Islamic Azad University
Guilan Branch
Department of English Language
A thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Title
An Investigation of the Listening Comprehension Strategies Used by Iranian EFL Learners
Supervisor
Dr.RaminRahimy
By
Samira Aliakbari
September 2014
Islamic Azad University
Guilan Branch
Department of English Language
THIS IS TO SERTIFY THAT THE CONTENT, FORMAT AND THE QUALITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE THESIS SUBMITTED BY SAMIRA ALIAKBARI ENTITLED:
AN INVESTIGATION OF THE LISTENING COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES USED BY IRANIAN EFL LEARNERS
AS PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF M.A. IN TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE, ARE ACCEPTED AND APPROVED BY THE DESSERTATION COMMITTEE:
1. Supervisor:Dr.RaminRahimySignature
2. Examiner: Dr. MortezaKhodabandehlouSignature
Research Vice President
Dr.Afshin Pour Ahmad
Signature…….. Date……….
To:
My beloved mother for her constant, everlasting love and support
Acknowledgement
It would not have been possible to write this thesis without the help and support of the kind people around me, to only some of whom it is possible to give particular mention here. I would like to humbly thank my supervisor, Dr. RaminRahimy for his cooperation, guidance and patience, who always inspired me and provided me with valuable comment and suggestions that helped with refining my ideas. My deepest appreciation is extended to my advisor, Dr. FereidounVahdany, whose encouragement and support led me to accomplish this study successfully.I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. MasumehArjmandi, Head of the Department of the English Language and Literature, and to the other members of the Department, especially to Dr. AbdorrezaTahriri, Dr. MortezaKhodabandehlou, Dr. BehzadBarekat, andDr. ShahrokhJahandar.Finally, I’m deeply grateful to my mother and sisters whose love and support sustained me throughout this project and my friends, who have supported me emotionally far above and beyond the call of a friend duty.
Table of Contents
TitlePage
Abstract………………………………………………………………………………………1
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.0 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………2
1.1 Theoretical Framework……………………………………………………………………3
1.2 Significance of the Study……………………………………………………………………………………7
1.3 Statement of the problem………………………………………………………………8
1.4 Research Questions of the Study………………………………………………………..10
1.5 Hypotheses of the study………………………………………………………………10
1.6 Definitions of Key Terms ………………………………………………………………11
1.6.1 Learning Strategies………………………………………………………….11
1.6.2 Listening strategies………………………………………………………….11
1.6.3 Metacognitive Strategies……………………………………………………11
1.6.4 Cognitive strategies…………………………………………………………11
1.6.5 Socio-affective Strategies……………………………………………………12
1.6.6 Listening Comprehension…………….……………………………………..12
1.7Summary…………………………………………………………………….………..12
Chapter Two: Review of the Literature
2.0 Introduction…………………………………………………………………….…….14
2.1 Language learning and strategies………………………………………………..……14
2.2 Classification of language learning strategies ………………………………….……23
2.3 Language learning and listening…………………………………………………..….28
2.3.1. What Is Listening?……………………………………………………………………………..28
2.4 Role of Listening in Second or Foreign Language Acquisition ………………….….31
2.5 Listening Comprehension Strategies ………………………………………………..…….33
2.5.1 Metacognitive Listening Strategies…………………..…………………………….39
2.5.1.1 Pre-listening Planning Strategies………………………………………….44
2.5.1.2 While-listening Monitoring Strategies……………………………………45
2.5.1.3 Post Listening Evaluating Strategies………………………………………46
2.5.2 Cognitive Strategies………………………………………………..……………….46
2.5.2.1 Bottom-up and Top-down Listening Strategies…………………………..49
2.5.3 Socio-affective Strategies………………………………………………..…………52
2.6 Empirical studies in the field of Language Learning Strategies………………………54
2.7 Summary……………………………………………………………………..……….58
Chapter Three: Methodology
3.0 Introduction…………………………………………………………………….…….59
3.1 Pilot study……………………………………………………………………………..59
3.2 Design of the study ………………………..…………………………………………60
3.3 Participants………………………………………………………………………..….61
3.4 Materials ……………………………………………………………………………61
3.4.1 Oxford Placement Test………………………………….……………….….62
3.4.2 Cheng’s Scale for Listening Strategies………………………………………62
3.5 Procedure……………………………………………………………………..………63
3.6 Methods of Analyzing Data ………………………………………………………….65
