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Porter and Grant (1992) clearly describe what it means for students to be "active listeners." To listen actively means to be able to focus on what a speaker says, and how a speaker says it: it means attending to paralinguistic cues; it means concentrating; and it means acknowledging viewpoints different than one’s own (pp. 32-33). The authors then go on to provide ways students may be active listeners:

The authors further provide a useful list of phrases which may facilitate such listening.

Based on this description, the instructor who wishes to link classroom instruction with authentic assessment by means of a listening portfolio thus may develop any number of active listening activities. For instance, in class (following an idea from Porter and Grant), students may take turns in small groups playing roles: speaker, active listener, and observer. The active listener will try out techniques for getting additional information, giving encouragement and empathy, and so on (as listed above), and then must re-tell the speaker’s story. The observer in the meantime will take notes and at the end will report on what strategies the active listener used in order to fully understand the story. It may also prove useful to send students out to "eavesdrop" on real-world conversations (in restaurants, the library, on buses, the laundromat, etc.) and then come back and report on the strategies they observed.

Regarding authentic assessment of such activities, instructors have many options. For example, over the course of the semester, students might first arrange to be videotaped or audio-taped during several "authentic" activities in which they are active listeners such as interviewing a professor or advisor, or during a conference with a writing tutor, or while engaging in small-group discussions – the options are limitless, and students will surely benefit from first brainstorming the possibilities as a group. Students might then transcribe portions of the taped discussions where active listening occurred and then write a self-assessment/reflective essay on the strategies used: for instance, about the effectiveness (or not) of the strategies, how the use of such strategies evolved over the course of a semester (ideally students will have a number of tapes to choose from), how strategies differ in their home countries and cultures (especially important in a classroom which aims for context-sensitivity), and so on.

The portfolio could include a number of the tapes, transcriptions, and/or essays: students will also be able to select those materials they would most like to include, and thus, as mentioned in the previous discussion of portfolio benefits, students will be encouraged to become more independent and active learners in their selection and justification of the included materials. Moreover, the assessed products are a part of classwork, they will express both the depth and breadth of the learner’s abilities as well as skills beyond active listening (writing, social skills, etc.), and they will show how a learner has developed such strategies over time and thus grown from the process.

Similar to Porter and Grant, Riggenbach (1999) also provides numerous activities in which learners may become active listeners. She asks that in the classroom we cast learners into the roles of conversation analysts, sociolinguists, speech event analysts and ethnographers: for instance, as conversation analysts, learners might first provide information about turn-taking in their L1, then record a conversation with a native speaker and listen to the tape. Students should, in small groups, then listen for and transcribe small portions of the tape where turn-taking was smooth and where it was problematic. Students finally brainstorm solutions to the problem-areas of the conversation and then present "their findings" (pp. 68-73). Riggenbach offers other similar activities for students to explore the following:

As with Porter and Grant, from these activities, the creative instructor might easily find ways to create materials for listening portfolios, materials which reflect how learners evolve their active listening strategies.

Porter, P.A. and Grant M. (1992). Communicating effectively in English: oral communication for non-native speakers. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Riggenback, H. (1999). Discourse analysts in the language classroom. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.



In this domain of listening with visual cues, movies were chosen to represent the most common use of visual cues in language classrooms. Movies can be either play in whole or recorded into segment in video or computer program depends on the length of time you have and facilities you can access in your classroom.

Listening to movies

Most movies show the distinctions of real life English. Movie materials can make the teaching of listening comprehension a more interactive, illustrative, and dynamic experience. Movies can help students listen more effectively because it can present pictures and sounds at the same time. In addition, pictures do not only help motivate students but also provide 'context' for students to understand what they have listened in a meaningful way.

Teaching English listening comprehension skills utilizing movies takes an amount of planning, coordination, timing and technical preparation on the part of the lesson designer. If instructional materials using movies are well-designed, they can provide the best training for real life listening. In addition, if the texts for listening are not designed systematically the students' attitude is very passive during the listening activity and it is rare to see them keep up their attention for more than a short period. Moreover, most of movie materials have been developed focusing on expressions, vocabulary and translations rather than listening comprehension applying various kinds of tasks and activities.

Ju, a college teacher, had provided some criteria of choosing movies for English listening comprehension practice to intermediate EFL learners are; (a) providing proper English level (b) demonstrating a holistic understanding of the situation or plot, (c) incurring topics which are of interest to them, (d) showing sequences which have a continuous storyline, (e) not using strong accents, (f) containing segments which contain proper exchanges of conversation. After a careful consideration of the criteria for choosing movies for EFL learners, select a movie that is appropriate to your students’ level and segment it into video clip or in computer.

Rahel Gladstone-Gelman suggested three tips 1) consider what you see 2) consider what you hear, and 3) consider the environment for intermediate and advanced ESL students to enhance their listening skill through video. Consider what you see prompts students to remember or think back to key words that flassed across the screen. Consider what you hear prompts students to think about and verbalize what they know they heard. Consider the environment covers the nonverbal aspects of the video. With this prompt, students consider people’s emotion and their location.


There are several assessment tips for EFL teachers in assessing students listening skill through movies. Instead of having students choose from the multiple-choice item to answer the questions from the movies, here are some alternative assessments that EFL teachers can utilize and make change according to the lesson plan.

