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Lecture listening materials development
An important role lecturers perform is guiding students’ perceptions of the relative importance of lecture points. This discourse structuring can benefit both attention and note-taking and so help students appreciate the relative significance of lecture discourse for their discipline and assessment. To prepare students for their degree lectures, EAP lecture listening coursebooks should therefore arguably train students to recognize lexicogrammatical ‘importance markers’ (Deroey, 2015) using language that is representative of what they may encounter in their lectures. The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, I will present an overview of importance markers in lectures from the British Academic Spoken English corpus and the Corpus of English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings. Second, I will confront these with importance markers from a wide selection of lecture listening coursebooks. We will see that the main importance markers are not the intuitively obvious and explicit ones (e.g. ‘the important point is’, ‘I want to stress this’). Instead the corpora yielded a wide variety of markers, the prevalent ones of which are multifunctional markers whose interpretation depends heavily on their cotext and prosody (e.g. ‘the thing is’, ‘remember’) (Deroey & Taverniers, 2012). However, by and large this is not reflected in the coursebooks (Deroey, 2018), thus setting a ‘stage’ for students that differs from the one they will encounter in their lectures. We will discuss the reasons for this and ways forward. Deroey, K. L. B., & Taverniers, M. (2012). Just remember this: Lexicogrammatical relevance markers in lectures. English for Specific Purposes, 31(4), 221-233. Deroey, K. L. B. (2015). Marking importance in lectures: interactive and textual orientation. Applied Linguistics, 36(1), 51-72. Deroey, K. L. B. (2018). The representativeness of lecture listening coursebooks: language, lectures, research-informedness. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 34, 57-67. doi:10.1016/j.jeap.2018.03.01
Lecture listening is a common component of EAP training. In deciding which coursebook to adopt, a key consideration is arguably whether it prepares students for real lectures. Yet, lecture listening coursebooks have been criticised for their lack of realistic lecture models. Research on lecture corpora such as the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus can provide useful insights to prepare students for the language they are likely to encounter in lectures. I examine the correspondence between the treatment of importance markers (e.g. the point is; remember; I want to emphasize this) in listening coursebooks with their realisation in a lecture corpus (cf. Deroey 2015). As these markers reflect the lecturer’s stance towards the importance of points, students’ ability to spot these may facilitate lecture comprehension and note-taking. Importance markers were retrieved from 160 BASE lectures and compared with phrases presenting key points in 25 coursebooks. These include the Cambridge and Oxford EAP series, Contemporary Topics (2017) Study Listening (Lynch, 2004), Lecture Ready (2013) and Unlock (2014). The investigation revealed that while listening books typically point out the importance of identifying the lecturer’s main points, students are generally either not or inadequately trained to recognise importance markers. Where examples of such markers are included, they are few and prototypical (e.g. the important point is). However, in the lecture corpus less explicit, multifunctional markers such as ‘the thing is’ and ‘remember’ predominate. The findings raise questions about the extent to which training with such materials prepares our students to deal with real lecture discourse. I conclude with suggestions about the selection and development of lecture listening materials. Deroey, K. L. B. (2015). Marking importance in lectures: interactive and textual orientation. Applied Linguistics, 36(1), 51-72.
Lecture listening and note-taking classes are a common component of EAP programmes and the list of listening course books is accordingly long. In deciding which of these to use, a key consideration is arguably whether it prepares students for lectures. In this regard, the availability of spoken academic corpora (e.g. BASE, MICASE, ELFA) and the research arising from these provides insights into lecture discourse that could be usefully integrated in such materials. However, as I will here show, the integration of corpus findings in EAP course books is surprisingly limited, raising the question of whether training based on such materials forms an adequate preparation for the demands of real lectures. I illustrate the gap between authentic lecture discourse and various current listening books by comparing the treatment of importance markers (e.g. the important point is; remember; I want to emphasize this) with their realisation in a lecture corpus. (Deroey and Taverniers 2012; Deroey 2013). Since these discourse organisational signals alert students to key points, being able to identify these markers may facilitate lecture comprehension and note-taking. Importance markers were retrieved from all 160 lectures of the British Academic Spoken English corpus using corpus-driven and corpus-based methods. The investigation revealed that while listening books typically highlight the importance of identifying the lecturer’s main points, students are either not or inadequately trained to recognise importance markers. Where examples of such markers are included, they are few and prototypical (e.g. the important point is). However, in the lecture corpus prototypical markers are relatively uncommon; instead less explicit, multifunctional markers such as ‘the thing is’ and ‘remember’ predominate. The findings suggest that much remains to be done to make lecture listening books more representative of real lectures. References Deroey, K. L. B. and Taverniers, M. 2012. “‘Just remember this’: Lexicogrammatical relevance markers in lectures”. English for Specific Purposes 31 (4): 221-233. Deroey, K. L. B. (2015). Marking importance in lectures: Interactive and textual orientation. Applied Linguistics, 36(1), 51-72.
This paper examines 25 lecture listening coursebooks for their representativeness of ‘real’ lectures with a view to helping EAP practitioners make informed decisions about materials selection and development. The aspects of representativeness examined are language, lecture authenticity and research-informedness. The representativeness of language was assessed by comparing signposts of important points with those retrieved from a corpus of 160 authentic lectures. Lecture authenticity in terms of source, delivery and length was established by examining the audiovisual materials, transcripts and information provided by authors. Whether materials were research-informed was determined by noting references to lecture and listening research. Results suggest that current lecture listening materials tend not to reflect the language and lectures students are likely to encounter on their degree programmes. Moreover, materials are typically not (systematically) informed by listening and lecture discourse research. These findings highlight the need for EAP practitioners to approach published materials critically and supplement or modify them in ways that would better serve students. The paper concludes with recommendations on how this could be done.
