Content-Rich Versus Content-Deficient Video-Based Visuals in L2 Academic Listening Tests: Pilot Study

Content-Rich Versus Content-Deficient Video-Based Visuals in L2 Academic Listening Tests: Pilot Study

Roman Olegovich Lesnov (Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2018010102
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This article compares second language test-takers' performance on an academic listening test in an audio-only mode versus an audio-video mode. A new method of classifying video-based visuals was developed and piloted, which used L2 expert opinions to place the video on a continuum from being content-deficient (not helpful for answering comprehension items) to content-rich (very helpful for answering comprehension items). The video for one testlet contained only the speaker's non-verbal cues and was found to be content-deficient. The other video contained non-verbal cues overlapping with PowerPoint text and was deemed content-rich. Seventy-three ESL learners participated in the study. The video type classification method was shown to be reliable and practical. The results of the Rasch analysis showed no significant impact of condition, either the content-deficient or the content-rich, either at the testlet level or at the item level. Possible reasons and implications of these findings are discussed.
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Modern technology has dramatically altered the way second language (L2) academic listening is taught worldwide. Reflecting the visually rich characteristics of the target language use (TLU, Bachman & Palmer, 2010) domain, academic L2 listening classes nowadays are often filled with different kinds of new media such as videos and power point presentations (Lynch, 2011). New media are now ubiquitous in L2 education practices to the point that that they have changed the nature of L2 education, making it more interactive and multimodal (Royce, 2007).

This multimodality exerts pressure on traditional L2 language pedagogical practices, including listening, altering them in favor of the rapidly changing technology-enhanced educational reality. Royce (2007) suggested using “multimodal communicative language competence” to account for L2 learners’ ability to combine modes of communication to develop plausible interpretations in the target language. In this respect, L2 multimodal listening competence includes the abilities to interpret both the visual and the verbal modes of presentation.

While the multimodal nature of the L2 listening competence is mainly accepted by L2 scholars, the field of L2 listening assessment keeps operationalizing L2 listening as an exclusively auditory skill. For instance, existing standardized high-stakes tests of academic English proficiency are mainly visual-free (Kang, Gutierrez Arvizu, Chaipuapae, & Lesnov, 2016). To eliminate this mismatch, a growing number of researchers have advocated for the inclusion of visuals in L2 listening tests (e.g., Ockey, 2007; Suvorov, 2015, Wagner, 2008). These researchers’ arguments mainly stemmed from the effects of videos on the difficulty of a listening message.

Existing research into the effects of videos on listening test scores has been limited to the investigation of two types of video-based visuals, non-verbal cues from the speaker and pictures illustrating the listening content. In contrast, visualized textual information has been paid much less attention with regards to exploring its role in the L2 academic listening comprehension construct. Since visual text is commonly used in academic listening contexts, its affiliation with the construct may be justifiable. One way to justify the inclusion of decoding textual visuals into the L2 academic listening construct is to uncover the effect of video-based text on listening comprehension.

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