3.6.1 Ethical consideration…………………………………………………….….65
3.7 Summary…………………………………………………………………………..….66
Chapter Four: Results
4.0 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..68
4.1 Measure of L2 Proficiency……………………………………………………………69
4.2 Questionnaire Data ……………………………………………………………………70
4.3 The First Research Question………………………………………………………….71
4.4 The Second Research Question………………………………………………………77
4.5 Computing the Effect size……………………………………………………………78
4.6 Findings of Interview………………………………………………………………….83
4.7 Summary………………………………………………………………………………86
Chapter Five: Discussion
5.0 Introduction…………………………………………………………………….…….87
5.1 General Discussion………………………………………………………….………..88
5.1.1 Further Considerations……………………….……………………………..89
5.2 Implications……………………………………………………………….………….90
5.2.1 Implications for teachers……………………..……………………………..91
5.2.2 Implications for Students…………………..…………………….…………94
5.2.3 Implications for Educational Policy Makers and Curriculum Developer..…94
5.3 Limitations of the study………………………………………………………………95
5.4 Suggestions for Further Research…………………………………………………….96
5.5 Summary……………………………………………………………………….……..97
References ………………………………………………………………………………..98
Appendices………………………………………………………………………..……111
List of Tables
TablePage
4.1Statistics for the OPT Scores………………………………………………………69
4.2Reliability statistics of the questionnaire (pilot study)…………………………….70
4.3Item statistics for the listening comprehension strategy use questionnaire (metacognitive strategies)…………………………………………………………………71
4.4Descriptive statistics for the listening comprehension strategy use questionnaire (metacognitive strategies)………………………………………………………….……..72
4.5Item statistics for the listening comprehension strategy use questionnaire (cognitive strategies)………………………………………………………………………73
4.6Descriptive statistics for the listening comprehension strategy use questionnaire (cognitive strategies)………………………………………………………………………74
4.7Descriptive statistics for the listening comprehension strategy use questionnaire (socio affective strategies)………………………………………………………………..75
4.8Descriptive statistics for the listening comprehension strategy use questionnaire (socio- affective strategies)………………………………………………………………..75
4.9Statistics for different categories of the questionnaire……………………………76
4.10Ranks of female and male participants on listening comprehension strategy use………………………………………………………………………………….……..78
4.11Median value of each group (listening comprehension strategy -use questionnaire)……………………………………………………………………………..78
4.12Mann-Whitney U Test for the listening comprehension strategy-use of males and females……………………………………………………………………………………78
4.13Ranks for females and males in metacognitive strategies…………………..…….80
4.14Ranks for females and males in cognitive strategies………………………………81
4.15Ranks for females and males in socio- affective strategies…………………….…82
List of Figures
TablePage
2.1Diagram of Oxford’s Strategy Classification System…………………………….27
4.1The comparison between males and females in their use of listening comprehension strategies…………………………………………………………………79
4.2The comparison between males and females in their use of metacognitive strategies………………………………………………………………………………….81
4.3The comparison between males and females in their use of cognitive strategies…………………………………………………………………………………..82
4.4The comparison between males and females in their use of socio- affective strategies………………………………………………………………………………….83
Abstract
The main goal of this investigation was to identify the listening strategies of Iranian male and female foreign (English) language learners and to compare the listening strategies of both groups of research participants. To investigate, 76 undergraduate students of different major of English were selected via administrating the Oxford Placement Test (OPT).Then, they were divided into two groups of 38asked to complete Cheng’ s (2002) 30-item Listening Strategyin the Likert-scale format to identify the listening strategies they use. Then the data gathered were run through statistical tests, including descriptive test and Mann Whitney U-test. Based on the findings of the studythe listeners usedmore metacognitive strategies than cognitive and socio-affective strategies respectively.In addition, as gender influenced selecting the types of strategies for listening, it can be efficient for policy makers, syllabus designers, practitioners and instructors especially in Iran where classrooms are separated according to students’gender.
