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Pa t r i s i us I s t i a r t o D j i w a n d o n o


Cooperative Listening
as a Means to Promote
Strategic Listening Comprehension

C ooperative learning has

been part of the language
learning domain for at
least two decades. The approach prin-
cipally aims to enhance the quality of
teachers. The fleeting nature of sound
makes it hard for listeners to focus
attention on a particular word or
phrase for detailed analysis. So, it is
understandable that many teachers
learning by having learners cooperate slip into testing the learners’ listen-
in small groups or pairs (Fitzgibbon ing comprehension rather than teach-
2001). It is a mode of learning that ing them how to listen effectively.
promotes mutual helpfulness and Field (2002) points out that teachers
active participation from all students tend to concentrate on the product
in solving a problem (Jacobs and Hall of listening when they should be
1994; Christison 1994) and is in har- interested in the process. Since the
mony with strategic learning, whereby 1960s, he notes, teachers have tended
learners use their cognitive resources to begin their listening comprehen-
to master a particular language skill sion lessons by preparing learners for
as efficiently and effectively as pos- the vocabulary they will hear in the
sible. Unfortunately, as Oxford (2002) recorded material. After listening to
notes, efforts in strategy training have the material, the students then are
focused on cognitive and metacogni- required to answer some comprehen-
tive strategies to the exclusion of social sion questions, followed by pronun-
and affective strategies, such as coop- ciation practice.
erative learning. This is unfortunate Recent publications in the area of
because the strategies employed in listening comprehension have featured
cooperative learning can be powerful new ways of teaching this skill. As
tools for students as they attempt to Nunan (2002a) notes, these new tech-
master the demanding language skill niques focus more on training learners
of listening comprehension. to utilize effective strategies for listen-
Teaching listening comprehension ing to spoken messages. These strate-
is undoubtedly a challenging task for gies are best learned in an environment

32 2006 N U M B E R 3 | E N G L I S H T E A C H I N G F O R U M
of cooperative learning, which enables stu- the effectiveness of their strategies, and
dents to work jointly with their classmates to highlights some strategies the teacher
comprehend spoken discourse and then ben- considers effective. At this point, some
efit each other by sharing the strategies they of the learners may be asked to give a
employed during the listening. This article more detailed explanation of the strate-
discusses the steps in the cooperative listening gies they used so their classmates can use
technique and the advantages of this approach. them as models. The discussion should
It also notes and responds to arguments against be guided in such a way that less able
use of the technique. learners can learn as much as possible
from the more proficient and effective
Detailed steps of the strategy users.
cooperative listening technique
The cooperative listening technique is best I have applied this technique in a listening
used for teaching a group of learners at inter- comprehension class for mid-intermediate adult
mediate-level proficiency in English. It should learners, and it has successfully promoted inter-
be integrated with a regular session, which may action among the learners as well as awareness
be held once a week in an 18-hour listening and enhancement of their listening strategies.
comprehension course so as to make the learn- Expanding learners’ use
ers aware of the value of strategy exchanges for of listening comprehension strategies
this language skill. The technique consists of
the following steps: The cooperative listening technique dis-
cussed above offers advantages over traditional
1. The teacher divides the learners into pedagogy on listening. First, it allows weak
pairs or groups of four and gives them
learners to learn from more able learners how
written questions on the content of the
to listen strategically and what strategies are
material they are about to hear.
effective for comprehending spoken discourse.
2. The teacher tells the learners that they Second, it gives the learners opportunities to
are to listen to the recorded speech pas- let other class members, including the teacher,
sage, make note of whatever they can get know about the strategies they have been
from it, and try their best to answer the using. Finally, the feedback and comments
questions. The teacher tells the students provided help the students confirm or enhance
to use whatever strategies they can to the effectiveness of their strategies.
accomplish the task and to remember The major advantage of this cooperative
those strategies. The speech passage is listening technique is that it reveals a range
then played. of strategies that the learners have been using,
3. At the conclusion of the listening session, which then serves as a starting point from
the teacher has the learners share with which the teacher can classify the strategies as
their partners or group members any metacognitive, cognitive, and social/affective
information they got from the recorded types, and it enables discussion of the benefits
passage, including the answers to the of using these types of strategies. The teacher
questions. The teacher also instructs the can point out that planning, for instance, is
students to tell each other what strate- a metacognitive act that prepares the learners
gies they used to understand the spoken for the upcoming task, that taking quick notes
passage. using a mind map is an example of a cogni-
4. Each pair or group reports the results tive strategy, and that sharing information or
of their cooperation. The report should exchanging strategies with other classmates is
contain (1) the ideas they successfully a kind of social strategy.
got from hearing the passage and (2) the After the reported strategies have accu-
strategies they used to accomplish the mulated over several classroom sessions, the
listening task. The teacher may write teacher will probably have identified patterns
down these strategies on the board. of strategy use by weak learners and more
5. The teacher plays the recorded pas- advanced learners. At this point the students
sage again to let the learners verify can be shown how to orchestrate those strate-
their answers, encourages discussion of gies into a constellation of strategic acts that

