Academic listening: Encouraging autonomy

Fern Edebohls, Aichi Prefectural University

Quick guide

  • Keywords: Academic listening, autonomy, motivation, peer-teaching
  • Learner English level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Learner maturity: University students
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Activity time: 90 minutes
  • Materials: 2 sheets of paper per student

It is generally accepted that using materials which are interesting and relevant to the learner raises their task motivation. Students also tend to enjoy and learn more when they are active participants and are permitted some degree of autonomy in completing a task. Designing such tasks for the academic listening classroom can be a challenge, though. How do you find listening texts that appeal to every learner in the room? In this activity, adapted from Communicative Activities for EAP (Guse, J., 2011, p.65), students choose their own listening materials and create listening exercises for their classmates.


Step 1: Compile a list of websites offering audio scripts for free download (or use those found in the appendix).

Step 2: Assign homework a week before class. Students must find and print an audio script from the Internet. Their scripts should be approximately half a page from an English lecture or speech on a topic that interests them. Students bring two printed copies of the script to class.

Step 3: Prepare a model listening exercise based on a listening script of your choice. Include a brief pre-listening activity, such as looking up relevant vocabulary, discussing a related question, or drawing a concept-map; and four comprehension questions. I included one yes-no question, one multiple-choice question, one who/what/when/where question and one how/why question. 


Step 1: Take students through your model listening exercise. Students work in pairs to complete the pre-listening exercise, then read the questions and write their answers as you play or read the audio. Check the answers together.

Step 2: Explain that students will use their own audio scripts to create a similar exercise. Encourage them to think about the most useful type of pre-listening activity, and explain the four types of questions that they should construct.

Step 3: Pair students off as you wish. I checked who had remembered or forgotten to bring a script and paired students accordingly to ensure each pair had a script between them.

Step 4: Have students give each other a brief oral summary of their scripts. Each pair should then choose which script they will use in class.

Step 5: Student pairs read the script carefully and choose an excerpt, if necessary, to ensure they have no more than half a page to work with. Each pair must together design a pre-listening exercise and compose four questions. Circulate, checking suitability of question content and difficulty, and offering comments as necessary. Have each student write out two copies of their question sheet.

Step 6: As students finish, they should practice reading their speech excerpts aloud. Circulate, checking and correcting pronunciation as required.

Step 7: Divide students into groups of three (with each member coming from a different pair). Have students take it in turns to guide their group members through the pre-listening activity and then read the audio script aloud as other students answer the four questions. The student who designed the exercise should check and explain the answers as necessary.


This activity allows students to choose texts suited to their own abilities and interests, and encourages them to be active and creative as they design tasks for their classmates. Students enjoy working together to create challenging tasks, and are keen to listen to scripts chosen by their peers and attempt each other’s questions.


  • Hold the class in a computer lab and have students play the audio directly from the Internet.
  • Have students complete the homework in pairs and work in the same pair to create questions on the topic they chose together.


Guse, J. (2011). Communicative Activities for EAP. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.