Key words:Listening Strategies, Metacognitive Strategies, Cognitive Strategies, Socio-affective Strategies
Chapter One
Introduction
1.0. Introduction
Listening has become an important part of manysecond or foreign language (L2)programs,as both it is a means to access various sources of knowledge and it is a criterion to determine whether an EFL learner is a competent language performancer or not. Teachers can help students improve their listening competence by equipping them with effective listening strategies and skills.In fact,its importance is influenced by the overwhelming amount of listening input in everyday life.
Despite its importance,listening is not an easy skill to master,especially listening in ESL or EFL contexts.Teachers look for the methods to find a way to enhance listening profeciency.Researchers and educaters know that learning strategies are necessary for EFL learners to be a successsful one.Many reseachers have investigated on learning strategies to find which strategieas can improve learning and especially listening skill.
Chamot (2005) believes that Learning strategies are the thoughts and actions that individuals use to accomplish a learning goal. A lot of investigations in 1970s show the importance of learning strategies. The results mention that learners’ own creative and active participation play an important role in their success in spite of having much aptitude and motivation.
1.1. Theoretical Framework
Listening is an important part of foreign language learning process, and it has also been defined as an active process during which listeners construct meaning from oral input (Bentley & Bacon, 1996). Listening skill developed faster than the other three skills and could affect reading and writing abilities in learning a new language (Scarcella& Oxford, 1992; Vandergrift, 1997). According to Feyten (1991), in daily communication, people use 45% of time in listening, 30% on speaking, 16% on reading, and only 9% on writing. The listening skill was not only a rule of language but also acquisition second language skill (Vandergrift, 1997). Listening comprehension means the process of understanding speech in a second or foreign language. It was the perception of information and stimuli received through the ears (Richards, Platt, & Platt, 1992). For foreign language learners, it may easily cause confusion and misunderstanding if they cannot comprehend what people intend to express. In Lu’s (2008) study, the result illustrated that 93.8% of the students considered the listening skill was more important than the other three skills. In Taiwan, as the exam-oriented ways of teaching in high school and no listening part is included in college entrance examination, English learning generally emphasizes more on the reading and writing skills than listening and speaking skills before colleges. Comparatively, there are less official teaching materials and courses available for high school students. When they are required of the listening skills in college, most of them find their training of listening skills is far from enough and their listening comprehension ability is far behind. Actually, there are a variety of factors that affect listening comprehension. According to Yan (2006), experts classified them into linguistic factors and non-linguistic ones. For Linguistic factors, they include pronunciation, vocabulary, pattern drills, while the psychological, physiological, cultural factors are the non-linguistic ones. For example, for pronunciation, many people who come from different countries speak English as their second language, and they have particular English accent influenced by their mother tongue which is hard for people to imitate strategies were the thoughts and behaviors that learners used to help them comprehend, learn, or retain information (O’Mally&Chamot, 1990). Researchers showed that strategies and the ability to use them effectively were particularly important in foreign language listening. Yen (1987) did a research on the listening-comprehension ability of English majors in Taiwan, and it implied that proficient listeners were good at monitoring their listening process, more aware of the strategies and used them flexibly and effectively while listening. This study aimed to investigate the listening strategies that the technological university students applied in their listening comprehension tests. The listening strategies in the questionnaire consist of the following categories: metacognitive strategies, cognitive strategies, social/affective strategies. The results of this study will be the important references for both educators and learners to evaluate their teaching and learning listening experiences in the classroom as well as the application in daily communication.
The literature of the language skills is very dense, and as a result, an intenseamount of sources dealing with the importance of speaking, writing and reading exists.However, the skill of listening had been neglected in the L2 literature until recently. L2researchers considered Listening an ability that could be developed without assistance,and a deep investigation into the history of language learning reveals this lack of attentionto the skill of listening (Chiang &Dunkel, 1992; Morley, 1984; Moyer, 2006;Mendelsohn, 1998; Schmidt-Rinehart, 1994).
The neglect of the listening skill was accompanied with an ongoing debate about which of the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) is the most crucial for the learning and acquisition of a second language. However, past research has thus far revealed that a large proportion of the L2 research findings indicates that listening is the most important skill for language learning because it is the most widely used language skill in normal daily life (Morley 2001; Rost 2001), and it develops faster than the three other language skills, which in turn suggests that it can facilitate the emergence of the other language skills (Oxford, 1990).
Listening comprehension as an independent and essential component of language learning has come into focus after a significant debate in the L2 literature about its importance. In the 1970s, more attention was paid to listening comprehension, and the status of listening changed from being incidental and peripheral to a status of utmost importance.
