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Title: A Case Study on Listening -Speaking Course and

Speech Assessment of the Thai Students with Low


English Proficiency

Date of Publication: December 2008

Researcher: Sripathum Noon-ura-Thammasat University,


Thailand

Reference/ Source: http://asian-efl-


journal.com/December_08_sna.php

Purpose of the Study: The study aimed to find out how


much the course could help and promote a more positive attitude
towards learning English in the learners, and thus the following
goals were set:

3.1.1 To study the development of the students’ listening and


speaking skills after they joined the course
3.1.2 To study the students’ readiness, interests, and
confidence in learning and using English after taking the
course
3.1.3 To evaluate the course as a whole, the teaching
methodology and the speech assessment method being
used in the classroom.

Theoretical Position: In class, students apparently are less


motivated to learn because they know their English ability is low.
When their ability or their grades are low, they are less motivated
to learn. When they are less motivated to learn, their ability can
never improve (Littlejohn, 2001).

Students’ opinions seemed to agree with El-


Koumy (2000), who concluded that the teaching focusing on
integrated skills seemed to be too burdensome for less able
students but more suitable to highly motivated learners. Harlow
and Muyskens (1994) also pointed out that the ultimate goal of
most language learners is to be able to converse or communicate
in that language when they are traveling or trying to gain access
to information through interactive technologies such as movies
and television. Hadley (2001, p. 94) also suggested that although
speaking and listening skills helps follow natural sequences in
acquiring a language, teaching less able learners requires special
settings.
Mewald,C., Gassner,O., & Sigott,G.(2009) cited
that Speech Assessment diagnose the learner’s strengths and
weaknesses in communicating naturally in settings (tasks) that
resemble as closely as possible the real life language usage of this
age group.

Method:

Respondents Twenty-eight (28) first year students with D and


D+ previous grade in English of Thammasat
University

Research Thammasat University, Thailand

Research Instrument
a. Pre and post-test- the listening test consisted
of 40 multiple-choice questions and the
speaking test comprised 10 questions used
for a structured interview.
b. Pre and post questionnaire- students’
readiness, interests and confidence in
learning and using English
c. Classroom observation-focused on: the
teacher-student interaction, the student-
student interaction, the course content and
teaching methods, and the classroom general
atmosphere
d. Self-reflection check sheet- to see how the
students mirrored their learning experience.
e. Course evaluation form- to find the students’
opinions about the teaching methodology, the
teachers, the curriculum and other
administrative factors such as the time
allotted for the course and the class size

Research Procedure

• The three-week course comprised 60 hours: half days


from Monday to Wednesday and full days on Thursday
and Friday. The communicative approach was used with
the variety of ‘fun’ elements such as games, puzzles,
songs, competitions, collaboration and role plays.
• Two Friday afternoons were reserved for ‘review
activities’ of the language practiced from the whole week.
There was a day trip to a tourist attraction where
students were assigned in a walk rally game to
communicate with foreign tourists to fulfill two tasks. The
last day of the course was called the ‘Day of
Performance.’ Students were assigned to engage in
simulation and role-play activities.
• The learners were divided into three subgroups which
were led by two Thai teachers and one native speaker.
Each teacher took care of a group for one week and
changed to the next group. In some activities all three
teachers mixed all learners together and shared the
information gaps that each group had encountered.
• The target language functions involved giving personal
and family information; describing objects, places and
people; giving directions and telling locations; telling likes
and dislikes; comparing things; shopping and ordering
meals; and discussing their future plans. These topics
were chosen because they seemed useful for everyday
life communication.

Results and Discussion

• Results from students’ self reflection-


The results showed some agreement with the results
from the questionnaire in 4.3. Cognitively, the majority of
the students (82%) could see that English was essential
in their lives; they learned it in a more motivated way;
they tried to attend class regularly and 90% of them
showed up on time. They noticed the difference between
‘fun’ and ‘less fun’ or ‘less difficult’ lessons. They felt that
they could talk about themselves and their family in a
more informative way. They could describe the
appearance of objects, places and people and could also
discuss their likes and dislikes more confidently. They
understood the teachers and their peers better and they
could make themselves understood a lot better.
• Results from the course evaluation
All of the students (100 percent) were satisfied with the
intensity of the course, the number of classmates, the
teachers and the teaching methodology and all of them
agreed that the course was able to help improve their
listening and speaking skills dramatically. A student wrote
this comment at the open-ended part of the course
evaluation form (translated by the researcher): I
enjoyed this class a lot. I had never been able to
give good information about my family before and
I could have chance to speak English much more
than ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘okay.’ Another student wrote:
Professor, if you do a new research, please let me
join again. Your course really helps me improve my
English.
• Despite the positive results that showed the high
significance statistically in all aspects of this study, it
cannot be taken for granted that the course was
successful. It was very interesting to find that in a Thai
context this research class could make only a little
change in the students. It was apparent when the
students’ average scores of both skills were compared as
shown in the table below. From the pre test, the students’
combined average score of both listening and speaking
skills was 40.53 from the total of 100. If the pass-mark
was set at 50%, these students would have failed an
English exam before taking the course. When the average
score of the post test turned out to be 55.36, it meant the
students passed the test, but they were still rated as poor
language learners. It could not be said that a student with
the score of 55 from 100 was a good student. Three
weeks did help, but not much.

Evaluation

This study which investigated the course (listening-


speaking skills) help and promote a more positive attitude towards
learning English in the learners and was analyzed using
quantitatively and qualitatively research. As cited by Rubin and
Mead (1984), there are oral communication tests available to
assess a learner’s ability to use the English language. For Brown,
(1981) communication activities such as listening and speaking
reflect a variety of settings: one-to-many, small group, one-to-one,
and mass media. To this attest, the investigation focused on the
effects of penetrating the listening strategy to the Thai students
with low English proficiency. According to Rost (1991;4),
successful listening involves integration of component skills. As
cited by Sheath Rixon (1986;1) listening comprehension help
learners to cope with listening in real life. It impressed me
realizing that personalized questions (usually falls under family
topics) makes an excellent theme for English learners to learn and
use the language since everyone has his family and experience to
share (Tucker, H., 2010).This personalized questioning provides a
great deal in order to promote proficiency to less-proficient
learners.
However, it was never mentioned that integrating games
towards learning would uplift the students’ interests in learning
English. As Uberman (1998, 87) writes, "Games encourage,
entertain, teach, and promote fluency and communicative skills. If
not for any of these reasons, they should be used just because
they help students see beauty in a foreign language and not just
problems that at times seem overwhelming." By all means, game
competitions integrated with listening, speaking, reading and
writing may provide students natural opportunities to work
together and communicate using English with each other. Through
speech, learners learn to organize their thoughts and focus their
ideas (Lyle, 1993). In addition, another effective tactic of
assessment if a teacher decides to use a task-base learning using
the learner’s psychomotor domain is the Performance base test
(PBT) to measure a learner’s knowledge and ability -a suggestive
assessment tool; through performing specific basic tasks instead
of giving series of question may actually boost a learner’s interest.
The value of measuring actual performance was put into context
by Dave Carlson of the California Department of Education’s
California Learning Assessment System, “If you want to see if
someone can ride a bike, you don’t give him a multiple-choice
test” (Seal 1993).

Critiqued by: CAROLYN


P. LAURON