E N G L I S H T E A C H I N G F O R U M | NUMBER 3 2006 33
are most effective for understanding spoken ing about the topic prior to listening and by
discourse. The teacher may draw attention to a bringing to mind ideas related to the topic. The
few strategies that comprise a series of strategic teacher may facilitate the process by having the
acts and gradually guide the students to start students brainstorm to arrive at the key words,
using those effective strategies. This can be an activity that helps learners activate relevant
done by highlighting a series of acts that starts “slots” in their mind, which they can later fill
with students thinking about ideas relevant in with details from the listening passage.
to the topic prior to listening, then listening The teacher may also explain that taking
to the entire utterance, and then immediately hints from the speaker’s suprasegmental fea-
taking notes using a mind map. tures (intonation, pitch, speech rate, loudness,
To understand how the whole technique stress) is a strategy likely to facilitate their com-
is done in practice, it is useful to examine the prehension. To raise awareness of the value of
listening strategies reported by two groups of orchestrated strategies, the teacher can point
adult, mid-intermediate EFL learners in my out that strategies 2, 3, and 6 of Group II can
class. They are shown below: be executed in a sequential fashion to form a
Group I: more powerful array of strategies.
An important advantage of the cooperative
1. Listening carefully
listening approach is the favorable learning
2. Thinking in English atmosphere that ensues. When the learners
3. Using previous knowledge about the topic gather in groups or pairs to work out the
4. Taking quick notes spoken messages together, the bond between
them strengthens. Cooperative learning gives
Group II: them the opportunity to share their listening
1. Catching the key words strategies and learn new ones from their class-
2. Thinking about the topic before listening mates, leading to an environment conducive
to activate relevant background knowledge to learning.
3. Listening to the entire sentence, utterance, The cooperative listening technique com-
or unit of ideas before taking notes (If the plies with the characteristics of good strategy
notetaking is done in the middle of the training proposed by Oxford (2002), who
utterance, some of the messages may be states that effective strategy training should
lost.) be explicit, integrated into a typical classroom
4. Imagining the actions when asking some- activity, spread over a period of time, and lead
one for directions to an orchestration of strategies.
5. Reading the questions first to prepare one- Issues and answers
self for the relevant ideas in the speech
To get the most out of the listening tech-
6. Taking hints from the speaker based on nique described above, teachers should be alert
loudness, pitch, intonation, and speech rate to at least three possible issues associated with
(Slow speech or heavier stress indicate that
it. First, as is commonly acknowledged, the
some important messages are being deliv-
automatic and subconscious nature of strate-
ered; faster speech indicates the delivery of
gies makes it difficult for learners to verbalize
not-very-important points.)
the strategies they have been employing (Mat-
It is clear that Group II used more sophis- sumoto 1993). All learners, proficient or not,
ticated and diverse strategies than did Group I. use strategies, but they may not be adept at
The teacher can exploit such a gap to help naming them or bringing them to their con-
members of Group I learn the more effective sciousness. But it is precisely this difficulty that
strategies. This can be done by showing, for provides the rationale for using cooperative lis-
instance, that the strategy of reading compre- tening. The nature of the group task compels
hension questions shortly before listening can learners to bring their subconscious strategies
alert the listeners to the relevant information to a level of consciousness and, by so doing,
in the speech that comes later. The students lets others learn from these strategies. In his
can be told that they can listen carefully for key research, Nunan (2002b) demonstrated that
words, a strategy they can prepare for by think- the very act of instructing learners to recall

