Tag Archives: listening

What does dictation evaluate?

I have a question about dictation. I’ve been looking at various rubrics that Susie Gross and Jason Fritze  have created to evaluate students, and I wanted to come up with my own that I could show to my department colleagues. I want to win them over to the idea of making fluency the main objective of our language classes.

So I made up my own rubric for the Speaking classes I teach, then went to the teachers who “teach” listening and asked them how they evaluate their students. Two of them said they have students do dictation, but they were unable to tell me exactly what dictation assesses. Accuracy in spelling, perhaps, but what’s that got to do with listening?

Both teachers have students do listening clozes, but again they were vague as to exactly what this evaluates.

It seems the listening teachers are focused on micro listening skills, at the word level, and they’re missing THE big picture – comprehension. (Excuse me while I gnash my teeth.) UNLESS! dictation (and/or listening cloze exercises) actually test comprehension.

What do you think? What does dictation tell you about a student’s language ability? I realize that many TPRS teachers may not, in fact probably don’t, use dictation to evaluate students, but rather as yet another way to provide repeated CI, as indeed I do.

I’d like to think  my colleagues have sat down and thought about exactly how dictation evaluates comprehension: that they are not  just giving dictation because, well, that’s what listening teachers do.

Another colleague, thinking off the top of his head, decided that dictation does not evaluate comprehension because you could write down what you think you are hearing without understanding it. Also, how could you tell from a correct dictation, that the student understood the meaning? You couldn’t.

Instead of giving dictation, fill-in-the-blanks and other tests that just test micro-listening skills (i.e. at the word level), teachers could be giving lots of comprehensible input and repetition.