Listening journals – the how and why rather than the what

So this week the OU is on hold as I am at the 2016 IATEFL conference in Birmingham.

Yesterday, I attended the forum on listening skills which centred on the use of Podcasts and Learning Journals for developing listening skills.  What I wanted was some ideas of how to encourage student autonomy for learning with regards to listening practices.  This forum did not supply that but it did get me thinking about the use of learning journals, as this blog is a form of learning journal for me.

The idea was that student’s use learning journals to record strategies for effective listening, as well as to reflect on ‘how’ and ‘why’  we listen rather than just what we listen to.  However, whilst I’m sure this may be useful for younger or lower level learners, it does speak to a new trend in this age of on-demand TV, radio, Podcasts, video etc.

There is one idea that TV programs are dumbing down, simplifying plots in the assumption that we no longer give TV etc. our 100% attention.  Instead we play candy crush, flick through Imgur or 9gag, check our emails or What’s app (is this a verb now?).

So whilst it might be useful for students to think about how they listen, perhaps we are doing our students a disservice by not putting them in the situations they are going to be working in. Speaking in a monosyllabic, slow teaching voice may not prepare high level students for interacting in the real world, student-focused podcasts can be useful and attractive for lower-level students but come across as artificial or contrived for higher levels.  Thus it may be we need to not provide completely quiet classrooms for doing exercises, but rather acknowledge that smart devices, background noise, and (as being demonstrated in the plenary I am currently typing this in) multitasking are part of our daily life now.

trading floorSo perhaps we need to be bringing this real-life reality into the classroom.  Companies and others complain that students do not develop real skills.  In this age, when quiet focused online training is easily accessible, perhaps the classroom should be chaotic, noisy,  and ‘real’.



My thanks to Craig Wealand (British Council, Valencia), Elizabeth Pinard (The University of Sheffield),  Ellen Servenis (University of Toronto) for their interesting forum.


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