34 2006 NUMBER 3 | E N G L I S H T E A C H I N G F O R U M
their learning processes resulted in their verbal as Oxford (2002, 126) put it, that “effective L2
report on their strategies. learners are aware of the strategies they use and
Another argument is that some strategies why they employ them.” Augmented by some
are specific to particular individuals; that is, direct explanation by the teacher, the coopera-
not every strategy works best for all learners. tive listening will reveal to less able learners the
For example, a student in my class used “imag- inefficiency of their word-by-word listening,
ining” strategy to understand a spoken mes- the effectiveness of alternative strategies used
sage having to do with asking for and giving by more proficient classmates, and the impor-
directions. He argued that by imagining him- tance of knowing the purpose of every strategy
self to be a person asking for direction he could they use.
conjure a more vivid image of the situation, Another issue associated with cooperative
which in turn helped him grasp the meaning listening has to do with differing learning styles
of the spoken message. Some students com- and whether students with different styles can
mented that this strategy would never work for work cooperatively with each other. Oxford
them; they would rather use inferring strategy, (2003, 2) defines learning styles as “[T]he gen-
which they claimed was also successful. This eral approaches that students use in acquiring
discrepancy among learners should be taken a new language.” The approaches encompass
as evidence that strategies vary in effectiveness, learners’ predispositions toward extroversion
depending on the learner. or introversion, field dependence or field-
Acknowledging that some strategies may independence, analytic or global processing,
work differently for different learners does cooperation or competition, and tolerance
not, however, diminish the value of those for ambiguity (Oxford 1989). An increasing
strategies known to be effective for almost all body of research suggests that “learning style
kinds of learners. Students should be made has a significant influence on students’ choice
aware of this and be encouraged not only of learning strategies, and ...both styles and
to maintain their own strategies, but also to strategies affect learning outcomes” (Oxford
adopt other potentially effective strategies that 1989, 1). This implies that the learning styles
their classmates have been using. Consider, for of students determine their preferences for
example, the strategy of word-by-word trans- interacting with their classmates and the types
lation, which is typically used by less skilled of learning strategies they will employ to
learners (Nyikos, as cited by Oxford 2002, accomplish the tasks at hand.
126). Learners using this strategy are overly With respect to differing learning styles,
concerned about individual words and take the groupings may accidentally put members
great pains to understand them in the belief with contrasting learning styles in one group,
that getting the meaning of every word is the resulting in the potential for low cooperation
key to successful listening comprehension. among them. For instance, field-independent
What usually happens, however, is that in their learners, who are typically skillful at picking
effort to catch the individual words, they get up details from a complicated background
overwhelmed by the speed of the speech and (Oxford 1989), may be inclined to deploy ana-
miss the meaning of the utterance as a whole. lytical strategies that are not in harmony with
Through cooperative listening these learners the more global approach of field-dependent
can have the opportunity to see that their learners. Oxford (1989, 1) apparently agrees,
more skilled peers listen to the utterance in its noting that “field independent learners show
entirety as a way of more quickly inferring its significant advantages over field-dependent
meaning. The more able learners in my listen- learners in analytical tasks.” Extroverted learn-
ing class who used this strategy (#3 in Group ers, characterized by the enthusiasm to interact
II) were able to articulate the rationale for with other people, may not get along well with
using it. They were clearly aware that by listen- their introverted classmates, who are more
ing to the whole utterance rather than focus- inward-looking and tend to do things on their
ing on individual details they could infer the own. Cooperative listening may not suit learn-
message and still keep up with the fast-flowing ers with this latter style.
spoken information. Their observation is sup- To avert such problems, teachers can
ported by a large body of research indicating, quickly identify students’ learning preferences

