Using Authentic Videos to Improve EFL Students' Listening Comprehension

  • Kim, Hea-Suk (Dept. of General English Seoul Women’s University)
  • Received : 2015.11.09
  • Accepted : 2015.11.30
  • Published : 2015.12.28


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of the use of video resources on improving listening comprehension. 86 students enrolled in a summer session at a Korean university participated in the study. They were assigned to one of three groups based on the results of their TOEIC test scores: 29 students were assigned to the low group, 29 students to the intermediate group, and 28 students to the advanced group. Each group studied the same lessons using authentic video materials. They were taught for 10 sessions over three weeks. The pre- and post-test design helped to determine whether authentic videos were effective in improving listening skills for all proficiency levels. In addition, a questionnaire investigated students' perceptions toward using video resources. Paired sample t-tests, ANOVAs, and an ANCOVA were utilized to identify significant differences. It was concluded that in the intermediate and advanced proficiency groups, the students' listening skills increased significantly after learning with videos. In addition, listening improvements among the intermediate and advanced students were much greater than those of the low proficiency group. As for students' perceptions toward using video resources for improving their English listening skills, they responded positively. Based on these findings, pedagogical implications are suggested, and future studies will be discussed.



English listening is an important language skill and its development is a key factor for language learners [1]. Thus, the complex nature of listening skills and the difficulties that second language learners meet when listening to the language merits serious thought and investigation. As such, teaching listening skills has attracted the attention of many teachers and researchers. A researcher urged teachers to provide language learners with three important services when teaching interactive listening: simplifying the provided text, giving pre-listening activities, and offering visual support for the listening activity [2]. Using videos has been closely associated with developing listening skills [3]. Videos as learning materials have received a great deal of attention from educators and their effects have been positively reported in various areas. Extensive research has been conducted into the possible effects of using videos to enhance language learning: to provide a rich context for authentic discourse [4], to improve listening comprehension [5], to enhance learners’ achievements and motivation [6], [7], and to acquire a better understand of non-verbal expressions [8].

Videos are more useful than traditional lecture-based instruction [9] and exposure to authentic video resources facilitate the internalization and reproduction of new languages [10]. Research [5] has demonstrated the benefits of using Moreover, connecting the oral and written forms is an effective method that allows students to read and listen at the same time. In other words, videos provide second language learners with contextual, visual, and non-verbal input that minimizes any lack of comprehension that might result from listening alone [9].

To be clear, listening does not represent a simple word-by-word translation, but rather involves a deeper understanding of the meaning. Teachers should guide students in understanding actual speech so that students learn to deal with genuine conversations and real listening situations. So in order to develop practical listening skills, it is crucial to choose practical learning materials in English listening courses. Video resources can be used as an alternative method for teaching practical listening since they will contain various words and expressions used in everyday language by English speakers. Reference [11] have argued that the employment of videos is preferable to audio-only instruction in teaching English because of the advantage of multiple input modalities. That is, videos can facilitate learning and comprehension by attracting learners’ attention to the aural and visual inputs.

Generally, the research conducted in English listening concentrates primarily on comprehension with caption or scripts, rather than on the improvement of listening skills [5], [12]. As a result, it is meaningful to investigate the impact of using video materials on Korean university students’ listening skills and evaluate students’ perceptions toward using video resources in learning English listening.

The purposes of the study aimed at assessing the degree to which authentic videos enhanced foreign language learning. The first research question dealt with the differences in the mean scores between the pre- and post-tests. The goal was to find out whether the use of videos could affect students’ ability to listen. As for the second research question, the study aimed at measuring the differences in improvement among the three different proficiency levels. The last research question investigated the details of the students’ attitudes toward using videos in learning English listening. The research questions were written as follows:



2.1 Theory of Listening Comprehension

Second language (L2) listening comprehension is a complex process. There are two distinct processes involved in listening comprehension. Learners use 'top-down' processes when they use prior knowledge to understand the meaning of incoming messages. On the other hand, they use 'bottom-up' processes when they use linguistic knowledge to understand them. Thus, in bottom-up processing, listeners focus on individual words and phrases, and construct meaning from the smallest unit of spoken language to the whole content in a linear mode [13]. On the other hand, in top-down processing, listeners get the gist and main ideas of the listening passage. They interpret the intended meaning of the speakers using schemata or background knowledge [13]. This understanding emphasizes the prior knowledge already possessed by listeners that facilitate their ability to grasp incoming information. On the other hand, it is argued that the process of listening comprehension can be defined as interactions between the topdown and bottom-up processing [14]. Reference [14] introduces interactive models that encompass individual, cultural, social, contextualized, affective, strategic, and critical dimensions. Using these models, they noted that listeners process spoken language interactively and simultaneously by compensating for the lack of information on one level by checking it against another level.

