An Empirical Study on the Model in College English Listening and Speaking Class

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1 Sino-US English Teaching, ISSN May 2012, Vol. 9, No. 5, D DAVID PUBLISHING An Empirical Study on the Model in College English Listening and Speaking Class LI Wan-jun, MENG Zi-yan, NIU Yan-li, SUN Li-hua, FENG Chao Shandong University at Weihai, Weihai, China Improving college students listening and speaking ability is a very important part of college English teaching. Based on the foreign and domestic studies on how to improve students listening and speaking ability, this paper explores the model in listening and speaking class, which is to divide the listening and speaking class into two parts small speaking class combined with students online autonomous learning. Through one-year experiment and study on two classes, although there is no significant difference between the performances of these classes, this study has shed some light on how to vary the teaching methods, how to improve the class efficiency, students autonomy in learning, and how to build new assessment system. Further studies could be made later based on this. Keywords: college English listening and speaking class, teaching model, small speaking class, autonomous learning Review The college English listening and speaking is an important component in the integrated college English teaching. According to the English curriculum arrangement for non-english majors in the colleges and universities in China, College English is normally composed of two parts: College English Reading and Writing, and College English Listening and Speaking. Some universities take them as two courses and give academic performance accordingly, while the vast majority of universities just take them as one course with one comprehensive performance though they are delivered separately. With the further development of the national college English teaching reform, the cultivation and development of the students listening and speaking competence is getting more and more important, especially in 2007, when the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education issued College English Curriculum Requirements (official version), it is put forward in the Character and Objectives of College English that: The objective of College English is to develop students ability to use English in a well-rounded way, especially in listening and speaking, so that in their future studies and careers as well as social interactions, they will be able to This study was financed by the Fifth China Foreign Languages Education Foundation, China Foreign Languages Education and Research Center in Beijing Foreign Studies University. LI Wan-jun, associate professor at College English Teaching Department, Shandong University at Weihai. MENG Zi-yan, lecturer at College English Teaching Department, Shandong University at Weihai. NIU Yan-li, lecturer at College English Teaching Department, Shandong University at Weihai. SUN Li-hua, lecturer at College English Teaching Department, Shandong University at Weihai. FENG Chao, lecturer at College English Teaching Department, Shandong University at Weihai.

2 THE MODEL IN COLLEGE ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING CLASS 1133 communicate effectively, and at the same time to enhance their ability to study independently and improve their general cultural awareness so as to meet the needs of China s social development and international exchanges. (p. 18) while, with the rapid development of network technique and its application to foreign languages teaching, English teachers in universities are getting more and more enthusiastic in the research of online English learning. At present, the research focus of the majority of English teachers is mainly on the online self-learning, for instance, a research on the comprehensive effect of online self-learning (CHEN & XU, 2006), an empirical research on the effect of online self-learning on cultivating the learner s autonomy and improving the learner s efficiency (FU & YANG, 2007), a research on the related factors of online self-learning (CHEN, 2007), a research on the differences among the non-english-major graduates in online self-learning (GUO & ZHOU, 2007), an empirical research on the oral English teaching with the model of teacher s guide combined with online self-learning (XING, 2007), as well as an investigation on the students attitude and behaviors in online self-learning (ZHU, 2009). While the research on the effects of online self-learning applied to different skills training of English listening, speaking, reading, and writing is rare. This empirical research will mainly focus on the effect of online self-learning with the teaching model of English listening and speaking courses in order to explore the strengths and weaknesses of online self-learning applied to the training of English listening and speaking. Research Design Research Subjects The subjects of this empirical research are from the School of Information Science and Technology in a key university in Shandong Province, and from two classes with the same English level English band 1. They are totally 87 members and use the same English textbook (New Horizon College English Viewing, Listening, and Speaking) with the same English teacher. One of the two classes majors in electricity engineering and will be taken as the experimental class at random, while the other class, majoring in machine-making and automation, will be the control class. Before the experiment, the two classes were examined in English listening and speaking and their results were processed respectively for the independent sample t-test with the statistical software SPSS (Statistical Program for Social Sciences) The results show that the p-values of listening and oral English scores are respectively 0.43 and 0.22, both greater than 0.05, which means that there is no significant difference between the two classes and they can be taken as the experimental class and control class (see Tables 1-2). Table 1 T-test of Listening Scores (Total Score: 30) Group N t Sig. (2-tailed) Score Control class Experimental class Table 2 T-test of Oral English Scores (Total Score: 100) Group N t Sig. (2-tailed) Score Control class Experimental class

