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A Principle-based Approach to Teach Listening in a CALL-integrated Classroom

Chen-hui Tsai* and Lisha Xu**


*Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA chen-hui-tsai@uiowa.edu **Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literature University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA lisha-xu@uiowa.edu

Listening is assuming greater and greater importance in the foreign language classroom. In Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL), however, most exercises or tasks of a listening class still tend to apply drills to test listening rather than teach it. Our multimedia program is specially designed to help CFL teachers of beginning level classes more efficiently teach students how to listen. This paper will focus on the instructional design of the program. Additionally, the current study drew from surveys and interviews conducted to elicit students perceptions on the CALL-integrated listening courseware, which will allow us to better integrate multimedia tools into listening classes.

1. Introduction Beginning Chinese Listening Courseware (BCLC) is specially designed for CFL teachers of beginning level classes to conduct efficient instruction for teaching listening in order to enhance the quality of their classs listening skills. To make the teachers role crucial in the teaching of listening, the goals of the program are to actively guide learners through the process of listening, to monitor their listening difficulties, to develop a better awareness of how to listen, and to reshape classroom tasks for better learner involvement. The program also aims to reinforce vocabulary/grammar introduced from direct instruction, fostering listening interests, developing good listening behaviors, and broadening language and culture knowledge via CALL-integrated listening tasks. In order to achieve these goals, the program is constructed based on a number of pedagogical principles while the lesson structure follows the instructional design specific to teaching listening. The second part of the paper addresses the research from the perspectives of learners with the intention to ferret out the essential components or criteria of an effective listening courseware so as to better update the program or to provide insight for relevant courseware of this kind. 2. Literature Review Studies on teaching and researching listening have been explored, especially the instructional methods and design of listening activities (Rost, 2002, chap. 10). In the area of multimedia

application in listening instruction, studies have consistently demonstrated the benefits of interacting with computer-based activities to support aural language learning and teaching (Jones, 2006; 2003). There is a great deal of listening software for learners. However, very few of them consolidate with instructional design; thus, the listening exercises tend to test learners listening ability, instead of teaching how to listen. According to

Rosts study in 2005, listening comprehension encompasses the following phases: attention, perception, word recognition, syntactic parsing, comprehension and interpretation. Guided, meaningful practice with items that will help learners reach goals in each phase and become more automatic in their processing of listening material should be provided (Fang, 2006; Buck, 1995). From instructors point of view, one of the most essential aspects of applying technology in teaching listening is to understand how to adapt multimedia tools to appropriately aid human cognition. The current design of the program emphasizes the connection between instructional principles and multimedia application with the purpose of conducting an efficient CALL-integrated listening class. Although studies show that multimedia-delivered listening comprehension tasks can cause better performance, as well as

increase language recall abilities (Brett, 1995, 1997; Jones, 2006), specific research on applying a multimedia program in a listening classroom is still rare. In order to better integrate technology into classroom teaching, the current study also investigates learners perceptions about the essential criteria for effective multimedia tools used in a classroom setting.
3. Program Design BCLC consists of 18 lessons, adopts a principle-based approach to design individual listening activities and applies the suitable pedagogical principles based on the nature of the lesson topic and the activity type. Above that, each lesson organizes all the listening activities following the instructional design in 3.2. 3.1 Pedagogical principles Cognitive flexibility. Presentation of input is likely to be processed more thoroughly and be retained in a more meaningful way if it is multimodal and features multiple perspectives. The exercises and activities in BCLC provide multiple representations of content, if appropriate, to keep learning flexible and enjoyable. Coordination of teaching and learning. Teaching coordinating with learning events will benefit long-term retention of materials, thereby making learning more efficient and satisfying for students (Gagne et al., 1992). When applicable, the activities focus on improving communication between the course instructor and the learners or among learners. Modes of learning. Learning takes place by adding new knowledge to existing schema in memory. Rost in his 2002 study also points out that metacognition needs to be built into the instructional process in order to allow for restructuring. BCLC includes listening strategies training for each topic to develop learners metacognitive strategies. Anchored instruction. The exercises and tasks of the problem focus on problem-solving skills and integrate listening skills with other areas of learning, such as reading and speaking. 3.2 Instructional design The lesson structure is comprised of three componentsvocabulary review, grammar review, and listening tasks, which, in order, include global listening, selective listening, intensive listening, real life tasks, and cultural differences. Figure 1

illustrates the program design along with the pedagogical principles.