The importance of listening in language learning was brought into attention when Gary (1975) stated that focusing on listening comprehension, especially in the early phases of second language learning/ teaching, creates four different types of advantages: cognitive, efficiency, utility, and affective. The cognitive advantage of an initial exposure to listening gives learners a more natural way to learn the language. Listening should be stressed before speaking because recognition knowledge is required to process and decode the aural input, whereas retrieval knowledge is required to encode and generate speech. Concentrating on speaking in initial stages leaves little room for listening, and hence little room for comprehension.
The second advantage is efficiency. Language learning is more efficient when learners are not immediately required to speak and are only required to listen to the language. This early emphasis on listening is efficient because learners are exposed onlyto good models of the language (the teacher and realistic recordings).The third advantage is utility, or the usefulness of the receptive skill. Accordingto research in the fields of communication, while communicating, adults spend 40-50%of communication time listening, 25-30 % speaking, 9 % writing, and about 11-16 % reading (Rivers in Gilman and Moody, 1984). It follows then that learners will makegreater use of comprehension skills: listening and reading.
The last advantage of emphasizing listening from the beginning is the affective advantage. Learners feel embarrassed and sometimes discouraged when they are forcedto make early oral production. When this pressure does not exist, learners can relax andstay focused on developing the listening skill, which helps the emergence of the other language skills. Since Listening leads to earlier achievement and success, learners are more motivated to continue learning.
Listening was no longer taken for granted in second language learning after theemergence of communicative and proficiency-oriented approaches to language teaching, which has emphasized listening in all levels of language learning. Several FL teaching methods stressed the importance of listening back in 1960s. These methods were predicated on the assumption that the second language learning and first language acquisition are parallel and that there should be a silent period preceding the production stage in learning a second language. The Delayed Oral Method and the Total Physical Response were among the first teaching methods that advocated for the primacy of listening in learning a second language.Postovsky (1978) found results that lent support to the Delayed Oral Method bycomparing two groups of Russian learners. The control group received instruction thatrequired intensive oral production on the part of learners, whereas the experimental groupreceived intensive exposure to aural materials. At the end of the treatment, theexperimental group performed better than the control group not only on the listening skill but also on the speaking skill.
Asher’s Total Physical Response (TPR) Method focused on listening comprehension using commands that students learn by copying the action of the teacher.The students who were exposed to the TPR method outperformed their counterparts who were taught the audio-lingual method on several language tests. Asher also found that the TPR method helped students improve their reading and writing skills. The TPRMethod gained further empirical support when it was used by LeBlanc to teach language courses in the engineering and science faculties in Canada in 1986, in which the TPRgroup scored significantly higher than the control groups on all language skills(Vandergrift, 1992).
1.2. Significance of the Study
As Wenden (1985) reminds us, there is an old proverb which states: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. Applied to the language teaching and learning field, this proverb might be interpreted to mean that if students are provided with answers, the immediate problem is solved. But if they are taught the strategies to work out the answers for themselves, they may be empowered to manage their own learning.
Over the years, a great deal of effort has gone into developing theories, methods and approaches for teaching language (such as the Grammar Translation Method, audio-lingualism and the communicative approach to mention but three of the best known and most widely used). However, issues relating to the learner have been treated with “relative neglect” (Dansereau, 1978, p.78) and much less attention has been paid to the language development process from the learning point of view (Tarone and Yule, 1989). Although valuable work has been and continues to be done on questions of how language is learned, when it is considered that the learner forms one half of the teaching/learning partnership, it might be considered surprising that, in general, we have “underestimated the significance of the learner’s role” (Larsen-Freeman 2001: 12).
More than a quarter of a century ago researchers such as Rubin (1975) and Stern (1975) explored the possibility that success in language learning might be related to how students go about the task. More recently, writers such as O’Malley (1987),
Oxford (1990), Wenden (1991), Cohen (1998) and Chamot (2001) have suggested that learners might be able to learn language more effectively by the use of language learning strategies. Listening comprehension is a critical first step toward communicative competence and language acquisition. Nevertheless, second/foreign language listening comprehension is probably the least explicit and the most difficult skill to learn among the four language skills (Vandergrift, 2004).