Teaching listening has long played an important role in both EFL classrooms and in research involving teaching EFL. Although listening is a passive skill, learners need to take an active role in interpreting information from aural and visual cues. Improving second language listening skills is not easy because learners have to process both content knowledge and linguistic knowledge simultaneously while listening. According to [15] students experience considerable difficulty in listening comprehension because they cannot control the speed of delivery. Moreover, students tend to have difficulty in concentrating on listening since it requires an enormous amount of effort to follow the meaning. L2 learners have cognitive constraints to processing information in the second language owning to their lack of familiarity with the new language. Thus, bearing in mind the theoretical aspects of listening, teaching listening is somewhat complicated in ESL and EFL courses.

2.2 Using Videos for Listening Comprehension

With regard to teaching listening, it is essential to note that students should be provided with a wide range of materials to increase listening comprehension, as opposed to simply relying on textbooks. Reference [16] highlighted the fact of learners’ multiple intelligence, meaning that all learners do not learn in the same way. Some learn better by watching, some learn better by listening, and so on. Using video materials provides different types of learners with multiple methods of simultaneous learning that also extends their language experience. Videos introduce learners to a wide array of real life language experiences that enriches their learning environment, and contextualizes their learning process [17]. Moreover, using such educational videos is a commonly used tool because it provides background knowledge and specific examples that provide a focus for learning activities. While textbook-based classes might be boring for learners [18], [19], however, simply adding different types of interesting videos can make learning more fun and recapture students’ attention.

As [20], [21] demonstrated, students who learned aurally and visually outperformed those who learned only aurally and had a lower cognitive load. These studies proved that using videos is an effective way to enhance listening to comprehension. Reference [11] found that audio-visual materials could make lessons easy to understand and concluded that using visuals during language lessons was always helpful for the learners. Students not only listened to the characters, but also paid attention to non-verbal expressions [8].

In the Korean context, learners were likely to benefit from reading the subtitles in Korean while watching video materials [12]. Moreover, less advanced learners gained more than the advanced students did from the subtitled videos. Thus, the use of authentic video materials clearly plays a role in developing students’ use of non-verbal communication to supplement verbal communication and interaction. Reference [22] further studied the effects of using authentic video materials on listening skills with undergraduate students who majored in English. In this study, students improved their listening comprehension.

Regarding students’ perceptions toward the use of video materials, it is possible to raise students’ motivation, cultivate their listening interests, and achieve the goal of learning English. Movies as a learning medium can provide a much more interesting, attractive, and useful experience over common material printed in books and audio material provided on tapes [18], [19]. Research has demonstrated the positive effects between learners’ motivation and the use of video materials in EFL classrooms [6]. That is, the implementation of authentic videos such as movies or news in English classes increases learners’ engagement and comprehension.

Reference [23] says that authentic texts (either written or spoken) are real text designed for native speakers, not for language students. That is, authenticity implies a real language which is unlikely to be simplified or spoken slowly by non-native speakers. Authenticity often means negative expectations for low-level learners since they struggle to decipher what to them is an almost continuous chain of unfamiliar sounds [24]. Inexperienced learners describe the pace of the authentic materials as being too fast while experienced learners handle the ongoing speech by breaking it down into separate words that allow them to grasp meaning [25].

According to [26], it can be difficult for teachers to choose appropriate videos for use as teaching and learning materials, that is, to satisfy the different proficiency levels. Reference [8] argued that the ability to select suitable movies for teaching languages is often constrained by the class duration, which tends to be shorter than most film. And yet, while the drawbacks of using such videos has been an obstacle to fully utilizing their teaching and learning potential, many educators still consider it a necessary medium. The advantages of using videos ultimately outweigh the disadvantages if the videos are satisfactorily chosen out with both students and teachers in mind [26].

