Cognitive processes, sub-skills and strategies in academic lecture listening at a Saudi Arabian university : a needs analysis study

Alkhelaiwi, Sahar and Brunfaut, Tineke (2017) Cognitive processes, sub-skills and strategies in academic lecture listening at a Saudi Arabian university : a needs analysis study. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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A needs analysis (NA) is widely viewed to be a key process in the development and ongoing revision of Language for Specific Purposes programmes (e.g. Brown, 2016), of which English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is typically considered a part. Determining and describing learners’ language needs is important, as such information can be used when selecting or developing instructional activities for language learning, teaching and assessment, including L2 academic listening comprehension development. Though some EAP listening NA studies in a number of contexts exist, there has been a dearth of detailed analyses of lecture-listening processes. Moreover, past EAP listening NA studies are limited in their NA methodology. Therefore, the present exploratory, sequential mixed-methods NA research sets out to address these gaps by investigating the cognitive processing demands of Saudi Arabian students’ listening in academic lectures (in an English Language and Literature department). The study aims to investigate their target and present listening needs, and language-learning listening wants. This study collected, sequenced and triangulated data through a five-phase NA approach. The qualitative strand began with a spoken target language analysis of five real-world (linguistics and literature) lectures (Phase 1) to establish target listening needs in terms of cognitive processes and sub-skills. Following this, stimulated-recall interviews (Phase 2) were conducted with seven students who listened to the lectures collected in Phase 1 to identify their present listening needs in terms of cognitive processes, sub-skills and strategies. Interviews with five content lecturers and three students were then carried out (Phase 3), in which some data from Phases 1 and 2 were discussed to gather data on processes, sub-skills and strategies in relation to target, present and language-learning listening needs. Data generated from these three qualitative phases were analysed according to a listening framework developed on the basis of the literature (Field, 2013; Khalifa & Weir, 2009; Young, 1994; Vandergrift & Goh, 2012; Aryadoust, Goh & Lee, 2012). Next, an expert panel review session was held with four participants (Phase 4) to validate the processing needs identified by the researcher by means of randomly selected excerpts from Phases 1–3. This fourth phase thereby aimed to bridge the qualitative strand (Phases 1–3) and the next quantitative one (Phase 5). All previous phases in turn informed a student questionnaire designed for Phase 5. This questionnaire was completed by 205 students, it collected data pertaining to all of this study’s types of needs. Descriptive statistics and a principal component analysis were conducted to analyse the questionnaire data. The qualitative results generally reveal that academic lecture listening triggers an array of lower-level (input decoding, lexical search, syntactic parsing and propositional meaning) and higher-level (inferencing, building a mental model, creating a text-level representation, creating an intertextual representation) cognitive processes as well as different processing sub-skills related to these seven cognitive processes. They also show the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies in order to process aural input from lectures in the study’s target language use (TLU) situation. Although the qualitative strand shows the use of several lower-level cognitive processes and sub-skills, considerable focus seems to be given to higher-level processes, in particular building a mental model and creating an intertextual representation while listening. The quantitative results show various similarities to the processes found in the qualitative strand, though a number of differences are also present. On the basis of the quantitative strand, 12 components are shown to emerge in terms of both target and present listening needs. Methodologically, the study suggests that NA research should employ different methods in which data collection and analyses are sequenced and blended. Furthermore, the study identifies several cognitive demands (processes, sub-skills and strategies) that are recommended to be enhanced in L2 EAP listening courses so that learners can function competently in their future study area, i.e. the TLU. On the basis of the findings, an (L2) academic listening model in the context of real-world lecture listening processing is formulated, one which specifically includes sub-processes that deal with lengthy discourse processing. Such sub-processes include the imposition of a hierarchal structure on speech, which might be less prominent in other types of listening.

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Thesis (PhD)
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06 Oct 2017 20:18
Last Modified:
06 Jun 2024 23:47