Design Successful Learning
, Listening is always integrated with other performance, Lateral Communications

Most teachers understand that listening is not truly an isolated skill – it always occurs in the context of some other sensorial experience or interaction or task.  As such, it would seem to be a waste of time to practice “just listening” (though spoiler alert: see my article on “deliberate practice”). In the real world, people are almost always listening simultaneously as they engage in some other type of activity – viewing, talking, reading, or writing.   So from an “ecological validity” perspective,  it  makes sense to incorporate listening instruction in the context of real world activities that involve multiple modalities.

This extract below, from an article I did for an Encyclopedia article on listening, provides a broad outline of some “integrative” approaches. What I consider “new”, or at least essential about this treatment, is that the “listening instruction” involves a mindset shift so that learners appreciate the value of effective listening in the achievement of the learning goal.


A third approach to teaching listening involves fashioning ways for listening to complement other language modalities, in service of larger learning goals. Many teachers find it beneficial to treat listening in the context of general educational objectives, rather than focusing upon the listening skill itself (Nation & Newton, 2009; Thompson & McKinley, 2018). Indeed, in most contexts of listening use — socially, educationally, or professionally — listening occurs concurrently with other modalities of language processing — speaking, reading, viewing, and writing. Activities involving listening are primarily “meaning-focused”: the learner is asked to understand some content as central to an activity. Activities involving listening will be oriented toward analyzing input and using their understanding of the input in some form of output.


Meaning-focused “input-oriented” lessons involve learning through listening and reading, and possibly through viewing media as well. Learners use language as a resource – initially in a receptive way, but with the intent of listening actively, focusing selectively, interpreting, integrating ideas, and constructing meaning. The main focus of this type of lesson is on understanding, then on gaining knowledge or enjoyment (or both) from what they listen to and read. Typical activities include shared reading, listening to stories, listening while reading (e.g. audio books), watching TV or films, and conversational listening.


Meaning-focused “output-oriented” learning activities involve learning through listening, speaking and writing, ending withusing language productively. Typical activities include shadowing, dyadic or small group conversations, giving a speech or presentation, writing a letter to someone, keeping a diary, telling a story and explaining how to do something.


One prototypical meaning-focused activity that is both “input oriented” and “output-oriented” is note-taking during a presentation or lecture (live/recorded, audio/video). Learners take notes, then highlight what they wish to discuss, clarify, or expand upon.

Note-taking is a prototypical “active listening” practice that forces students to make decisions about what is “worth noting.” In order to maximize the active listening potential of note-taking, it is helpful to present note-taking methods and tasks. A number of different note-taking methods have been proposed: the outline method, the Cornell method, the boxing method, the visual method, the mapping method. (For explanations and examples, see and


Another prototypical listening-writing activity is dictation, the intensive listening practice of writing down exactly what was said. While tedious in its literal form, there are a number of creative variations that promote close listening and provide useful practice in attending closely to the spoken input. Among these are dictogloss (Swain, 2000), cloze dictation (Brown, 2013), and filtered-speech dictation (Rost & Wilson, 2013).  (See for explanations and examples.)


Because of the wealth of public domain online listening resources that are available to students, such as YouTube videos and TED Talks, teacher are increasingly having their students use these resources to supplement classroom learning.

The instructor selects videos on a specific topic, previewing for appropriateness. The teacher allows students to select from a range of videos, as choice helps motivates most learner.   An easy source for appropriate videos is YouTube.  Day et al. (2019) outlined a prototypical activity in more detail, but most notable in their instructions is the importance of providing guidance on how and what to listen for, as well as providing a specific task to complete while watching the video.

Table 3   Summary: Teaching approaches for Integrating Listening

Teaching Approach: Listening Integration  learner mindset shiftform of practiceMonitoring/ evidence of uptake
Text-task combination types:


listening with reading,

listening with written tasks,

listening and note-taking,

listening and speaking/ discussion
 • listening is typically part of every learning activity; I need to engage as a listener in order to learn


• skills learned in listening will help me with content learning and interaction
 • online video viewing + writing

• read alouds/audio books + speaking (response to questions)

• listening + note-taking

• listening to presentations + speaking

• listening + speaking: pair information/opinion gap tasks
 • students make transition from listening activity to other skill activity smoothly

• students see value in taking away specific information and insights from listening experiences

• students become more engaged, “active listeners”