the modern world, listening is the activity which is used most frequently in
life. A previous research
carried out by
Sperry Corporation (Martel, 1984) claims that people use 80% of
their conscious time for communication, and out of which, 45% was used to
listen, and other 30%, 16% and 9% to speak, read and write respectively.
Therefore, it is obvious that listening plays a vital role in gaining
information. In fact, communication becomes impossible if people cannot
comprehend what they hear.
Nunan (2004) stated, listening is the Cinderella skill in second language
learning. All of the time, this skill has been overlooked by its elder sister,
speaking. For most people, being able to claim the knowledge of a second
language means being able to speak and write in that language. Therefore,
listening and reading are considered as secondary aim and mostly as means to
other ends instead of ends themselves. However, listening is always a key
concept to language learning, because it is obvious that communication does not
take place if interlocutors cannot comprehend each other due to lack of ability
to understand what the other side of conversation is saying.
Along with the increasing use of computers in language
teaching, English learning websites are expanding dramatically. As this trend
has made it difficult for users to choose the right ones, “all teachers need to
know how to use the Web as a resource for current authentic language materials
in written, audio, and visual formats” (Chapelle & Hegelheimer, 2004, p.
305). It has been, therefore, increasingly important to evaluate those
materials systematically before use (Chapelle & Hegelheimer, 2004; Fotos &
In this study, a computer-based assessment system was
employed for teaching listening skills supporting the listening syllabus at the
department, and investigated its effects on listening skills development. The
following research question was addressed in the study.
Q: Does dynamic assessment via
Coolspeech software have any statistically significant effect on Iranian EFL
learners’ listening comprehension ability?
1. Literature Review
According to Lidz and Gindis (2003, p.100), learners’
abilities are not innate and stable, but dynamic and emergent, thus they cannot
be measured in traditional way; the abilities are the outcome of learners’
history of social interactions in the world (cited in Shabani et al, 2010).
Each individual learner developed their cognitive functions through
participating in variety of social activities through being mediated by various
cultural artifacts (Shabani et al, 2010). According to Vygotsky (1998), while
traditional assessment only measures fully matured abilities, dynamic
assessment measures both fully matured abilities and abilities which are still
in the process of maturing, therefore, dynamic assessment can reveal much more
about the process of acquiring those information (Poehner, (2008); Shabani
et al, 2010). According to Vygotsky, traditional psychological assessments are descriptive
and do not explain developmental processes (Shabani et al, 2010). Vygotsky
(1984, p.165) argued that by putting a learner’s ZPD at the center of the
assessment procedure, the instructors will be able to directly study and
determine the level of mental maturation that must be completed in the
subsequent period of his age development (Vygotsky, 1984, p.165, cited in
Minick, 1987, p.118).
According to Lantolf and Poehner (2004), dynamic
assessment procedures see the future as a bet in favor of everyone (Shabani et
al, 2010). As Sternberg and Grigorenko (2002, p.29) argued in the context of
dynamic assessment, the tester-testee relationship is changed, as the tester
intervenes during the test. In DA context, an atmosphere of teaching and
helping substitutes the traditional neutrality attitude of non-dynamic
assessment context (Shabani et al, 2010).