Cultural differences

Global

Selective

Intensive

Tasks

Vocabulary review

Grammar review

Listening tasks

Cognitive flexibility Coordination of teaching and learning Modes of learning Anchored instruction Fig.1.Program design structure

In the BCLC, global listening refers to the listening for a general or approximate idea of input; selective listening indicates the listening ability to catch relevant information and ignore the unrelated part in input, while intensive listening focuses on the listening for precise words, sounds, grammatical units, etc. Following these three stages of listening is the real life tasks which emphasize utilizing listening skills to solve problems and integrating with other areas of learning. According to the nature of the lesson, the program presents cultural differences through listening if valid. The structure of the program provides teachers not only with instructional design but also the flexibility to reshape classroom activities based on students performance. 4. The Current Study

The present study investigates students perceptions of CALL-integrated listening class. The analysis conducted in this study adopts the instruments of questionnaire and interview. The objectives are understanding students preferred learning styles in the listening class, and their opinions toward an effective multimedia program. The investigation looks into the components and criteria of an efficient multimedia listening program in a beginning level Chinese listening classroom. The operational definition of the effective multimedia program in this part of the research refers to the program which meets

students expectations to help them achieve learning goals.


4.1 Research questions Three research questions are investigated in the current study: 1) What are the learners preferred learning styles in a listening class? 2) What are the components and essential criteria for an efficient listening courseware? 3) What are the important pedagogical considerations for integrating the courseware in a Chinese listening class from the learners perspective? 4.2 Method and procedure The subjects are fifty-two participants recruited from the first-year Chinese program at the University of Iowa. Among the fifty-two students, eight are heritage students, and the remaining forty-four are Americans, Filipinos, and Koreans whose 1st languages (L1) are English. Since the aim of this study is to understand students perceptions of an efficient multimedia program used in a listening classroom, the language background of the subjects is not emphasized in this study. Rather, it is expected that the perceptions from students of different language backgrounds assist the designing of a multimedia program for general use. The subjects of the interview were ten students from the first-year Chinese program at the University of Iowa. These ten students were selected and divided into two groups, a lower-performance group and a higher-performance group, based on the result of a monthly listening test, which was conducted on April 4th, 2008. Ten students in total were randomly selected from the two groups, five students from each group, which constitutes a representative sample. 4.3 Data collection procedure The survey included two parts: part was composed of 11 statements and one open-ended question; part consisted of 23 statements. The first part of the survey intended to investigate students learning styles in a Chinese listening classroom. The second part was designed to understand students experiences with and opinions about a multimedia program, as well as to elicit responses about the components and criteria that a multimedia program should have. At the time of survey data collection, participants had completed approximately 100 classroom hours of Mandarin Chinese. A semi-open one-on-one voice recorded interview was also conducted, based on the questionnaire. The entire interview was constructed with nine questions. The purpose was to probe

in-depth for personal perceptions regarding the components and criteria of an effective courseware. At the time of the interviews, participants had completed approximately 100 classroom hours of Mandarin Chinese. 4.4 Data analysis and results

Survey part I: Table 1 shows the major learning styles for listening that learners prefer to use (the major styles refer to the styles that more than 50% of participants prefer to use).
Table 1: Preferred learning styles Learning styles Percentage Learning with a program 93% Learning step by step 62% Learning with activities in the classroom 60% Listening to authentic material input 55% Combining listening with speaking 50%