Much of L2 literature gives support to the importance of listening and how comprehensible input facilitates the learning of a second language. Krashen and Terrell(1984) argue that the priority of listening in second language learning is the same as the priority of the listening-only stage a child needs to acquire his/ her first language. Dunkel(1986) also indicates that developing proficiency in listening is the key to achieving proficiency in speaking.
This study will make an attempt to know what strategies students use during their effort to comprehend a listening task. Of importance of this study will be to provide teachers, researchers, learners, and especially those who are concerned in teaching English in Iran to become familiar with this specific strategy, strategy which are most frequent during working on a listening task, in fact not only frequent strategies but also helpful ones, which listeners will use for a better comprehension of what they are listening during working on the listening tasks.
Students, as strategic knowledge is part of what must be learned in order to solve problems in listening. If students learn the strategies by themselves through discovery methods, they will acquire a more active approach to problem solving that may be generalized to other kinds of listening tasks. Teachers, as adding knowledge to the processes leading to listening comprehension in the foreign language could help teachers to examine what listening entails. After the exploration of the process, teachers can guide learners in the use of alternative strategies for listening. As a result, these processes and strategies may provide insights for teachers to employ in designing the listening components of their programs. On the other hand, developing taxonomy of the strategies used by proficient listeners could help the teachers use these strategies to improve the listening habits of poor listeners.

1.3.Statement of the Problem
For language learning, all the basic language skills –reading, writing, speaking and listening- are of great importance to be able to use the language effectively. Among these skills, listening is a crucial skill for language learners because without understanding the spoken language, problems in communication arise. For effective communication comprehending the message is vital.
Additionally, the role of English language in the world is growing rapidly and continuously; therefore, learning strategies are the conscious thoughts and actions that learners take in order to achieve a learning goal (Chamot, 2004).Among studies in learning strategies, listening strategies have been one area of concerns of many researcher. Comprehension of listening input has been acknowledged theoretically to consist of active and complex processes. In fact listeners engage in a variety of mental processes to comprehend an aural input. Here, listening comprehension strategies refers to those mental processes that listeners employ to comprehend a listening task in term of various purposes such as listening for particular information and details, or listening for overall meaning of the spoken language.
The listening gives learners a more natural way to learn the language. Listeningshould be stressed before speaking because recognition knowledge is required to processand decode the aural input, whereas retrieval knowledge is required to encode andgenerate speech. Concentrating on speaking in initial stages leaves little room forlistening, and hence little room for comprehension.
Language learning is more efficient whenlearners are not immediately required to speak and are only required to listen to thelanguage. This early emphasis on listening is efficient because learners are exposed onlyto good models of the language (the teacher and realistic recordings).Previous L2 listening research revealed that learners need to develop certain listening strategies that help them capitalize on the oral language input they are receiving and overcome those difficulties. These strategies are classified into three main types: cognitive, metacognitive, and socio-affective strategies (Discussed in Chapter II).
Listening is an inseparable part of any language learning process. It would be impossible to learn a language without listening. The important role of listening has been emphasized in all different methods in language teaching. Thus purpose of this study is to look into the males and females student’s preferences for strategies in listening tasks. In addition the influence of gender on selecting the listening strategies will help practitioners, EFL teachers and syllabus designers especially in Iran with separated male and female EFL classrooms.
In Iran, the learners of foreign language mostly do not feel strength in listening. They are always concerned about lack of understanding the native speakers in real situation, in movies or while listening to authentic news through radio” Hatch &Farhady (2008). By the way in Iran male and female sit in separated classroom to learn English, in the case there is influential differential between genders and selecting listening strategies the EFL teachers can benefit from the results of this study to have more useful outcome.

1.4. Research Questions of the Study
Regarding the important effect of listening and the related strategies in second language, the following questions are formulated:
Q1: What listening comprehension strategies do Iranian EFL students use at B.A. level?
Q2: Are there any significant differences between male and female EFL students in using listening comprehension strategies at B.A. level?
1.5. Hypotheses of the Study
Regarding the important effect of listening and the related strategies in second language, the following hypothesis is formulated:
H0: there are not any significant differences between male and female EFL students in using listening comprehension strategies.