1. Introduction In this paper I will discuss the extent to which lecture listening textbooks reflect authentic lecture language. I will also demonstrate Sketch Engine, which allows you to easily retrieve target language from (academic) corpora, and FileMaker Pro, a database programme which I find extremely useful in processing concordances. The degree to which EAP materials correspond to the demands of real lectures is arguably an important factor in their ultimate usefulness. As Thompson (2003, p. 6) notes, ‘[f]or EAP practitioners, a key issue is how to provide as accurate as possible a model of lecture organisation and help their learners to develop the skills to interpret organising signals’. To assess how representative organisational cues in EAP books are(Cuenca and Bach 2007), I compare importance marking cues with those attested in the British Academic Spoken English corpus . 2. Corpus analysis Importance markers identified through an initial close reading of 40 BASE lectures were retrieved from all 160 BASE lectures using Sketch Engine and supplemented with further markers attested in their cotext and the BASE word list. Additional markers from previous lecture research were also searched (Deroey and Taverniers 2012). The investigation revealed a large variety of importance markers, the most common of which differ from those which usually appear in EAP materials. The markers were classified according to their orientation to either the participants or the content (‘interactive orientation’, Table 1) and their position relative to the highlighted point (Deroey 2013). Most are either content- or listener-oriented, and signal important points prospectively. The predominant markers by far were those of the type the point is and remember. These are potentially multifunctional and less explicit than their far less frequently used prototypical counterparts containing adjectives (e.g. the important point is) or a listener pronoun (you should note that). It can be argued that students should therefore be trained in interpreting these prevalent, multifunctional cues alongside being exposed to markers reflecting the variety that exists in real lectures. Interactive orientation N % Content 363 46.4 the point is sound waves don't really interact Listener 304 38.9 remember South Korea is still classified as a NIC Speaker 79 10.1 i want to emphasize this Joint 36 4.6 now let us note what Descartes is doing Table1: Interactive orientation of importance markers: examples and frequencies (N=782) 3. Corpus evidence versus EAP textbooks The EAP books I examined vary widely in their inclusion of importance markers and range of examples. Most include few and fairly prototypical importance markers (Lebauer 2010; Lynch 2004; Phillips 1999; Salehzadeh 2006; Sarosy and Sherak 2006), the origins of which are unclear. Three integrate research findings on lecture listening and/or include corpus data: Salehzadeh (2006), Kelly, Revell, and Nesi (2000) and Lynch (2004). Salehzadeh (2006) uses some lectures from MICASE. ‘Emphasis’ cues are said to generally occur before a point, which is borne out by my corpus data. However, examples are very few and mainly prototypical (e.g. the important thing here is…, what you don’t want to forget…) and it is unclear whether these are corpus-derived. Kelly, Revell, and Nesi (2000) relates listening skills to lecture excerpts from BASE. The chapter on distinguishing between more and less important information includes examples such as The key point is…What’s crucial… is…; A point worth noting is…; and That’s… the main point here. Examples are from the corpus but all contain adjectives and do not represent the predominant markers from this study. The lectures in Lynch (2004) seem to have been organised for the course. Interestingly, his categorisation of importance markers (p. 39) closely resembles the one based on corpus data in Deroey (2013). Lecturers stress points by ‘speaking about the subject matter itself’ (e.g. a basic point; the central problem is that…); ‘speaking to the audience’ (it’s important to bear in mind that…; remember that…, you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that…); or by ‘speaking about themselves’ (I want to stress). Lynch’s list of importance markers is the largest and most varied. Nevertheless, it is mostly restricted to fairly prototypical examples and it is not clear what the list is based on. Conclusion In short, I feel that much remains to be done to ensure that corpus evidence informs lecture listening materials so that students are better prepared for the demands of their course lectures. In the case of importance markers textbooks should contain examples of a wider variety of importance markers, and practise the interpretation of prevalent, potentially multifunctional markers. References Deroey, K. L. B. and Taverniers, M. 2012. “‘Just remember this’: Lexicogrammatical relevance markers in lectures”. English for Specific Purposes 31 (4): 221-233. Deroey, K. L. B. published online 2013. “Marking importance in lectures: Interactive and textual orientation”. Applied Linguistics. doi: 10.1093/applin/amt029 Kelly, T., Revell, R., and Nesi, H. 2000. Listening to lectures. Warwick: University of Warwick. Lebauer, R. 2010. Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn, Level 2: Academic Listening and Note-Taking (3rd ed.). New York: Pearson Longman. Lynch, T. 2004. Study listening: A course in listening to lectures and note taking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Phillips, T. 1999. Skills in English listening: Level 3. Reading: Garnet Education. Salehzadeh, J. 2006. Academic listening strategies: A guide to understanding lectures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Sarosy, P. and Sherak, K. 2006. Lecture ready 2: Strategies for academic listening, note-taking, and discussion. Oxford: OUP. Thompson, S. E. 2003. “Text-structuring metadiscourse, intonation and the signalling of organisation in academic lectures”. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 2 (1): 5-20.