In the autumn of 2016, Jungle Listening: Survival Tips for Fast Speech was piloted at the Université Savoie Mont Blanc in the South East of France. It was used with postgraduate students of psychology, on a course taught by Alice Henderson and Frédérique Freund. Alice was more familiar with my approach to listening than Frédérique. After the course ended, I asked Frédérique some questions. The questions and her responses are shown below.
How did you initially feel about the course? Why?
I felt anxious to be honest. I remember asking Alice a lot of questions to make sure I got things right, both in terms of content (what Jungle Listening is, the principles it is based on) and method (how to teach it). I think my anxiety was due to the fact that (1) I’m not used to teaching material I haven’t (at least partly) designed myself and (2) it is quite a different approach from the undergrad courses I set up and teach with the same students (psychology majors) … I was also curious to try it and see how students would react to it. I love challenges and I think we should shake things up a bit from time to time in the classroom!
And how did you feel afterwards?
The anxiety gradually disappeared as I saw that students were playing along and were visibly seeing the merits and benefits of the approach.
What changed for you?
I think I had to see students absorb the material and method and make it their own and see them believe in it to fully believe in it myself!
Can you recall any student informal/spoken comments that might be useful when I do a redesign?
I do remember one student, YYY, coming up to me after the first class (where I presented Jungle Listening and the method students should use for their autonomous listening work and logbooks). She wanted to tell me personally that she was very enthusiastic about this new approach because she felt, as a lower-proficiency student (probably around A2 in most skills), that her difficulties in listening comprehension had never been properly addressed by the methods (or lack thereof) her previous teachers had used in secondary school and in college. She was confident she could finally make progress and was therefore very motivated. It made me think that perhaps we should introduce Jungle Listening earlier in the curriculum, perhaps as early as first year. A lot of French students arrive at university with deep-seated misconceptions about what they can and cannot do to improve their learning of English and many of them have given up trying already at that stage.
What would you suggest improving/changing?
The main challenge for me was to depart from an integrated-skills, task- or project-based approach where the main objective of the course is the scaffolded achievement of (often collaborative) meaning-focused tasks (e.g. recording a psychology podcast, writing an experimental report, creating a video to raise awareness on gender stereotypes, etc.). Perhaps one area of improvement would be suggestions for teachers on how to integrate Jungle Listening in such scenarios.
What would you/will you do differently when you teach it next time?
I noticed that starting off the class with voice exercises (as Alice suggested) was perhaps not the best approach, especially with my Tuesday 8am group! I found out that, from my perspective, it worked better to start with more “traditional” group work or language work that students are used to and end with something a little different and more “fun”, like those great “vocal gymnastics” activities or a discussion of the listening work they did on Moodle or autonomously.