1.6. Definitions of Key Terms
1.6.1. Learning Strategies
According to Brown H.D (1941p.132)” learning strategies relate to input- processing, storage, and retrieval, that is, to taking in message from others. It is divided to three main categories, metacognitive, cognitive and socio-affective strategies.”
Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics (1999) defines learning strategies as ”Specific actions, behaviors steps, or techniques that students use to improve their own progress in developing skills in a second or foreign language. These strategies can facilitate the internalization, storage, retrieval, or use of the new language”.
1.6.2. Listening strategies
”In listening comprehension, a conscious plan to deal with incoming speech, particularly when the listener experiences problems due to incomplete understanding, such as by using a clarification strategy.” (Longman Teaching and Applied Linguistic Dictionary p.313)
1.6.3. Metacognitive Strategies
They are the terms used in information-processing theory to indicate an “executive” function, strategies that involve planning for learning, thinking about the learning process as it is taking place, monitoring of one’s production or comprehension, and evaluation in learning after an activity is completed (Purpura 1977 cited in H.D Brown p.134).
1.6.4. Cognitive strategies
Cognitive strategies are defined as the “internal processes by which learners select and modify their ways of attending, learning, remembering and thinking.” (Gagne, Brigg, and Wagner, 1988, p. 67) In other words, cognitive strategies enable us to organize and understand information in different, often powerful, ways.”They are limited to specific learning tasks and involve more direct manipulation of the learning materials itself.” (Brown p.134)
1.6.5. Socio-affective Strategies
“Socio-affective strategies have to do with social-mediating activity and interacting with others.”(Brown H. D p.134) Socio-affective strategies are the strategies that help learners regulate and control emotions, motivations, and attitudes towards learning, as well as help learners learn through contact and interaction with others (O’Malley and Chamot, 1990).
Socio-affective strategies are those which are non academic in nature and involve stimulating learning through establishing a level of empathy between the instructor and student. They include considering factors such as emotions and attitudes (Oxford, 1990). Socio-affective strategies strongly consider the student’s relation to society as a whole ranging from family to the global community.
1.6.6. Listening Comprehension
Listening comprehension is ”the process of understanding a speech in first or second language” (Longman Teaching and Applied Linguistic Dictionary p.313). Listening comprehension means the process of understanding speech in a second or foreign language. It was the perception of information and stimuli received through the ears (Richards, Platt, & Platt, 1992).
1.7. Summary
Lots of linguists and researchers investigated in that area to find better condition for learning and the way people learn a second or foreign language. To find the best strategies to be the best in language learning is ideal target in learning second language. One of these skills is listening comprehension ability.Listening as an overlarge amount of input plays a definite crucial role in second language learning. On the other hand the variable gender in Iran where male and female sit in different classrooms in EFL classes is a nice controversial subject to investigate. In this chapter the researcher mentioned the problem exists among Iranian EFL learners and its relationship with strategies (listening strategies) and gender variable.The strategies are divided into three parts and some subcategories include: metacognitive, cognitive and socio-affective strategies. Two research questions and one null hypothesis are another part of this chapter. The first question asks about the listening strategies which EFL learners select and second one wants to know about the differential between the genders in using listening comprehension. The null hypothesis also says that there is no difference between the gender of participants and the listening strategies they select.

Chapter Two
Literature Review
2.0. Introduction
Chapter two presents information on the theories and research on which themethodology and hypothesis of this study is based. This chapter is divided into seveninterrelated sections. Section one focuses on language learning strategies and their classification. Section two discusses the role that Listening plays in the acquisition ofa second or foreign language. Section three provides definitions and descriptions of the listening comprehension strategies. Section four presents the contributions by Oxford to the classification of listening comprehension strategies. Section five presents histories of research conducted within the paradigm of language learning strategies. This section also discusses the specific aspects of those research studies that have led to the operation of these variables and to thedevelopment of the protocols employed in this study.
