New Article: Investigating English Language Teachers’ Beliefs and Stated Practices Regarding Bottom-up Processing Instruction for Listening in L2 English

An article based upon my MA dissertation has just been published in the Journal of Second Language Teaching & Research. It is Open Access so you can access the full text, but here is a summary a bit longer than the abstract.

Language learners face difficulties in parsing what they hear into a meaningful message. There are still gaps in SLA research about how we do this and about how it can be taught. There was nothing about bottom-up (phonology level, syllable-level) listening. There is not much research on what teachers do or say that they do, so I wanted find out about this.

Not much has changed since John Field (2008) said that “the Comprehension Approach” dominates how listening is taught. This was supported by Siegel (2014), who found that most teachers used comprehension-based activities.

Based on speech learning models (Best, 1995; Flege, 1995, 2007), it would be advisable to educate learners to discern the difference between sounds (phonemes) that form part of the language being learned, but which do not form part of their first language. Also, ongoing practice with variations in these sounds would be helpful.

With words and grammar, there might be a psychological process of cueing (Ellis, 2006), which might also explain lexical priming and collocation. However, making things stand out appears to be key. Making things stand out does not mean only teaching isolated, citation-form words because this does not always carry over to listening skill acquisition (Bonk, 2000; Joyce, 2013). Instead this need to be balanced with listening to natural connected speech.

I wanted to find out whether teachers taught learners to decode single words and phrases, connected speech and phonological differences between languages. I did this by questionnaire and asked people over Twitter. I analysed the data in JASP and did some explorations in the data.

There is not a total absence of bottom-up instruction. A lot of use of stresses corresponded with bottom up instruction. A minority of teachers in my sample used knowledge of phonology of their learners’ first languages. There is a correlation between using this knowledge and regular single sound (phoneme) and connected speech instruction. However, there is a reluctance among teachers to teach single sounds and words. However, it should be noted that this is a minority activity. Most teachers in the sample said they did not consider differences between first and second language phonology, are reluctant or do not regularly teach decoding of single words and , phrases, though connected speech may be taught slightly more regularly.

References (in this summary)

Best C. T. (1995) A direct realist view of cross-language speech perception, in Strange, W. (ed.) Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience. York Press. 171-206. Retrieved April 25th 2017 from http://www.haskins.yale.edu/Reprints/HL0996.pdf

Bonk, W. J. (2000) Second Language Lexical Knowledge and Listening Comprehension, International Journal of Listening, 14:1, 14-31, DOI:10.1080/10904018.2000.10499033

Ellis, N. (2006) Language acquisition as rational contingency learning. Applied Linguistics 27, pp. 1-24

Field, J. (2008) Listening in the Language Classroom (ebook). Cambridge: CUP.

Flege, J. (1995) Second-language Speech Learning: Theory, Findings, and Problems. In Strange, W. (Ed) Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Issues in Cross-language research. Timonium, MD: York Press, pp. 229-273.

Flege, J. (2007) Language contact in bilingualism: Phonetic system interactions. In Cole, J. & Hualde, J. I. (Eds.), Laboratory Phonology 9. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 353-380.

JASP Team (2017). JASP (Version 0.8.1.2)[Computer software]. Retrieved June 25th 2017 from https://jasp-stats.org/download/

Joyce, P. (2013) Word Recognition Processing Efficiency as a Component of Second Language Listening, International Journal of Listening, 27:1, 13-24, DOI:10.1080/10904018.2013.732407

Siegel, J. (2014) Exploring L2 listening instruction: examinations of practice. ELT J 2014; 68 (1): 22-30. doi:10.1093/elt/cct058

Publication: Duoethnography of Two EFL Teachers Developing Their Own Classroom Teaching Materials

My colleague Jon Steven and I have just had our article Duoethnography of Two EFL Teachers Developing Their Own Classroom Teaching Materials published in The Language Scholar (online first and it will be in the Autumn 2020 issue).

We talk about the motivations behind us developing our own materials and some of the challenges of materials development. We cover working conditions briefly, commercial issues of coursebooks versus classroom issues of teaching, originality, marketability, guarding against precarity, values and skills we aim to develop in learners.

It is open access, so anyone can read it. I certainly look forward to any comments or questions (and would be happy to pass any on to Jon as well).

First book chapter!

What seems like an age ago now but is likely less than a year ago, I was invited to write a chapter for a book on eikaiwa, or English conversation schools in Japan, edited by Daniel Hooper and Natasha Hashimoto:
Teacher Narratives from the Eikaiwa Classroom: Moving Beyond “McEnglish”. After reviews and rewrites it’s nearly ready. You can find the page for it here.

New pre-print about corpus-informed teaching

I put up a new pre-print on SocArxiv:

Creating a small corpus to inform materials design in an ongoing English for Specialist Purposes (ESP) course for Orthodontists and Orthodontic Assistants

In my work as a language teacher to a group of orthodontists and orthodontic treatment assistants, I wanted an analysis of orthodontic practitioner-to-patient discourse. Because access to authentic spoken discourse was too difficult to attain due to ethical considerations, a small corpus was constructed in order to facilitate better informed form-focused instruction. Details of the typical forms found in the corpus are given, as is an overview of the corpus construction.

New working paper

I put up a new working paper on SocArxiv today.

Jones, M. (2018, October 10). Exploring Difficulties Faced in Teaching Elective English Listening Courses at Japanese Universities. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/sa2kw

In this paper, an exploration of the problems encountered in teaching two elective English listening courses at Japanese universities in 2017 and 2018. Intended as a working paper with an intended audience of teaching professionals and those who support them, problems in working memory, motivation and general listening pedagogy are detailed.