Education Evolutions

Enhanced English language lab usage improves student listening comprehension

Military officer students in Vietnam benefit from enhanced English language lab usage and instructor expertise.

The Lana Learn English language training program in Vietnam currently holds space for 45 participants from the Vietnamese military. The program follows the American Language Course (ALC) curriculum designed by the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC). As part of the regular curriculum, students spend one hour per day in Lana Learn’s recently refurbished language lab. We have a designated language lab instructor, Ms. Lisa Garsson, who sets the language lab pacing and guides students through their Language Laboratory Activities (LLA) books. Since the program start in October 2022, Ms. Garsson has enhanced English language lab usage in many ways. One of the main functions of the lab instructor is to identify areas of weakness in students’ listening skills and differentiate learning based on individual needs. Furthermore, the language lab instructor is responsible for creating additional supplementary materials to enhance students’ listening skills.  

The language lab acts as a learning center for students to hone their listening skills. Listening comprises 50% of DLIELC testing criteria. This includes the English Language Comprehension (ECL) test that allows students to qualify for follow-on training programs in the United States. Ms. Garsson implements a mix of teacher-led instruction and student-paced learning. This blend of instruction benefits students in many ways. 

Teacher-led instruction 

DLIELC designed the ALC Language Laboratory Activities books to reinforce lesson objectives. The book format is conducive to individual learning and includes audio instruction, audio scripts, and an answer key. However, Lana Learn instructors have found that students also benefit greatly from teacher-led instruction using the books’ activities and exercises.  

Ms. Garsson guides the students through the books by playing the audio on the lab speaker. This practice is invaluable to students as it mirrors the way instructors give the listening portion of the tests. Book exercises often ask students to repeat words and phrases, and the instructor can identify errors in pronunciation and intonation. During these group-led lab sessions, Ms. Garsson gives each student opportunities to answer questions they hear on the audio tracks. This allows her to hear areas of weaknesses in students’ listening comprehension and ability to respond. 

Student-paced learning 

During student-paced language lab sessions, we give program participants autonomy over their learning. The language lab has 15 computers, which gives each student their own computer to use during their lab sessions. The audio files are loaded onto the computers, so students can move through the book at their own pace. Students experience improved retention when they can listen to the audio multiple times if needed. This individualized nature of education allows students to lean into their personal learning styles. For example, lower-level students might use the script in the back of their book to read along with the audio, whereas higher-level students can answer questions by simply listening to the tracks. Students feel more comfortable asking questions when they are moving through the activities at their own pace. The instructor also has more time to give individual feedback and guidance to students who need it.  

Supplementary listening materials 

In addition to utilizing the ALC language laboratory materials, Ms. Garsson creates supplementary listening materials. These materials include additional listening exercises and assessments. The DLIELC testing format is comprised of multiple-choice questions. Students must have knowledge of the course content, but they also need to practice test-taking strategies. Ms. Garsson creates assessments that combine audio questions with multiple-choice answers. She reviews strategies like identifying key words, using the process of elimination, and choosing the most precise and specific answer. 

Program participants engaging in student-paced learning in the English language lab at Unit 871.
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