It can be concluded from the aforementioned studies that videos can be beneficial for second language learners to improve listening skills. Since considerable research has been focused on investigating the effects of using videos with captions on comprehension and students’ perceptions toward using videos, there is a need to explore the potential of using authentic video resources among different proficiency level students. Thus, this study will now focus on whether Korean university students can expand their listening comprehension by utilizing various types of video resources.



3.1 Participants

This study consists of 86 participants who enrolled in English listening courses for the summer session in 2012. Originally, the number of enrolled participants was 90, but four dropped the class, resulting in a slightly smaller sample size from which to collect data. Students were divided into three classes according to their TOEIC scores since the number of students was limited to 30. The students’ (all females enrolled at a women’s university in Korea, aged 19–23 years) majors included Korean Literature, English Literature, management, economics, education, and physical education. All of them had over nine years of English learning before joining the course. The participants were divided into three levels according to their TOEIC listening scores. Class A included students at the advanced proficiency level, Class B was reserved for the intermediate proficiency level, and Class C for the low proficiency level for this study.

The low level group had 25 freshmen, 1 sophomore, and 3 juniors, and two of them experienced living abroad. The intermediate level group included 25 freshmen, 3 sophomores, and 1 junior. This group contained two students living in other countries. The advanced level group was comprised of 23 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 1 junior, and 1 senior, and three of them had been abroad to study English, as indicated in [Table 1]. All participants were instructed to improve their listening skills using videos. Every session, they were exposed to various video materials. Before and after the course, all groups completed identical tests drawn from a practical TOEIC book.

Table 1.Three Proficient Levels of Participants

3.2 Procedures

A syllabus was designed to teach English listening in the summer in 2012. Participants attended a two-hour class per session for three weeks. All of them used the same video materials. As [27], [28] suggested, when choosing video materials, several factors were considered: students’ motivation and interest, content of video resources, clarity of message, pacing, independence of sequence, and length of sequence (segments that are less than five minutes). The video clips were selected from various media, such as movies, sitcoms, songs, talk shows, news, and advertisements. Each video was used in one session, as shown in [Fig. 1]. Some of the video resources such as talk shows, sitcoms, and movies selected for the course were edited down to approximately five minute clips

Fig. 1.A Screen Shot of Main Page of Community Café

During the course, the participants were provided with a pre-test, treatment and post-test. Before the experiment, they were asked to submit their certified TOEIC test scores and took the listening comprehension test on the first day of class. Every session, the students were instructed to practice listening. The procedure of each session was recorded in [Table 2]. In the last session, they took the post-test, which was the same format as the pre-test.

Table 2.**p<.01

As listed in Fig. 1, each day, different types of videos were shown: advertisements, news, sitcoms, talk shows, movies, and songs. Each class organized pre-, while-, and post-listening activities including different types of listening exercises such as learning vocabulary and expression, filling in the scripts, checking on comprehension, and having discussions. On completing the course, the participants in all the groups filled out a survey to report on the use of video materials and to express their ideas and thoughts about video-based instruction with open-ended questions.

3.3 Instruments

To diagnose students’ listening proficiency among groups, the TOEIC test scores, which students took on campus, were submitted before the course started. As seen in [Table 3], the result of the listening comprehension portion of the TOEIC was 251.90 (SD=24.07) in the low level group, 317.59 (SD=21.20) in the intermediate group, and 372.86 (SD=23.31) in the advanced group, showing a significant difference among the three groups (F=398.40, p<.01).

Table 3.**p<.01

Moreover, a listening test consisting of 20 questions drawn from TOEIC books was administered in the pre- and post-stages to compare mean scores within and between groups. The listening comprehension test included 2 questions in part 1, 6 questions in part 2, 3, and 4, each of which was followed by multiple choice questions. Consideration was also taken to minimize the risk of variable difficulty levels between the pre- and post-tests, both tests were identical in terms of the number of the questions and types. In order to ensure the reliability of the pre-and post-listening tests, it was piloted on 25 students. Internal consistency reliability for the instrument was calculated by computing Cronbach's Alpha coefficients and proved to be .89.