3 1134 THE MODEL IN COLLEGE ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING CLASS Instruments Tests (including the pretest, mid-term test and posttest of listening and oral English). Different tests of listening and oral English are designed for the control class and experimental class to take before, during, and after the experiment to see the changes between them. Questionnaire and interview. By the end of the experiment, the students from the experimental class will be required to take a questionnaire and be interviewed so that we can investigate such factors as the learning strategy, motivations, collaborations, anxiety, etc., that they take in their online self-learning, and therefore explain the final result of the experiment. Research Procedures From September 2010, namely the third semester of the English class for the two classes, the students are given different teaching models in the class of College English Listening and Speaking: the model for the experimental class, that is, the 41 students in the experimental class are divided into two groups, one group having the oral English class in a small classroom with the teacher s guide, while the other group going to the autonomous learning lab to have online self-learning, mainly practicing their listening skills (the two groups change their turns every other week); while the traditional model for the control class, that is, all the 46 students go to the language lab to have the College English Listening and Speaking Class with the teacher s guide, mainly practicing their listening skills with only about 10-minute oral practice for the whole class every time. In the two-semester experiment, the students from the two classes are tested in both English listening and speaking by the ends of two semesters (respectively mid-term tests and posttests), and the results are processed with the statistical software SPSS Experimental Results and Analyses The Test Results and Analyses The results of the three listening tests of the experimental class show that the standard deviation is getting bigger, which indicates the gap of the listening comprehension in the experimental class is getting bigger, while that in the control class shows no striking difference (see Table 3). Table 3 The Result Analyses of the Three Listening and Speaking Tests Test Listening (30 points) Speaking (100 points) Class (pretest) (mid-term test) (posttest) Experimental class Control class Experimental class Control class The results of the three speaking tests show that in the pretest, the mean of the experimental class is higher than that of the control class, while in the mid-term test and posttest, the means get lower than those of the control class, which indicates that the oral English progress of the experimental class is not as big as that of the control class (see Table 3).

4 THE MODEL IN COLLEGE ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING CLASS 1135 The posttests results of the two classes are processed for the independent sample t-test with the statistical software SPSS 16.0 and the p-values are respectively 0.63 and 0.2, both greater than 0.05, which indicates that the listening and oral English of the two classes shows no significant difference even after the experiment (see Table 4). The result is a little discouraging and shows that the new teaching model does not work well. The following analyses of the students from the experimental class may help explain the results: (1) The students show poor learning autonomy in the online self-learning without the teacher s presence, on-the-spot guidance, and supervision; (2) The training of learning strategy for the students is not well done systematically; and (3) The factors such as motivation, anxiety, interest, and self-discipline might finally hinder their efficient online self-learning. Table 4 T-test of the Posttest Test Class N Max. Min. t Sig. (2-tailed) Listening (30 points) Experimental class Control class Speaking (100 points) Experimental class Control class The Result and Analysis of the Questionnaire In order to see the students attitudes toward the teaching model and to learn the truth of the students in the autonomous learning lab and in the oral English classroom, the authors conducted a questionnaire and interviewed some of the students from the experimental class, making both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the result. The questionnaire is targeted at the following aspects: (1) the students attitudes towards the teaching model (including questions 1, 2, and 3); (2) the factors that hinder the students improvement in English listening and speaking (including questions 4, 5, 6, and 7); and (3) the students involvement in the English speaking and listening activities (including questions 8, 9, and 10). The questionnaire was conducted anonymously in May 2011, with totally 40 copies distributed and 36 copies finally collected. The questionnaire adopts the Likert scale for the choices of each question, that is, five degrees from 1 (absolutely disagree or not accept, 1 point) to 5 (absolutely agree or accept, 5 points). First of all, in Tables 5 and 6, the mean of the students attitudes towards the teaching model (including the first three questions) is 3.81, indicating that the new teaching model is popular among the students. Of the three questions, the means of the first question How do you like the teaching model? and the second question Do you think the teaching model is helpful to improve your oral English? are both 3.94, indicating the students like the new teaching model and think it can improve their oral English. The mean of the third question Do you think the teaching model is helpful to improve your English listening? is just 3.56, lower than that of the first two questions and lower than that of the total average too, indicating that the students are less confident that the new teaching model is helpful to improve their English listening, compared with oral English.

