Metacognition and Metacognitive Listening

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »

Chapter Two Literature Review


This chapter reviews studies related to the present research. It first reports related literature on listening comprehension, then literature on metacognition and metacognitive listening, and finally literature on incidental vocabulary acquisition.

Listening Comprehension

This part of the literature review first considers the definition and processes of listening comprehension, then introduces two factors that are important for this study, i.e., repetition and schema, and finally gives an account of language listening strategies.

Listening Comprehension and Listening Processes

Listening comprehension is an important language skill. Language learners want to understand target language (L2) speakers and they want to be able to access the rich variety of aural and visual texts available today via all kinds of media. Furthermore, listening comprehension is perhaps the most essential skill for second/foreign language learning, and the development of L2 listening skills has a beneficial impact on the development of other skills (e.g. Vandergrift, 2008). In order to research listening comprehension, it is necessary to first understand the definition of listening and listening processes.

Definition of listening Comprehension

Listening, being an invisible mental process, is difficult to describe, for listeners must discriminate between sounds, understand vocabulary and grammatical structures, and interpret stress and intention within the immediate utterance. Listening was commonly viewed as a receptive language skill in which listeners passively assimilated the messages they got from oral input, but in fact it involves a more complex process. In the last two decades, listening has been found to play an important role in language acquisition and has thus been described as an ―interactive, interpretive process in which listeners engage in a dynamic construction of meaning‖ (Murphy, 1991, p. 56). Listening involves linguistic knowledge, background knowledge, and meaning construction.
Rost (2011, p. 2) defines listening, in its broadest sense, as a process of receiving what the speaker actually says (receptive orientation); constructing and representing meaning (constructive orientation); negotiating meaning with the speaker and responding (collaborative orientation); and, creating meaning through involvement, imagination and empathy (transformative orientation).

Listening Processes

Oral texts exist in real time and need to be processed quickly; when an oral text is over, only a mental representation remains. As a result of this, listening is the least explicit of the four language skills and the most difficult skill to learn.
Listening involves physiological and cognitive processes at different levels (Field, 2002; Lynch, 2002; Rost, 2011). Several theories have been advanced to account for listening processes, with two being particularly influential on research.
Anderson (1983, 1995) proposed a cognitive framework presenting listening as a three-stage process of Perceptual Processing, Parsing, and Utilization. In the perceptual processing phase, attention is focused entirely on the text, and phonemes are segmented from the speech stream (1995, p. 137). Therefore, such listening strategies as ―selective attention‖ (attending to specific language aspects while listening) and ―directed attention‖ (maintaining attention while listening) are crucial in this stage (Vandergrift, 2003a). In the parsing stage, meaning representations are formed from words and phrases by matching them with linguistic information stored in the listener‘s long-term memory to construct meaning mental representations. ―Grouping‖ (classifying information in a listening tasks) and ―inferencing‖ (using text information or context to guess the meanings of unfamiliar language items) strategies are dominant in the parsing stage. And finally in the utilization phase, information collected from the previous two stages is linked with the schema — the previous knowledge of the listener. As a factor related to the present study, schema is further reviewed later in this chapter. Listeners use their prior knowledge to aid comprehension and recall. At this stage, ―elaboration‖ (using prior knowledge or context to fill in missing information) strategy is a crucial strategy (Vandergrift, 2003a).
This model has the advantage in that it provides recognizable stages in the process of listening, and thus facilitates research into each of the stages (as in O’Malley, Chamot, & Kupper, 1989). Nevertheless, as argued by Graham & Macaro (2008, p. 748), ―it is perfectly possible for listeners to start by utilizing fragments of parsed text and then draw incorrect inferences. ‖
In light of the parallel processing capacity offered by working memory (McClelland & Rumelhart, 1986), a more convincing, recursive model was suggested in which listeners operate within more than one of the listening stages — an interactive top-down and bottom-up processing model of listening. Listeners use ―bottom- up‖ processes when they use linguistic knowledge of sounds and word forms and build up to more complex lexical items and grammatical relationships to interpret the input. Listeners use bottom- up processes when they construct meaning by accretion, gradually combining increasingly larger units of meaning from the phoneme-level up to discourse- level features. Listeners also use ―top-down‖ processes when they employ familiarity with the listening context and prior knowledge (topic, genre, culture, and other schema knowledge in long-term memory) to build a conceptual framework for comprehension. Listeners use content words and contextual clues to form hypotheses in an exploratory manner.
Listening comprehension is not just top-down or just bottom- up processing, but 14 an interactive and interpretive process in which listeners use both linguistic knowledge and prior knowledge to understand messages. In other words, the listener comes to a listening task with two sets of resources: his/her own linguistic and schematic knowledge (Rumelhart, 1980) and the information contained in the actual listening text. Within an interactive model, a listener might begin by activating his/her schemata as a result of knowing the topic of the text, or of understanding a few words of the text, and thus perceive, parse and match the incoming speech stream with the elaborations that he/she previously activated (Graham & Macaro, 2008).
Also, while these processes interact in some form of parallel distributed processing, the degree to which listeners may use one process more than the other will depend on their knowledge of the language, familiarity with the topic or the purpose for listening. Research (e.g., McClelland & Rumelhart, 1986; O’Malley, Chamot, & Kupper, 1989) on these cognitive processes suggests that L2 listeners need to learn how to use both processes to their advantage, depending on their purpose for listening. For example, listening for gist involves primarily top-down processing, whereas listening for specific information, as in a weather broadcast, involves primarily bottom- up processing to comprehend all the details. The above research has also shown that successful and less successful listeners process input quite differently. Peterson (2001) states that less successful listeners tend to rely primarily on either top-down or bottom- up processing and spend a great amount of conscious effort on perceptual activity (e.g., identifying boundaries, recognizing meaningful sound units) so little is left over for high- level operations (e.g., relating new information to information stored in long-term memory). In contrast, higher-proficiency listeners use both top-down and bottom- up processes to understand oral input, which is also known as the use of metacognitive and cognitive listening strategies, and is to be further discussed in the last section of this chapter.


