The influence of a listening training programme on students' performance in listening comprehension : a study at teachers' college in the southwest region of Saudi Arabia
The primary concern of the present study is to investigate the influence of a listening training programme on students' performance in listening comprehension at the Teachers' College in the Southwest region of Saudi Arabia, with reference to their attitudes, motivation, parental encouragement, satisfaction with English courses taught at the secondary schools and their socio-economic status as independent variables. These variables were investigated after the pre-tests of both the experimental and control groups and were considered to be an attempt to analyse and discover the learners' interests, needs, strengths, weaknesses, difficulties and their level of proficiency in English language. It was hypothesised that there would be no significant correlation between the students' scores in these variables and their scores on the listening tests. It was also hypothesised that there would be no significant differences between the students' scores in the pre-tests and post-tests of the experimental and control groups. The data for the investigation were gathered from 240 male first year undergraduate students with an age range of 19-22 years at the Gizan Teachers' College in the Southwest region of Saudi Arabia. Three different questionnaires were administered in this study namely, Students' Attitude/Motivation Questionnaire, before the training programme, Students' Evaluation Questionnaire, after the training programme, and Teachers' Evaluation Questionnaire. In addition, interviews and observations were carried out with the supervisors of English at Gizan Educational Directorate, teachers of English in secondary schools, English native speakers staff in the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and at Hull University English Language Centre in the U. K. in order to gather more data concerning the learning and teaching of listening-based methods and the recent teaching methodology and modern facilities used in teaching ESL/EFL in both centres. The data results were analysed using SPSS (Statistical Package For Social Science) with statistical techniques of frequency-distribution, Pearson's Product-moment correlation and t-tests for independent and paired samples. Analysis of the data revealed that in the pre-test, the scores on the listening comprehension test of the experimental group were relatively similar to the scores of the control group and had mostly significant relationships with the independent variables at 0.05, 0.01 and 0.001 with very low correlations ranging from r= -0.10 to r= 0.40. Post-tests results were also compared between the two groups in order to determine the differences of the two scores. Students in the experimental group scored more highly in the listening comprehension tests than those in the control group with mean difference of 42.75 in favour of the experimental group. The mean scores in the pre-tests and post-tests of the experimental group were also highly significant, p<0.001 showing a difference in means of 43.50 and a difference in standard deviations of 2.30. No differences were found between the means and standard deviations in the pre-tests and post-tests of the control on the listening comprehension tests (mean difference =0.02 and standard deviations difference = 0.27, p=<0.05). This indicated that participants in the experimental groups performed better and displayed greater improvements when they received training in listening tasks than those in the control group who received no training. Therefore, the hypotheses were rejected and it can be said that there were significant and high correlations between the pre-tests and post-tests of the experimental groups after -the training, r=0.8 5, p<0.001. Students were found to be instrumentally oriented with negative attitudes before the training programme in both the experimental group (EXG) and control group (COG). Students' attitudes in the experimental groups were changed from negative to positive after the training programme and their motivation was changed from instrumental orientation to integrative orientation. They emphasised learning English as a means of interaction with people who speak English inside and outside the college. Further research is needed to be carried out in other regions of Saudi Arabia regarding the findings of the present studies. Parents played a significant role in their children's progress in English and students were found to be satisfied with their level of proficiency in listening comprehension, speech production and reading pronunciation, with fewer errors in favour of the experimental group, although their socio-economic status was modest r=0.20, p<0.01. In the light of these results, certain recommendations were made for learning and teaching listening comprehension at Teachers' Colleges in Saudi Arabia as well as for the teachers' and students' training. The researcher particularly recommended that training in listening comprehension should be introduced into the Saudi education system for all levels of English proficiency, in order to facilitate the development of comprehension skills and increase students' acquisition of the target language. Andy Braithwaite, from the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia emphasised this by stating that "listening is an important skill. It should be taught at all levels and should be part of any course for better spoken English" (1997, p. 6 Teachers' Questionnaire). The choice of the listening materials should be left to the Ministry of Education to select what is appropriate to the levels of the learners graduating from simple to complex. Teachers' training should be regarded as an on-going process and should be taken seriously and implemented with the utmost zeal. A first step would be to hold specialised interviews and language proficiency tests in order to determine their level of proficiency and needs. Moreover, there should be scheduled and well-arranged meetings, particularly at the beginning of each semester, in order to keep both the supervisors and teachers up-to-date with developments in teaching methods and new techniques and facilities used in teaching the target language as well as to develop their competence in oral speech. In this respect, the recommendations for training programmes and the scheduled meetings were mainly based on the fact that 94% of the 50 teachers and lecturers at the secondary schools and teachers' colleges were in agreement with the use of the listening-based methods to teach listening comprehension, although they had not had any previous experience in learning or teaching using these methods either pre-service or in-service. Only 6% of them had undertaken training in the listening-based methods during their spare time in the summer, at the American University in Egypt or at the British Councils in Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Finally, it is of great and vital importance to point out that the habit of translating the grammatical rules and the reading passages from English into Arabic should be abandoned during the teacher/student interaction in the classroom. Concentration on the target language would train the learners to develop their comprehension skills and their thinking strategies in spoken English (Hashim and Sahil, 1994, pp. 1-3).