Design Successful Learning

Contemporary Topics (Levels 1-3) (published by Pearson) is now in its fourth edition. I’ve been series editor since the series inception in 1991, and I’m proud of the progress that the series has made over the years. I’d like to share an overview of the framework I’ve used to develop the series, in terms of lecture length and complexity, academic vocabulary, listening strategies, and discussion strategies — all of which goes into determining a “level of difficulty”, or more precisely a “level of challenge.” One thing that cannot be gauged from this framework is “interest value” – and listener interest is what drives listener engagement is what drives listener achievement…

 CEF levelLecture ContentAcademic Vocabulary General Listening Comprehension Reception Strategies; note-taking Discussion Strategies Monitoring and Repair
CT 1B1-B1+(4-7 minute lectures; freshman level orientation)Psychology, Linguistics, Public Health, Business, Art History, Technology, Media Studies, Biology, Astronomy, History, Philosophy, EconomicsPredominantly Levels 1-8Can  distinguish between main ideas and specific information in lectures;Can understand straightforward factual information about common topics,identifying both general messages and specific details,Can identify unfamiliar words from the context in lectures; Can take notes during a lecture which are precise enough for his/her own use at a later date, providedthe topic is within his/her field of interest and the talk is clear and well-structuredCan paraphrase short parts of the lecture; can use summary statements  to summarize notes; can offer a fact or example during discussion Can revise notes on second listening to correct misunderstandings
CT 2B1+ B2(5-8 minute lectures; freshman-sophomore level orientation)Sociology, Linguistics, Psychology, Culinary Arts, Education, History, Business, Architecture, Public Health, Media Studies, Biology, Public Administration)Predominantly Levels 1-10Can develop a detailed understanding of lecture content; Can understand the main ideas of propositionally and linguistically complex speech on both concreteand abstract topics delivered in a standard dialect, including technical discussions in his/her field ofspecialization.Can follow extended speech and complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar,and the direction of the talk is sign-posted by explicit markers; can notice rhetorical questions and diversion in lecturesCan use a variety of strategies to achieve comprehension, including listening for main points; checkingcomprehension by using contextual clues; Can understand a clearly structured lecture on a familiar subject, and can take notes on points whichstrike him/her as important, even though he/she tends to concentrate on the words themselves andtherefore to miss some information.Can take notes during a lecture which are useful to other students; Can summarize extracts from lectures containing opinions, argumentand discussion;can use more polite and indirect forms for agreeing and disagreeing, for eliciting opinions and trying to reach consensus Can expand notes in discussion with others to develop a more comprehensive understanding of lecture content. 
CT3B2+-C1(7-10 minute lectures; upper class orientation )Communication Studies, Child Psychology, Sociology, Business, Cognitive Psychology, Anthropology/Biology, Astronomy, Political Science, Linguistics, EconomicsLevel 10+ Can understand implications of ideas in lecture; Can follow the essentials of lectures, talks and reports and other forms of academic/professionalpresentation which are propositionally and linguistically complex; Can understand standard spoken language, live or broadcast, on both familiar and unfamiliar topicsnormally encountered in personal, social, academic or vocational life. Only extreme background noise,inadequate discourse structure and/or idiomatic usage influences the ability to understand.Can take detailed notes during a lecture on topics in his/her field of interest, recording the informationso accurately and so close to the original that the notes could also be useful to other people; Is aware of major  implications and allusions of what is said and can make notes on them as well as on theactual words used by the speaker; can notice analogies,  hedges  amplifications,   digressionsCan summarize a wide range of factual and imaginative texts, commenting on and discussingcontrasting points of view and the main themes; can ask questions to explore assumptions, and  develop critical thinking and discussion of topics in the lecture Can ask incisive questions during lecture pauses to deepen  understanding of content. 

This is a general development framework used to grade the units in the series, but it can also be used to guide teachers as to what skills to work on with students at each level.

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