Session 3B
Title: Why listen to this? A method for helping learners better understand academic lectures

Listening is often cited by students as their weakest skill (Lynch (2011)). Prior to starting their studies, university-bound students have generally only been exposed to very short lecture extracts through IELTS test preparation and EAP classes (although EAP listenings tend to be longer, they are generally not as long as an authentic lecture). How can we help students build up to comprehending a 1-2 hour lecture in a short 10-15 week course?

Direct Entry courses usually contain a series of scaffolded lessons to build academic listening and note-taking skills, as do many Academic English texts, with varying degrees of success (Field (2011)). There are a range of skills to learn, including (but not limited to) identifying main and sub-points, understanding relationships between ideas, critically thinking about the issues (especially in a more interactive lecture), inferring connections not explicitly stated, and taking useful notes by selecting the "important" information in the lecture. But wait! There are more! - relating to the identification of metadiscourse elements, phonological features, paralinguistic cues, reading any additional information on PowerPoint slides, drawing on background knowledge and the task of maintaining concentration levels throughout the entire lecture. The challenge for students is to build these skills up to a point where they can manage in an authentic lecture environment with confidence. How can we encourage students to maintain confidence while building and practising all of these skills outside of the class?

Some also question the accuracy of models of lecture discourse presented in some EAP teaching materials (Thompson (2003)). One of the most commonly cited differences between the English class and the lecture environment is the lack of student control over what information should be considered relevant (i.e. traditional lesson and test formats). While this can be addressed to some extent in the class environment, how can we give students the tools to do this in their independent study? This method attempts to address these questions and hopefully give students a way to actually enjoy building these skills!

Field, J 2011, ‘Into the mind of the academic listener’ Journal of English for Academic Purposes Vol 10, 102–112
Lynch, T 2011, 'Academic listening in the 21st century: Reviewing a decade of research' Journal of English for Academic Purposes Vol 10, 79–88

Nikki Hayes is the Independent & E-Learning Facilitator at UNSW Institute of Languages (UNSWIL). This involves the management of the libraries at UNSWIL and the development of an online learning environment, as well as training staff and helping students build their independent learning skills. Prior to this, she was teaching Academic English for about 12 years, in Sydney and Japan. She is currently studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Education Studies in ICT.