A decoding approach to listening has been, in recent years, advocated by various language acquisition researchers, including Field (e.g. ‘Rethinking the Listening Test: From Theory to Practice’, Equinox, 2018), Swan and Walter (e.g. ‘Misunderstanding comprehension’, ELT Journal ,71/2, 228-236, 2017) and Cauldwell (e.g. ‘A Syllabus for Listening – Decoding’, 2018). However, it is our experience, and it has been reported as the experience of others, that many EFL teachers fail to appreciate the importance of decoding, prioritising instead other strategies – such as ‘activating schemata’ – which are poorly defined conceptually, are often strategies learners have already mastered in L1, and which are only supported by evidence in very limited contexts.
This talk will outline our research at Bell Cambridge and London into what listening activities were used and believed to work by our teachers prior to a series of Teacher Development workshops and subsequent training designed to promote the use of bottom-up decoding processes in the language classroom. It will provide evidence for the effectiveness of such processes and report on the extent to which we were successful in building on and changing approaches to teaching listening at Bell. This talk will be relevant to teachers, teacher trainers and managers and will finish with a summary of ways in which our research might be used and taken forward by others in the ELT sector.