A self-report questionnaire with a 6-point Likert-type scale was used to obtain general information about the participants at the beginning of the study and to examine students’ perspectives toward using video resources in an English listening course. A questionnaire including 21 closed-end questions and two open-ended questions was carried out to discover what the participants' attitudes and ideas regarding the use of videos to expand their listening experience. The closed-ended questions included interests in and enjoyment of using videos, effectiveness of using videos, usefulness of video resources, preference of learning materials, and the numbers of times being repeated to comprehend. Participants were asked to respond on one to six scales (1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree 3=slightly disagree, 4=slightly agree, 5=agree, 6=strongly agree). The two open-ended questions were directed toward the student’s assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of using videos in English listening courses. It took approximately 10 minutes for students to answer the questions.

3.4 Analysis

All of the data including the survey were gathered and analyzed using SPSS 18. To compare the mean scores within the groups, paired sample t-tests were employed. An ANCOVA was employed to investigate whether the performances of the three level groups on the listening tests were significantly different. Descriptive statistics including the means and standard deviations of TOEIC test scores were computed. In addition, a one-way ANOVA was used to compare the differences in means between the three groups in the closed-ended questions. Further, the responses to the open-ended questions of the survey were analyzed. The statements made by the students were categorized the data by concept.



4.1 Effects of Videos on Listening Comprehension within Groups

Having collected the data from the tests and survey, the analysis was carried out to find the answers to the research questions formulated for the present study. To investigate the effect of using videos on listening, paired samplet-tests between the pre- and post-tests were conducted. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the means and standard deviations. The result of a paired samplet-test in the low level students is laid out in [Table 4]. The score of the pre-test was 11.41 (SD=2.76) while that of the post-test was 12.48 (SD=2.49). Unexpectedly, the result revealed no significant difference between the two tests (t=-1.61, p=.12).

Table 4.Result of Paired Sample t-test: Low Proficiency Level (N=29)

Based on the result, it can be concluded that the benefit of using videos may not be extended to low level learners. Since the characteristics and features of authentic materials were difficult, the low proficiency learners had trouble comprehending the videos. That is, this result proves that the authentic materials would not be effective for inexperienced students in improving listening skills [24].

The result of for the intermediate level group is presented in Table 5. The scores in the pre-test were 13.28 (SD=1.96) and those in the post-test were 14.93 (SD=1.91). As demonstrated in Table 5, the students in the intermediate level significantly improved on their test scores (t=-3.90, p<.01).

Table 5.**p<.01

For the advanced level group, the result is revealed in Table 6. The students scored 14.86 (SD=2.16) in the pre-test while those retained 16.25 (SD=1.76) in the post-test. Thus, there was a significant difference between the pre- and the post-stages

Table 6.**p<.01

The students who were in the intermediate and advanced proficiency level groups achieved significantly higher scores while those who were in the low proficiency group did not. This result appears to at least partially support the findings of previous studies [12], [22] in that students improved their listening skills after experiencing authentic materials.

4.2 Effects of Videos on Listening Comprehension by Groups

An ANCOVA was conducted to investigate whether the test scores among the three levels were significantly different. This analysis was used with the adjusted mean scores as dependent variables, and the pre-test scores as a covariate. The results of descriptive and inferential statistics on the listening scores are presented in Table 7

Table 7.a Covariates appearing in the model are evaluated at the following values: Pre-test=13.16

According to the results of the means and standard deviation, the mean score of the low level group was 12.48 (SD=2.49) and the adjusted mean was 12.81 (SE=.42). The intermediate level group rated 14.93 (SD=1.91) and 14.91 (SE=.38) as an adjusted mean score. The advanced group was 16.25 (SD=1.76) as a mean and 15.94 (SE=.42) as an adjusted mean

Table 8 presents the results of the ANCOVA in the post-test scores. As seen in Table 8, the difference of the mean scores among the three levels was statistically significant with a value p<.01. The students in the advanced and intermediate level groups performed significantly better on the post-test than did those in the low level group. It can be assumed that the students’ listening proficiency level is a considerable variable in deciding whether to use authentic video materials in English listening courses.

