Using metacognitive strategy instruction in a TED Talks-based L2 listening programme
The ephemeral nature of listening makes it challenging to teach and learn as a language skill. One approach to addressing this challenge is to focus on listening strategy instruction. This thesis investigates process-based metacognitive instruction in a pre-sessional English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programme at a New Zealand university using two research methods: a situation analysis (Phase 1) and a quasi-experimental study (Phase 2).
The Phase 1 situation analysis investigated teacher and learner perspectives and practices in teaching and learning listening in the programme. Data consisted of a survey, focus groups with learners, interviews with teachers, and classroom observations. The findings revealed that the teachers (n=15) give equal time to teaching all four skills, although they find listening to be the most difficult skill to teach. The teachers are guided by a three-stage approach when using the listening textbook and supplementary materials. However, they find selecting supplementary materials time-consuming and problematic. The teachers also prioritised using metacognitive and vocabulary-based activities but expressed a need for more guidance in using perception activities (e.g., distinguishing word boundaries) in listening lessons. The learners (n=63) reported being positive about their listening in general but were not confident listeners. They preferred audio-visual and entertainment resources to audio-only and factual resources when listening. They reported an awareness of metacognitive (e.g., planning and evaluation and directed attention) and vocabulary-based (e.g., mental translation and problem solving) strategies. In lessons, the learners believed that product-based activities (e.g., comprehension questions) were more helpful than process-based activities (e.g., listening journals) for their listening improvement. These findings indicate the teachers and learners have some awareness of metacognitive instruction but further guidance in using process-based listening frameworks could help address learners’ difficulties.
Phase 2 used a quasi-experimental design to investigate the impact of a TED Talks-based metacognitive intervention on the learners’ use of listening strategies. The intervention consisted of five TED Talks-based listening lessons delivered in two modes; either self-study (n=13) or classroom instruction (n=11). A third group, a control group (n=9), received regular listening instruction but did not receive any TED Talks-based metacognitive strategy instruction. Data were collected via surveys, focus group interviews, and journal data and analysed using inferential statistics. The results showed that the self-study group showed meaningful gains in one strategy subscale (planning and evaluation). Although this gain was more than the other groups, there was minimal change. Further, only the classroom instruction group showed meaningful gains in before-listening and listening behaviour, although these gains were marginal. After receiving different types of metacognitive instruction, the results showed both the classroom instruction and self-study group approached their listening differently but identified the same listening difficulties. Both groups found resource familiarity helpful for their listening comprehension, but had difficulties using visual aids, taking notes, and understanding the speaker while-listening. Thus, although metacognitive instruction had a minimal impact on the use of listening strategies by learners, guided listening resource selections helped them interact with the listening text.
This thesis presents theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical implications for research. Theoretically, the research contributes to our understanding of how theoretically derived accounts of the L2 listening process can be translated into instructional models. Methodologically, the thesis highlights how established research methods (i.e., quasi-experimental study, situation analysis) can be complemented by listening-specific research instruments (e.g., listening journals) which provide a richer emic perspective on the topic being investigated. Pedagogically, this thesis has shown how TED Talks can be selected using McGrath’s guiding principles (Field, 2008) and Romanelli, Cain, and McNamara’s (2014) Essential Aspects and used as the basis for process-based listening lessons.