5 1136 THE MODEL IN COLLEGE ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING CLASS Table 5 The s and Standard Derivations of Each Question in the Questionnaire Q. 1 Q. 2 Q. 3 Q. 4 Q. 5 Q. 6 Q. 7 Q. 8 Q. 9 Q Table 6 The s and Standard Derivations of the Three Aspects in the Questionnaire The students attitudes towards the teaching model The factors that hinder the students improvement in English listening and speaking The students involvement in the English speaking and listening class Total average Secondly, the mean of the factors that hinder the students improvement in English listening and speaking (including questions 4-7) is 3.97, indicating that the students highly agree that the factors hinder their improvement in English listening and speaking. The mean of the fourth question Do you think that poor self-discipline is the main factor hindering the students online self-learning? is 4.28, the highest point among the 10 questions, indicating that the students highly agree with that. The mean of the fifth question Do you think the interest of the learning materials is the main factor hindering the students online self-learning? is 4, and that of the sixth question Do you think seeing English movies are much helpful to your English learning? is 4.25, indicating that the students highly value the interest in online self-learning. Finally, from the third aspect, the mean of the students involvement in the English speaking and listening class (including questions 8, 9, and 10) is 3.59, the lowest of the three aspects, indicating that the students involvement in the new teaching model is not very high. The mean of the eighth question Do you think you are actively involved into the oral English activities? is 4.11, the highest of the three questions on the same aspect, indicating that the students are somehow active in the oral English activities. The mean of the ninth question Do you think your limited English proficiency hinders your involvement into the oral English activities? is 3.92, indicating that the students agree with that to some extent. The mean of the tenth question Do you think it is the national character that hinders the students involvement into the oral English activities? is just 2.75, the lowest of the 10 questions, indicating that the students do not agree with it. The Result and Analysis of the Interview In June 2011, 19 students from the experimental class were interviewed one by one and the following are the questions: (1) Question 1: Which of the four English skills listening, speaking, reading, and writing is the most difficult for you? (2) Question 2: Which do you think is better, the teaching model, or the traditional listening and speaking class in the language lab? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the better one? (3) Question 3: What advice do you have for the oral English class in small number? and (4) Question 4: What are you unsatisfied with in the oral English class? To question 1, 11 students select listening, four writing, three speaking, with only one selecting reading. To question 2, the majority of them think the new model is better, with only a few thinking that there is no

