Impact Insights

Student listening comprehension improves in English language training program

Lana English instructors celebrate improvements in student listening comprehension after seeing final English language training test results.

The Lana team in Vietnam closed out the third course of its English language training (ELT) program this May. 44 Vietnamese military officers graduated from the American Language Course (ALC) after completing their final exam. Caleb Galipeau, one of the ELT instructors, reflects on his class’s progress, notably student listening comprehension, throughout the past six months.

Program Goals

The program’s goal is to create a pool of Vietnamese military officers eligible to continue onto the U.S. for follow-on training (FOT) programs. The threshold for this requirement, set by the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), is an exam score of 55. At the course’s commencement, Class Alpha began at ALC Book 10. This put them at a high elementary level of English proficiency according to the Defense Language Institute English Language Course (DLIELC). The lowest-scoring students received between 47-53 on their initial American Language Course Placement Test (ALCPT) back in November. During the six-month course, our goal was to cover ten books and get students to a high intermediate English level.

My personal goal was to have an ALCPT class average of 70 and see an average score increase of 20%. One of the main areas for improvement among my students was listening comprehension which makes up 50% of DLIELC testing. Another challenge was that higher-level students tend to increase their scores by smaller margins than lower-level students.

Course Trends

As our class reached the end of the course, I noticed that a few students were scoring lower on Book Quizzes 18 and 19 than previous quizzes. Book Quizzes are achievement assessments that we give at the end of each book to assess content retention. Two of the students told me that they had other military responsibilities outside of class that took a good deal of their time. Another had recently experienced a death in the family and was understandably having difficulty maintaining focus. I reminded the students of how well they had done learning the material so far. I encouraged them to keep up their good study habits for the last few weeks of class.

Listening Practice

In the weeks leading up to the final exam, I spent extra time focusing on student listening comprehension skills and test-taking strategies. The most simple and direct listening practice was from the book and is structured similarly to their final test. The steps involved included pre-reading, noticing key words, prediction, listening, hearing key words, and answering. This requires taking a simple listening exercise and slowly staging it in a way that allows students to actively seek out words in the question. It mentally prepares them for the information before it’s heard. Additionally, it gives them the ability to make quick decisions without understanding every single word.

For the final two weeks of class, I added long-form listening activities. These were not directly related to the ALCPT format but were at a difficulty level appropriate for my class. These exercises focused on general listening acuity. To give students more variation, I included pair work and class discussions to check understanding. The steps included the following:

  • Getting the main idea
  • Understanding concepts in the questions without hearing the exact words in the listening
  • Deducing a speaker’s opinion or feelings on a topic.

Student Results

The last few days of test preparation involved reviewing vocabulary and listening practice. The students seemed focused but also relaxed. Following the final ALCPT, the students delivered impressive results. All 14 students in Class Alpha scored above ODC’s threshold of 55, and the class average was 75. Five students scored above 80 which grants them eligibility for pilot follow-on training programs. The highest scoring student received an outstanding 93 ALCPT score. Most of the lower-level students saw a growth rate, or percentage increase, between 30-48%.

It was encouraging to see the class as a whole improve over time. In addition to the usual areas of grammar and vocabulary, they showed notable improvement in their ability to understand spoken English and to speak more clearly and fluently. At the graduation ceremony, one of the students was chosen to give remarks in both English and Vietnamese. He impressed the graduation attendees with his clear and confident remarks. Without using notes, he expressed his thoughts on the course with ease. Looking forward, it will be my goal to continue to increase students’ use of those more practical English skills – listening and speaking.

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