E N G L I S H T E A C H I N G F O R U M | NUMBER 3 2006 35
through a brief questionnaire administered at assigns learners to pairs or small groups, and
the beginning of the course. They can then then gets them to cooperate in comprehend-
work with the learners to arrange the most ing the messages of a recorded speech. While
suitable groupings within the class. Alterna- listening, the learners employ some strategies
tively, teachers may let the learners arrange and keep them in mind so they can later
themselves in groups or pairs. Students with share them with their classmates after listen-
relatively similar styles will usually get them- ing. The results of this activity are a range of
selves together in one group. strategies used by students with a variety of
Rather than view different learning styles as learning styles. These strategies are then shown
a problem, the teacher can turn the conflicting to the class. At this stage, the learners have
learning styles into an advantage by assuring the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of
the students that the purpose of cooperative their own strategies, adopt other strategies to
listening is to bring up their different strategies complement theirs, and explain why they use
so that they can complement each other. Thus, a particular strategy. Under the guidance of
analytic learners can learn how global learners the teacher, weaker learners can see the limi-
approach the listening task using their global tations of their listening strategies and adopt
strategies (guessing, inferring, predicting), and those that more proficient classmates have
start using these strategies to complement their been using with some success. The teacher can
existing style. Likewise, a usually solitary learner encourage the use of different types of strate-
may see the worth of group-oriented strategies gies, increase the learners’ awareness of having
by more sociable classmates. If this viewpoint purposeful strategies, and show the students
is adopted, the learners’ different learning pref- how to orchestrate the strategies to achieve a
erences will no longer be an obstacle. In the good result. An added advantage of this listen-
class that I taught, there was one student who ing comprehension technique is the creation of
shunned group work in the beginning sessions. a learning atmosphere conducive to feelings of
However, as the sessions continued and the togetherness among the students.
learners engaged in more intense cooperative Possible obstacles to this technique include
listening techniques, the student began to show the difficulty learners have verbalizing their
a willingness to share his work and ideas with automatic mental processes, the difference
other students. I noticed a healthy exchange of among some strategies in terms of effective-
strategies between those who preferred listen- ness for different learners, and the potential
ing to the whole speech before tackling the incompatibility among learners with different
questions and those who preferred skimming learning preferences. These potential obstacles
through the questions before listening. The should not dissuade teachers from implement-
latter group gradually learned from the for- ing the listening technique since, arguably, the
mer how the “listening first” strategy helped very cooperative nature of the technique is
them concentrate better on the flow of spoken likely to overcome such difficulties.
ideas. In short, cooperative listening apparently
gave them the opportunity not only to refine
their strategies through mutually beneficial Christison, M. A. 1994. Cooperative learning in the
ESL classroom. In Teacher development: Making
exchanges of strategies, but also to adopt a new the right moves. ed. T. Kral, 38–49. Washington,
attitude toward learning as a social activity. DC: United States Information Agency.
This conforms with what Oxford (1989, 2) Fitzgibbon, L. 2001. Cooperative learning in the
states: “In studies where students were taught EFL context. The English Connection 5 (5):
specifically to be cooperative, results revealed 6–8.
Field, J. 2002. The changing face of listening. In
vast improvement in language skills as well Methodology in language teaching. ed. J. C. Rich-
as increased self-esteem, motivation, altruism, ards and W.A. Renandya, 242–47. Cambridge:
and positive attitude toward others.” Cambridge University Press.
Jacobs, G. and S. Hall. 1994. Implementing coop-
Conclusion erative learning. English Teaching Forum 32 (4):
This article presents a technique for teach- Matsumoto, K. 1993. Verbal report data and intro-
ing listening comprehension that combines spective methods in second language research:
cooperative learning with strategic learning. It State of the art. RELC Journal 24 (1): 32–60.

36 2006 NUMBER 3 | E N G L I S H T E A C H I N G F O R U M
Nunan, D. 2002a. Listening in language learning. odology in language teaching. ed. J. C. Richards
In Methodology in language teaching. ed. J. C. and W. A. Renandya, 124–32. Cambridge:
Richards, and W. A. Renandya, 238–41. Cam- Cambridge University Press.
bridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2003. Language learning styles and
———. 2002b. Learner strategy training in the strategies: an overview.
classroom: An action research study. In Meth- tw/~language/workshop/read2.pdf
odology in language teaching. ed. J. C. Richards
and W. A. Renandya, 133–43. Cambridge: PATRISIUS ISTIARTO DJIWANDONO is director
Cambridge University Press.
of the Language Center of the University
Oxford, R. L. 1989. The role of styles and strategies
in second language learning. ERIC Clearing- of Surabaya, Indonesia, and teaches
house on Languages and Linguistics, Washing- discourse analysis, teaching listening, and
ton, DC. language testing at Widya Mandala Catholic
———. 2002. Language learning strategies in a University. He has written two books on
nutshell: update and ESL suggestions. In Meth- reading strategy.

Integrating Multimedia Technology… | Mayora

continued from page 21


Integrating Multimedia Technology in a High School EFL Program • Carlos A. Mayora

Very Very
Items Excellent Average Poor
good poor
1. Punctuality
2. Readiness to work
3. Behavior
4. Respect to classmates and teachers
5. Equipment handling
6. Dedication to work
7. Personal appearance
8. Time management
(Pino-Silva and Antonini 1999)

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