Table 8.Dependent Variable: Pre-test **p<.01

4.3 Students’ Perceptions of Video Use in English Listening

After the experiment, a questionnaire was administered to investigate learners’ attitudes and ideas toward using videos in an English listening course (see Appendix). A one-way ANOVA was used to compare the means of students’ perspectives toward using video resources. Students’ attitudes towards English listening through video materials were computed in Table 9

Table 9.Results of One-way ANOVA: Attitudes toward Video Use in English Listening

There were no significant differences in all the items among the groups. Noticeably, the means of all the items were generally high. The highest mean for the advanced level group was item 1, ‘more effective to use video materials than print textbooks’, at 4.43 (SD=1.07). Meanwhile, students in the low group rated most highly the item 8, ‘raising motivation to practice listening outside the classroom’ (M=4.66; SD=1.32). Students in the intermediate group rated most highly the item 4, ‘interesting to practice using videos’, (M=4.72; SD=.96) as the highest mean. In addition, the higher means for the intermediate group rested on items 1, 4, 5, and 8. Interestingly, the students in the intermediate level group showed more positive attitudes toward using videos in comparison with the other two groups. In general, most of the students considered using videos in listening courses as an interesting and effective method. The results were assumed to mean that the students generally felt that watching these videos meaningfully developed their English listening abilities and also enhanced their motivation and sense of accomplishment after taking the course. Based on the results, all students in three different levels of proficiency did not show any significant differences in attitudes toward using videos among three levels.

As for the usefulness of various types of video materials, the results are presented in Table 10 and illustrated in Fig. 2. No significant differences were found among any of the items. Overall, the highest means in the items were yielded from items 14 and 16, revealing that students wanted to watch movies and sitcoms to enhance their English listening. The low level group felt that talk shows (M=3.82) and news (M=3.98) were least useful of the six media forms. The intermediate group, for their part, reported that talk shows (M=3.83) and advertisements (M=3.86) were least helpful. Lastly, the advanced group rated advertisements (M=3.54) as the least helpful media.

Fig. 2.Usefulness of Video Materials

Table 10.Results of One-way ANOVA: Usefulness of Video Materials

On the whole, no statistically significant differences among the three groups have been identified. That is, most of the students seemed to prefer using movies or sitcoms to practice their English listening. It can be suggested that the use of movies or sitcoms can make students more interested in learning and thus repeated exposure to L2 regardless of their proficiency level appears to be an effective teaching tool.

The items referring to preference of learning materials are presented in Table 11 and depicted in Fig. 3. The results showed that no significant differences were found among three groups regarding their preference on learning materials. In general, the participants showed their preferred source for English listening was videos rather than course books.

Table 11.Results of One-way ANOVA: Preference of Learning Materials

Fig. 3.Preference on Learning Materials

In sum, this study provides empirical evidence that there are positive effects on learners’ attitudes resulting from the use of video materials in EFL classrooms [6]. The results of this study were consistent with previous studies [18], [6], [19] that video resources are more interesting and useful than common material printed in textbooks [18], [19].

With regard to the ideal number of times a video should be viewed in order to maximize the ability to understand it, the results are presented in Table 12 and displayed in Fig. 4. The results indicate that the overall responses to the items were not significantly different among the three groups. On the whole, most students in the three levels wanted to watch the videos two to three times. Remarkably, the learners in the low group wanted to watch the materials over four times to enhance comprehension (M=4.07, SD=1.31).

Table 12.Results of One-way ANOVA: The Numbers of Times Being Repeated to Comprehend

Fig. 4.The Numbers of Times Being Repeated to Comprehend

Consequently, the question items in the closed-ended survey did not show any significant differences among the three groups. Based on the results of this analysis, it can be speculated that students seem to be in favor of using video materials to improve their listening comprehension.

A survey consisting of open-ended questions was conducted to further explore learners’ thoughts and opinions toward using videos in English listening. The students were asked to answer two questions, regarding the benefits and drawbacks of using video materials. With respect to the first question, the benefit of videos, the result of the students’ attitudes is presented in Table 13.

Table 13.Response of Using Videos: Benefit

The majority of the students reported that they found using videos fun, interesting, and useful in developing their English listening. Noticeably, the intermediate level group replied with opinions that were much more variegated regarding the benefits of using videos.