Survey part II: Students showed a positive attitude toward the 23 statements regarding the components of an effective courseware. The following is a list of the top five statements which received a scale above 5 (moderately agree) and indicates the major components that students expected to have in an effective courseware: 1. Using interesting listening materials is helpful for keeping my attention. (5.3) 2. Pictures help me understand materials. (5.2) 3. Listening to clips from real life situations keeps my attention and interest. (5.2) 4. Vocabulary and grammar review prepare me to process listening tasks. (5.1) 5. Pre-listening activities, such as learning new vocabulary and understanding background, are helpful for comprehending related listening materials. (5) The interview: the analysis is based on transcripts of the original recordings. The responses from students are divided into five aspects which suggest the criteria of designing an effective courseware for first year Chinese listening. The five aspects are as followed: 1. The program can provide the activities which integrate listening with speaking and reading. 2. The program can help learners to learn step by step. 3. The visual and verbal annotations are necessary for an effective multimedia program. 4. The video and audio materials are clear and the input reflects use in the real world. 5. Feedback is informative and meaningful.

5. Discussion

The students opinions about the multimedia program provide a reliable resource to understand whether or not it really does efficiently assist the instructor in guiding the students to foster their listening awareness and interests, develop good listening behaviors, enhance listening comprehension ability, and broaden language and cultural knowledge through listening tasks. When cross examining the survey and interview data, learners signify the following components which they consider necessary in an efficient listening courseware:
1. Vocabulary and grammar review 2. New vocabulary list 3. Cross-cultural communication 4. Class handout 5. Global, selective, intensive, and interactive listening activities 6. Pre-listening, listening, and post-listening activities 7. Listening strategy training 8. Summary, predication, and collaborative conversation exercises The instructional design is another emphasis in the study. Based on the findings and on other studies, we can induce pedagogical considerations for integrating the multimedia program into the beginning level Chinese listening classroom. First of all, instructional design needs to take learners learning styles into consideration. Second, the listening materials should include those which are interesting, authentic, simplified or comprehensive ones based on the goal of the skill training. Third, maintaining cognitive flexibility is an important consideration. Fourth, developing listening strategies is essential in the instructional design. Sixth, the progressive structure of courseware helps learners to better focus on specific learning skills. Seventh, integrating listening with other areas of learning enhances the opportunities to practice real life situations. The last one considers cross-cultural communication as one of the important elements if applicable.

7. Pedagogical Implication Using technology in class does not quarantine the effectiveness and the quality of the learning and teaching of listening. In the current study, effective multimedia application in the teaching of listening is expected to design instructional tools in order to help learners reach learning goals, to provide comprehension aids in the process of decoding utterances, to enhance learner involvement along with the interaction between the teacher and students, as well as incorporate various listening materials in a sequence to guide students through the process of listening. The current study suggests that, while designing a CALL-integrated listening class courseware, both teaching and learning perspectives should be taken into consideration to construct appropriate instructional design so as to bring out the best in the integration of class teaching and multimedia application. Selected References
Brett, Paul. (1997). A Comparative Study of the Effects of the Use of Multimedia on Listening. System, 25(1), 39-53. Brown, Douglas H. (1994). Teaching by Principles: an Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Prentice Hall Regents. Jones, Linda C. (2003). Supporting Listening Comprehension and Vocabulary Acquisition with Multimedia Acquistion: the Students Voice. CALICO Journal, 21(1) , 41-65. Jones, Linda C. (2006). Listening Comprehension in Multimedia Environment. Review of Calling on Call: from Theory and Research to New Directions in Foreign Language Teaching. CALICO, 99-125. Fang, Yew-Jin. (2005). Designing Online Listening Comprehension Tasks for Learners of Mandarin Chinese as a Second/Foreign Language. 16th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia. Michael, Rost. (2002). Teaching and Researching Listening. Pearson Educational Limited. Great Britain. Michael, Rost. (2007). Commentary: Im only Trying to Help: a Role for Interventions in Teaching Listening. Language Learning & Technology, 11(1) , 102-108.