6 THE MODEL IN COLLEGE ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING CLASS 1137 much difference between them, and still a few thinking that the traditional model is better. As to the strengths of the new model, the students all think that they have more opportunities to speak English in the small oral English class. As to the weaknesses, many students think that Their efficiency in online self-learning is not high and some students have poor self-discipline, since the listening and speaking class is separated from each other and the students have no teacher s on-the-spot supervision when they have their online self-learning. Some students put forward that They may feel dull and tired when they have two-hour online self-learning practicing their listening. Still some think that Those with good self-discipline can finish the listening assignment well, but those with poor self-discipline and limited English are just absent-minded and make short shrift of the online assignment in the self-learning lab. To question 3, many students suggest that some activities such as lectures and playlets be added in the oral English class to enrich the content and forms of activities. To question 4, some students think that there is no multi-media system in the oral English classroom and they cannot have audio-visual teaching materials to play in class, which is a disadvantage, while some others think that the time for oral English practice is not enough and some students are not very active in practicing. Conclusions and Suggestions From the experiment of the English teaching model, we cannot come to a positive and definite conclusion that the new model can work better than the traditional one in improving the students listening and speaking, though it really shows some advantages (see the students comments in the interview). This experiment shows some drawbacks: First of all, the experiment is not on a large scale and the subjects are just 87 from two classes. The further research can be taken on a large scale to ensure the credibility and validity of the experiment. Secondly, the experiment period is not very long, just two semesters. The further research can take four semesters or even longer period to ensure the result convincing. Thirdly, the students online self-learning was not well managed and supervised by the teacher, for example, some students with poor self-discipline just make short shrift of the online listening assignment and even daydream when they are in the self-learning lab, which surely affected the efficiency of the online learning. Finally, the training of the learning strategy for the students from the experimental class was not well done systematically. They were just offered simple introduction of the learning strategy without dynamic adaptation based on the students different performance, which may affect the final result too. From the experiment, the authors found some new ideas over the teaching style, class arrangement, and the training of the learning strategy. Firstly, the diversified class activities are essential. If the teachers are still just confined to the teaching materials in the textbook, they can no longer meet the students increasingly diversified needs. For example, some students say that they may feel bored and tired if they are required to make dialogue just based on the materials in the textbook every time in the oral English class. Therefore, having more activities in class is a good way to enhance the students involvement and enthusiasm. For example, English lectures, English song contest, playlet contest, and even debate contest can be arranged to help cultivate the students teamwork and collaboration.

7 1138 THE MODEL IN COLLEGE ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING CLASS Secondly, the training of the self-learning strategy is of great importance. The students efficiency and self-discipline in online self-learning are closely related to what learning strategy they choose. So the teachers should give them systematic training and timely supervision before and during their self-learning. Thirdly, the teachers should try to change their delivery mode to improve the efficiency. Both HU (2002) and CAI (2011) put forward the problem of low efficiency in College English teaching, thinking that many students did not improve their English after two-year learning, some even lagging behind, mainly due to the teacher s rigid delivery mode and failure to meet the students practical needs. Finally, the teachers should spare enough time to supervise and inspect the students online self-learning, and interact with the students online timely. To sum up, the network-based teaching combined with the students self-learning is getting more and more popular in universities and colleges and its advantages are revealing increasingly. The problem of how to improve the students efficiency in self-learning, and therefore to improve their listening and speaking, still needs further exploration. The experience and drawbacks taken from the experiment can also help to find a right direction for the English teaching, and improve and perfect the teaching model in the future. References CAI, J. G. (2011). Study on the setting of national college English teaching objectives. Foreign Language World, 4, CHEN, M. H. (2007). Study on the elements of college English autonomous learning assisted by computer and internet. Foreign Languages and Their Teaching, 3, CHEN, Q. S., & XU, L. M. (2006). On the web-based autonomous learning of college English teaching. Foreign Language World, 6, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education. (2007). College English curriculum requirements (official version). Beijing: Foreign Languages Teaching and Research Press. FU, C. F., & Yang, J. D. (2007). Study on the autonomous learning in network-and-multimedia-based college English teaching. Foreign Languages and Their Teaching, 10, GUO, Y., & ZHOU, J. L. (2007). A survey and analysis of non-english major postgraduates computer and network-based autonomous English learning. Shandong Foreign Language Teaching Journel, 1, HU, Z. L. (2002). Issues on the low efficiency in English teaching and learning in China. Foreign Languages Teaching Abroad, 4, 3-7. WANG, Y. P. (2005). On the teacher s role definition and switch in college English listening and speaking class with the new teaching model. Foreign Language World, 4, XING, H. (2007). A study on a net-based college oral English instructional design. China Foreign Languages, 6, ZHU, M. (2009). Web-based Autonomous English Learning: An investigation of students attitudes and behaviors. Teaching English in China, 4,

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