Factors Affecting Listening Comprehension

Since listening is a complex active process in which learners decode and construct the meaning of a text by drawing on their previous knowledge about the world as well as their linguistic knowledge, there seem to be many factors that affect listening comprehension. Two factors related to the present study, i.e., repetition and schema, are reviewed in this section.


One purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of different listening times (one-time vs. three-time listening) on learners‘ listening comprehension and incidental vocabulary acquisition.
Repetition is an important variable that can affect learners‘ ability to process the information in a listening task, for it provides more processing time and clarifies the relationship between the syntactic forms. In general, research conducted to date on the effect of repeated exposure has shown that repetition is also an important factor in facilitating L2 listening comprehension.
Lund (1991) examined the effects of repetition and different course levels (proficiency levels) on the listening and reading comprehension in German as a foreign language of 60 university students in their first, second, and third semesters. He found listening comprehension performance, as measured by propositions and lexical items recalled, improved after a second opportunity to listen to the passage. Results also indicated that this improvement was greater for third-semester learners than it was for learners in the first and second semesters. To be more specific, the improvement of the students‘ listening recall task in the first and second semesters was about half that of the third-semester students, whereas there was no difference in the improvement among the students at different proficiency levels in the reading recall task. Therefore, he argued that third-semester students benefited from the repeated exposure in the listening task. The improvement in the listening performance was accounted for by what Lund called ―recursive use of the texts‖, which provides the learners with ―a test structure of meaning to be fit to the text on the next repetition‖ (p. 201).
To examine the effect of input modification (including repetition) on listening comprehension of Japanese university students, Cervantes and Gainer (1992) conducted two experiments involving about 80 English majors at a university in Japan that compared the effects of listening to simplified input once versus listening to a difficult text with or without repetition. Results of the study showed that both simplification and repetition facilitated more comprehension than unmodified texts. The first experiment showed, unsurprisingly, that the simplified version was easier to understand than the complex one. In the second experiment, no significant difference was found between the group hearing the syntactically simplified version and the group hearing the complex version with repetition. Thus, Cervantes and Gainer argued that although syntactically simplified listening texts may aid comprehension, it may not be necessary if other modification, such as repetition, is available.
Berne (1995) investigated the effect of multiple exposures to a video clip on comprehension performance of 62 native English speakers learning Spanish in an American university. Before viewing the video twice, the participants were randomly put into three groups with different pre- listening activities: a question preview activity, a vocabulary preview activity, and a filler activity. Results revealed that scores for all three groups improved significantly as a result of viewing the passage a second time. The researcher thus concluded that ―the most effective means of improving listening comprehension performance is through additional exposure to the passage‖ (p. 326).
Chang (1999) looked at learners‘ levels of comprehension as the number of repetitions increased, and her results showed that the number of repetitions required for adequate comprehension depended on the listeners‘ proficiency level and the difficulty of the listening text. For high-proficiency level listeners, a single repetition was sufficient if the listening text was easy, but for low-proficiency level listeners, the improvement in their listening comprehension was less noticeable even after several repetitions, particularly if the text was difficult or the listeners were unfamiliar with the content.
Chang and Read (2006) examined the effects of four different types of listening support (preview of the questions, repetition of the input, provision of topic knowledge, and vocabulary instruction) on the listening performance of 160 Chinese learners of English at a college in Taiwan. They also investigated their interactional effects between types of listening support and listening performance with proficiency levels based on the results of the listening section of the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). Results showed that the effects of the four listening support types differed according to proficiency level. The high listening proficiency group outperformed the low listening proficiency group in the condition of repetition of the input, and for the high listening proficiency group, repetition of the input was more effective than any other instructional treatment. Based on these results, Chang and Read suggested that the high listening proficiency group would benefit more than the low listening proficiency group from repetition of the input.