All of these assessments can be recorded in audio or video for students to review in the future and keep in their listening portfolio. They not only enjoy the movie but also improve their listening skill and learn more authentic conversation for real life situation.


Haney, W., & Madaus, G. (1989). Searching for alternatives to standardized tests: Whys, whats, and whithers. Phi Delta Kappan, 70, 683-687


Jongsma, K. S. (1989). Portfolio assessment. The Reading Teacher, 43, 264-265.


Ju, Y. Teaching English listening utilizing movies. From the World Wide Web:


Kemp, J. & Toperoff, D. Guidelines for portfolio assessment in teaching English. From the WorldWideWeb:


Moya,S.S. & O’Malley, J. M. ( 1994). A portfolio assessment model for ESL. The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, v13 p. 13-36, Spring 1994


Wolf, D. P. (1989). Portfolio assessment: Sampling student work. Educational Leadership, 46(7), 35-39




Recognizing that different listeners at different levels of L2 proficiency use different processing strategies (Ross 1997), it is useful to first outline those "processing stages" (Lynch, T. 1998, p 6).

According to Ross' work with L2 learners of English, at Stage 5 (key word association) the weaker listeners were most commonly processing at this level. The learners would produce an initial mental model and keep to it without searching for confirming clues. The more proficient listeners also operated at Stage 5, but "had sufficient capacity to hold the key work in short-term memory while they searched for support in the message" (Lynch, T. 1998, p. 6).

To assess competence with a focus on listening for details, the ability to function between Stage 3 and Stage 7 is brought to bear. The skills from Stage 3 (syllable restructuring, which still leads to mishearing), through to Stage 7 (ability to recognize phrases) are called upon to fulfill a detailed listening task.

There are many situations in which focus our attention on the details. For example, we are listening for details when we want to know:

Depending on the authentic environments in which our students use their listening skills, we want to create assessment activities which are conducive to Product, Performance and Process tasks. A few suggestions are listed below.


Possible Assessment Activities:

Provide the students with informative and/or persuasive authentic texts which focus on the following listening functions.

Stage 3 Syllable Restructuring - mishearing

4) Syllable Identification

5) Key word association

(To differentiate Stage 5 greater and lesser proficiency, the assessment activity can require that more information be held in short-term memory to confirm the original association made.)

6) Linking with more than one key word

7) Recognize Phrases

To incorporate the crucial notion of Process, the student should also be involved in a self-report or self-evaluation of his/her strengths and weaknesses in any listening task.


Brindley, G. (1998) Assessing listening abilities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 18, 171-191.


Lynch, T. (1998). Theoretical perspectives on listening. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 18, 3-19.


Ross, S. (1997). An introspective analysis of listener inferencing on a second language listening test. In G. Kasper & E. Kellerman (eds.) Communication Strategies: Psycholinguistic and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. London: Longman. 216-237.




Many researchers believe that discourse variables are very important in lecture comprehension.

In addition, lectures can be very challenging for second-language listeners, and some research has tried to discover how to make them easier: redundancy (using repetition and paraphrase) and the use of clear rhetorical markers are assumed to aid comprehension.

Furthermore, lectures are the main way of communicating knowledge at university, so it would be of great benefit if you can improve your ability to better understand lectures. Comprehending academic lectures in a second language is not an easy task, because it involves skills such as coping with the lecturer's speech characteristics (e.g. accent, speed, intonation, expressions), identifying the main ideas, and note-taking. However, it is possible to practice and improve these skills systematically using a wide range of resources.

In general, research on academic listening skills falls into four major categories:

Furthermore, discussing the assessment of content for the listeners, Richards (1983:228) characterizes the following features concerning the effective content listening:

  1. ability to identify purpose and scope of lecture

  2. ability to identify topic of lecture and follow topic development

  3. ability to identify relationships among units within discourse (e.g. major ideas, generalizations, hypotheses, supporting ideas, examples)

  4. ability to identify role of discourse markers in signaling structure of a lecture (e.g. conjunctions, adverbs, gambits, routines)

  5. ability to infer relationships (e.g. cause, effect, conclusion)

  6. ability to recognize key lexical items related to subject/topic

  7. ability to deduce meanings of words from context

  8. ability to recognize markers of cohesion

  9. ability to recognize function of intonation to signal information structure (e.g. pitch, volume, pace, key)

  10. ability to detect attitude of speaker toward subject matter

  11. ability to follow different modes of lecturing: spoken, audio, audio-visual

  12. ability to follow lecture despite differences in accent and speed

  13. familiarity with different styles of lecturing: formal, conversational, read, unplanned

  14. familiarity with different registers: written versus colloquial

  15. ability to recognize relevant matter: jokes, digressions, meanderings

  16. ability to recognize function of non-verbal cues as makers of emphasis and attitude

  17. knowledge of classroom conventions (e.g. turn-taking, clarification requests)

  18. ability to recognize instructional/learner tasks (e.g. warnings, suggestions, recommendations, advice, instructions)

Once the listeners equip the ability above, they will reach the high listening comprehension of content, in particular, effectively respond to the lecture within the academy. Eventually, the language competency required: Grammatical knowledge, discourse knowledge pragmatic knowledge and sociolinguistic knowledge( Buck, 2001).




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