore, it can't be heard all around the classroom. That also affects listeners. So, the manager of the center should get tape recorders repaired or changed the new ones. More important, the should be solution to minimize noise from outside.
PART 3: CONCLUSION
General speaking, the study on: techniques for improving listening skill for non-major students of English at Sydney center has reached the aim. It has found the answer for its two questions. By using data collection instrument of live observation the researcher has investigated the current situation of teaching and learning listening skill at her center and also find out the factors making the listening lesson here boring and less effective. By means of literature comparision and by cross- checking with the information from the observation, inteview, I have suggested some teaching techniques that can be worked out to improve current teaching and learning listening skill at the center. However this study has some limitations: firstly, the number of learners and teachers involved in the survey is still limited, so the findings may not be generalized to all learners. Secondly, the techniques suggested in this study are selected from different reliable but limited source, so I would like to emphasize that these techniques are not the only ones appropriate for teaching listening, but I thinks they are practically possible for his context.
It is hoped that this study report will provide a basic for my further innovation research. And to get a better and more efficient study, in my further research, I should invite more learners and teachers to participate in the studies.