Elkhafaifi (2005) studied the impact of pre- listening activities (vocabulary preview or questions preview) and repeated listening exposure on listening comprehension scores of 111 intermediate AFL (Arabic as a foreign language) learners. The students watched a videotaped lecture twice and were tested on their comprehension each time when they finished watching the video. Results showed that although vocabulary knowledge played a significant role in listening performance and that providing comprehension questions prior to the listening also helped the students achieve significantly better listening scores, ―multiple exposures to the listening passage served as the best predictor of listening proficiency‖ (p. 510). This led the author to conclude that ―the single most important factor in improving listening comprehension is repeated exposure to the listening passage‖ (p. 510).
O‘Bryan and Hegelheimer (2009) used a mixed- method approach to investigate the use and awareness of fo ur intermediate ESL students‘ listening strategies over the course of one semester at a large midwestern research university in the United States. They also investigated the impact of repetition on listening strategies and on the development of students‘ metacognitive awareness. The four students, two undergraduates and two graduates, received an informal warm- up with casual conversation before listening to two passages, and a brief reminder of what they were supposed to do while listening. This was followed by a verbal report stage when they listened to the passages for the second time and voiced their thoughts. The researchers found a difference in the strategies used and level of comprehension attained by the participants in the second listening, and thus claimed that the second listening allowed the learner ―to build up to more complex bottom- up processing strategies, namely using lexical and grammatical relationships to comprehend the input and utilize the information gained from the text to make meaning.‖ They argued that ―having the opportunity to repeat the text is what facilitated the creation of a framework that resulted in a more coherent summary the second time‖ (p. 26).
Sakai (2009) examined the effects of repeated exposure in L2 listening tests of 36 university learners of English in Japan. The participants were divided into two listening proficiency groups and were required to write what they understood after listening to a set of passages twice. All the recall protocols were scored by the researcher, who reported high reliability. Results showed that for both groups of learners, the second effort was better than the first effort, and the study did not find any interactional effect between repetition and proficiency levels. The researcher thus concluded that the effects of repetition, regardless of proficiency level, facilitated listening comprehension of the passage to a similar degree. In an attempt to answer a more interesting research question about the effect of repetition on idiosyncratic recall protocols (i.e., additive information that does not appear in the original text) and misinterpretations (i.e., incorrect recall protocols), results indicated that repetition helped both groups of learners understand the text further and led to more precise comprehension of the passage.
Regarding the interactional effect between repetition and proficiency level, it can be clearly seen from the research reviewed above that the results of these studies are mixed. Whereas some (e.g., Chang & Read, 2006; Lund, 1991) reported an interactional effect between repetition and proficiency, other studies (e.g., Cervantes&Gainer, 1992; Sakai, 2009) did not. In an attempt to interpret the mixed results that these studies have produced, Sakai (2009) examined the results of Chang and Read ‘s study and noted that repetition may in fact have improved the performance of both proficiency groups (high and low proficiency groups), but the changes for the low proficiency groups were not sufficient to achieve statistical significance. As for Lund‘s study, Sakai‘ noted that Lund found a statistically significant interactional effect only in one of the two analyses of the recall protocol. In addition, Sakai believed ―the mixed results of the previous studies may be due to different analysis methods‖ (p. 369). Also, the mixed results of these studies can be accounted for by the fact that they used different tasks to assess listening comprehension, (e.g., a free written task [Lund], a multiple-choice test [Chang & Read], a partial dictation task [Cervantes & Gainer], and a free written recall task [Sakai]) which only required test takers to listen to part of the passages.


English Teaching as a Foreign Language in Chinese Universities
Place of Listening Instruction in University Level Courses in China
Theoretical Issues Addressed in the Thesis
Aims of the Thesis
Summary of the Contents of Each Chapter
Listening Comprehension
Listening Strategies
Metacognition and Metacognitive Listening
Metacognitive Listening Awareness and Strategies
Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition
Assessing Vocabulary Knowledge from Incidental Vocabulary
Summary of the Literature Review
Research Questions of the Study
Design of the Study
Problems and Solutions
Research Questions
Research Design
Listening Tasks
Vocabulary Tests
Schedule of the Study
Data Collection and Analysis
Comparison of the Two Cycles of Listening Activities
Results for Research Question One
Discussion of the Result
Results of the Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire
The Aim, Background and Methodology of the Study
Summary of the Main Findings
Further Research

Related Posts