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Teaching of Listening for Academic Purposes ThisTerm Paper

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¶ … Teaching of Listening for Academic Purposes

This report focuses on ways to explore the teaching of listening for the purposes of academics. The most commonly used mode of teaching or educational method used almost everywhere in the world is speaking. This is because a lot of knowledge and information passed on to pupils and students besides use of textbooks is through verbal communications which in educational communities are known as lectures.

This paper is divided into 3 parts. Section 1 covers different aspects and cultures of lectures and how this challenges students. Section 2 discusses methods of teaching students to learn listening and lastly, section 3 discusses activities that will assist students in listening to lectures

An important aspect of teaching and education is listening because in the absence of aural or verbal contact ways of transmitting ideas and thoughts in order to convey education may not be possible.

Aspects of Lecture and how this challenge students

Lectures as a mode of knowledge transmission to students are multimodal communicative processes that combine various aspects like voice quality, tone, visual resources and body language.

Different Styles of Lectures

Lecture methods used to impart knowledge to students by teachers have different orientations in styles and presentation. They include: Lectures that apply comparisons and contrasting methods in which the lecturer gives two aspects of a topic that are meant to be contrasted and compared, a question and answer mode where the lecture begins by a series of questions that have to be answered. In this method a question is asked at the beginning of the topic and then subsequently answered while in the earlier method, the teacher illustrates many facts by giving the similarities and differences (Conaway, 1982).

Another method is based on topics whereby the lecturer begins by identifying a topic and follows this by giving subtopic and detailed information about the topic. In order to effectively guide the discussion, the lecturer adopts different conversational approaches for the topic and sub-topics. In the one other method the lecture style may focus on a sequence of episodes which may be evaluated then compared and explained to the students by the lecturer (Richards, 2008). The lecturer begins by identifying a topic and then proceeds to introduce an episode associated with the topic before presenting detailed information about all aspects of the episode. In the final stage of the learning process the teacher initiates discussions which lead to conclusions. In a cause-effect type of teaching, the teacher mainly explains the causes of an event or events by first stating the reasons for the event and then giving the consequences of the event itself. Furthermore, one more method is focused on problem-solution lecture. Here the lecture starts by enumerating aspects of a problem and concludes by suggesting possible solutions to the problem. An explanation of the problem and its solutions should be given to the students. The lecture ends by a description of the solutions to the problems earlier identified. An important component of the lecture is usually language. In many academic institutions the process of learning is mainly based on vocal presentations or communications since talking is a primary, and almost, the only means of communication between students and teachers at college and university stages. It is believed that academic listening plays a major role than academic aptitude or reading in many learning situations where the lecture method which encompasses multimodal forms of communication such as language, manner of speech, voice clarity and body language is mainly applied (Conaway, 1982).

As Flowerdew (1995), states, academic listening entails special qualities that demands that listeners behave in a certain way. Students should have appropriate skills such as taking notes, have enough background information on the topic of discussion, and be able to make a difference between what is important and what is not etc. In order to follow a lesson successfully. Following academic lectures keenly requires various micro skills like being able to identify the topic of discussion, the skill to follow the progress of a lesson, the ability to know the scope and purpose of a lecture and being able to identify the purpose of disclose markers to signal the structure of a discussion.

There are many aspects of academic listening that makes it distinct from everyday conversations. It needs relevant knowledge about the topic under discussion such that when lecturers include unknown events and examples that non-native speakers are not familiar with then this presents difficulties to the learners. At different stages, an academic lecture will include relevant and irrelevant facts to the topic which will require the listener to separate what is important and necessary for the lesson from what is unimportant. Again, it is imperative that the listener be able to establish links and associations between separate aspects of the discussion, for instance, the key ideas, examples and other supporting facts because in any discussion there are lengthy stretches of conversations and deviations that might make it difficult for the learn to follow or participate in the discussion effectively. Academic listening also involves some degree of indirect/implied meanings or acts that require inferences so that the students can understand the actual meaning from the context of the speech. Bearing in mind what has been mentioned above, it can be concluded that academic listening demands a lot of attention from the learners and that the task of listening can present many challenges to students who are not native speakers or anyone who is not fluent enough in the language of instruction (Ferriss, 1996).

Various linguistic aspects that complicate listening include 1) The prosodic aspect of English language, 2) Use of reduced/abbreviated form of the language, 3) colloquial language. In lectures, the most difficult challenge students who are not native speakers meet is use of reduced forms, for instance, djedoit? For did you do it?(Huang,2004) Use of colloquial language such as idioms and slangs, and inclusion of prosodic features like rhythm, intonation and stress while describing a task can be particularly hard for students to follow. What is clear is that non-native speakers often find various challenges when trying to follow lectures by native speakers as has been noted above.

Methods of teaching students to learn listening

In this section, I would like to consider various programs supporting the training and teaching of skills necessary for academic listening. There are many training programs that are available for people who are interested in learning listening skills online. For this discussion, let us use the journal of James Richards on teaching listening and speaking. Richard (2008) pays attention to many forms of teaching methods of learning to listen. The listening process is here divided into two primary approaches known as bottom-up approach and top-down approach

In the bottom-up listening approach a listener takes note of several low level clues. This begins by identifying individual sounds which are then linked to form distinct syllables and words. It is these words that are joined together to form phrases, clauses and sentences which finally form the text of a conversation. In the top-down listening approach the listener employs a lot of helps from the prevailing situation and his/her personal knowledge in order to arrive at a correct interpretation of phrases, context, texts and sentences that form a conversation. In the actual world both the bottom-up and bottom-down elements appear in conversations (UEFAP, 2014). Keen listeners should employ both of the approaches while following a discussion.

All sequences of listening that link the bottom-up and top-down approaches are found in a three part sequence of pre-listening, while-listening and post-listening contained in the teaching materials of a typical modern lesson (Richard, 2008). Through such activities as activation of prior knowledge, revision of key vocabulary and predicting things the student gets prepared for all the phases by the pre-listening stage. Then by employing exercises that need selective listening and sequencing the student is prepared for comprehension through the while-listening stage; and lastly, the post-listening stage require the students to discuss what they think by sharing opinion as a means of responding to comprehension.

Richards (2008) also mentions a list of listening strategies in his journal in which he explains two primary listening strategies, and notes that the strategies employed by a listener in an audio situation can be used to measure successful listening.

Two primary strategies of listening identified by Buck (2001) are 1) Cognitive Strategy; and 2) Metacognitive Strategy. The cognitive strategies are linked to mental activities responsible for keeping/storage of long-term memory to be retrieved later by the working memory. This strategy is broken into several other steps to include the storing and memory process, the comprehension process and the process of retrieving from memory. The second process, the metacognitive strategy, is associated with both conscious and unconscious activities of the mind responsible for important functions in managing cognitive strategies. It is also broken into various stages like assessment of a situation by considering conditions prevailing around a language task, monitoring performance while a task is on through evaluation,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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