Assessing the Listening Proficiency of ESL Students in a Pandemic
Keywords:Assessing, Listening Skills, Grammatical Competence, Inflectional Patterns, ESL Students, Online Learning in a Pandemic
The debate as to whether or not listening skills can be used as a testing device for measuring language proficiency—particularly grammatical competence—has been quite a controversial issue for the longest time. Yet, current research findings have not been entirely conclusive and sufficient either way. Hence, this particular study was conducted to address the problem given the existing research gap in the field. Firstly, the investigation sought to determine the listening proficiency level of 40 ESL freshmen in a state university for grammatical distinctions utilizing the mean score. Secondly, it identified the learners’ common errors and difficulties encountered in listening for grammatical distinctions using frequency and sentence analysis. To validate the results of the communicative listening test, a writing composition exercise was duly administered. The results showed that the respondents have very good proficiency levels in listening for grammatical distinctions in terms of inflectional patterns of singular and plural forms of subjects or predicates and good proficiency levels in terms of inflectional patterns for present and past tense of verbs. However, it was found that there still exist some problems in terms of more complex syntactic constructions. Results revealed that the respondents were confused and disrupted in some listening items when the test sentence is embedded with intervening words, phrases, or subordinate clauses. This problem may actually be indicative of socio-psycholinguistic factors to retain what they learned in an academic setting, but outside of it, the intervening words easily disrupted their concentration and memory. Lastly, the new normal caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has forced educators and students into a new learning environment: the online classroom. In recognition of this, the test was administered online, and the results similarly processed but with consideration of the electronic platform as a moderating variable. This shift in the modality of instruction affects ways of learning that have not necessarily been plotted before, as observed by EFL and ESL experts like Brown (2000) and Richards (2016). Thus, while it is not the primary focus of the study, this paper nevertheless highlights this new socio-technological aspect as a crucial moderator of listening assessment for better grammatical competence.
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