In contrast, the drawbacks of using videos are presented in Table 14. A variety of responses to this question were elicited. Many of the students mentioned ‘difficulty’ as their least favorite aspect in using videos, and ‘fast speech’ as their second least favorite aspect. Moreover, the students mentioned ‘idioms’, ‘concentration problems’, and ‘organization of content’ as drawbacks of using videos in English listening class.

Table 14.Response of Using Videos: Drawback

In summary, it can be concluded that using video materials is beneficial in boosting students’ interests in practicing L2 listening and in helping to expose them to real English while it is challenging for inexperienced students. Most of the students in the study also showed positive attitudes toward video materials in practicing their English listening. The results supported that videos are more useful and effective than traditional lecture-based instruction for developing English listening [9].



The main goal of listening teaching English is to prepare learners to understand speech in real contexts. From the review of the literature, using video resources in EFL classroom features both benefits and challenges. Nonetheless, most researchers argue that using videos would ultimately be an effective teaching device to expand the EFL learners’ listening skills and to stimulate their learning process. Its capacity to increase learners’ interests and motivation, and its potential to improve listening skills can hardly be denied. Different researchers have each focused on different concepts regarding the use of videos and in detailing their effects. Therefore, this study aimed at investigating the effects of using video resources in the development of listening skills, in addition to exploring the experience and perceptions of Korean university students regarding the value of using videos as learning resources to improve listening comprehension.

Regarding the first research question, it aimed at investigating whether using videos would yield significant differences in listening test scores between the pre- and post-tests. According to the results of the paired sample t-tests, statistically significant differences were found in the intermediate and the advanced proficiency groups. However, the students in the low proficiency group did not show any significant differences between the two tests. To investigate the effectiveness of using video resources on listening improvement, it turned out that teaching listening with videos was positive for students whose English proficiency was ranked at intermediate or above. The findings were in line with the study [22] that found that using authentic video resources does enhance students’ listening skills.

As for the second research question, whether there was a significant difference in listening improvement among the three proficiency level groups, the results revealed that the means of the post-test demonstrated a notable distinction. A conclusion can be drawn that the students’ listening proficiency level is a considerable variable in deciding whether or not to use authentic video materials in English listening courses. The result of the present study partially corroborates the findings of previous studies [20], [21] that there was a positive relationship between using video materials and improving listening skill.

With regard to the third research question, the participants generally showed positive attitudes toward using video resources [18]. Analysis of the students’ responses from the closed-ended questionnaires revealed that there were no significant differences among the three groups. The participants stated that using videos was effective and interesting, and gave them an enhanced motivation to listen to English. Moreover, they reported that video materials were useful in acquiring experience of non-verbal expressions and for grasping cultural aspects. Concerning the usefulness of each resource (news, talk shows, songs, movies, advertisements, and sitcoms), the three groups’ preferences for media varied. Interestingly, however, all levels of students responded movies as the most favorite one. Since it can be difficult to choose authentic materials for language learning [8], [26], teachers should consider selecting suitable videos to satisfy students’ interests and their proficiency levels [8], [26]. As for the advantage of using videos, most students found them fun, interesting, and useful in developing their English listening skills. In terms of the disadvantage, they explained that the language expressions were difficult and speech was often too fast to comprehend.

The current study’s findings reveal the practical implications for instructors who teach English listening. As the findings suggest, using videos can be beneficial if learners’ proficiency levels are intermediate or higher. Students, however, might experience frequent difficulty with English idioms and expressions. Despite the positive results of this study, authentic video resources need to be carefully chosen to minimize difficulties and to ensure that their content is of general interest in learners. In addition, to enhance comprehension, teachers should consider how many times to repeat listening resources to ensure that students have understood the material.

The limitation of this study is its small sample size which restricts the generalization of its findings. That is, the results cannot be generalized to Korean EFL settings, due to the fact that the participants were selected from a woman’s university in Seoul. Thus, there is an essential need for further research in this area with wider samples from both genders and in various age groups. In addition, a certified listening comprehension test should have been deployed to investigate whether learners’ English achievement would increase. Efforts invested in investigating and analyzing the effects of using video media in other courses such as speaking or reading may also uncover rich data worthy of inclusion. Considering the findings of the present study, valuable insights have been yielded that can certainly enhance our understanding of foreign language listening research with practical implications for L2 listening classrooms.


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