2.1. Language Learning and Strategies
Language learning strategies are identified through self-report. Although self-report may be inaccurate if the learner does not report truthfully, it is still the only way to identify learners’ mental processing. As Grenfell and Harris (1999) have so aptly stated:
[…] it is not easy to get inside the ‘black box’ of the human brain and find out what is going on there. We work with what we can get, which, despite the limitations, provides food for thought […] (p. 54)
Learning strategies are for the most part unobservable, though some may be associated with an observable behavior. For example, a learner could use selective attention (unobservable) to focus on the main ideas while listening to a newscast and could then decide to take notes (observable) in order to remember the information. In almost all learning contexts, the only way to find out whether students are using learning strategies while engaged in a language task is to ask them. Verbal report data are used to identify language learning strategies because observation does not capture mental processes (Cohen, 1998; O’Malley &Chamot, 1990; Rubin, 1975; Wenden, 1991). Researchers have asked language learners to describe their learning processes and strategies through retrospective interviews, stimulated recall interviews, questionnaires, written diaries and journals, and think-aloud protocols concurrent with a learning task. Each of these methods has limitations, but each provides important insights into unobservable mental learning strategies. In retrospective interviews, learners are asked to describe what they were thinking or doing during a recently completed learning task (see O’Malley &Chamot, 1990). The limitation is that students may forget some of the details of their thought processes or may describe what they perceive as the “right” answer. A stimulated recall interview is more likely to accurately reveal students’ actual learning strategies during a task because the student is videotaped while performing the task, and the interviewer then plays back the videotape, pausing as necessary, and asking the student to describe his or her thoughts at that specific moment during the learning task (see Robbins, 1996). The most frequent and efficient method for identifying students’ learning strategies is through questionnaires. The limitations are that students may not remember the strategies they have used in the past, may claim to use strategies that in fact they do not use, or may not understand the strategy descriptions in the questionnaire items. For these reasons, some studies have developed questionnaires based on tasks that students have just completed, reasoning that students will be more likely to remember and to report accurately if little time has elapsed (see Chamot& El-Dinary, 1999; Chamot&Küpper, 1989; Ellis & Sinclair, 1989; Fan, 2003; Kojic-Sabo &Lightbown, 1999; National Capital Language Resource Center [NCLRC], 2000a, 2000b; O’Malley &Chamot, 1990; Oxford et al., 2004; Ozeki, 2000; Rubin & Thompson, 1994; Weaver & Cohen, 1997). The limitations of this approach are that, to date, there has been no standardization of either tasks or follow- up questionnaires, so that it is impossible to make comparisons across studies. The greatest numbers of descriptive studies have utilized a questionnaire developed by Oxford (1990), the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL). This instrument has been used extensively to collect data on large numbers of mostly foreign language learners (see Cohen, Weaver & Li, 1998; Nyikos& Oxford, 1993; Olivares-Cuhat, 2002; Oxford, 1990; 1996; Oxford & Burry- Stock, 1995; Wharton, 2000). The SILL is a standardized measure with versions for students of a variety of languages, and as such can be used to collect and analyze information about large numbers of language learners. It has also been used in studies that correlate strategy use with variables such as learning styles, gender, proficiency level, and culture (Bedell& Oxford, 1996; Bruen, 2001; Green & Oxford, 1995; Nyikos& Oxford, 1993; Oxford & Burry-Stock, 1995; Wharton, 2000). Oxford and her colleagues are currently working on a task-based questionnaire to complement the SILL (Oxford et al., 2004). Diaries and journals have also been used to collect information about language learners’ strategies. In these, learners write personal observations about their own learning experiences and the ways in which they have solved or attempted to solve language problems (see, for example, Carson &Longhini, 2002). Student learning strategy diaries have also been used to collect data about pronunciation strategies (Peterson, 2000). As with other verbal reports, learners may not necessarily provide accurate descriptions of their learning strategies. Rubin (2003) suggests using diaries for instructional purposes as a way to help students develop metacognitive awareness of their own learning processes and strategies. Another research tool is the think-aloud individual interview in which the learner is given a learning task and asked to describe his or her thoughts while working on it. The interviewer may prompt with open-ended questions such as, “What are you thinking right now? Why did you stop and start over?” Recordings of think-aloud interviews are analyzed for evidence of learning strategies.
Verbal protocols have been used extensively in reading research in first language contexts, where they have provided insights not only into reading comprehension processes but also into learners’ affective and motivational states (Afflerbach, 2000). The rich insights into language- learning strategies provided through think-aloud protocols tend to reveal on-line processing, rather than metacognitive aspects of planning or evaluating (see Chamot&Keatley, 2003; Chamot, Keatley, Barnhardt, El-Dinary, Nagano, & Newman, 1996; Cohen et al., 1998; O’Malley, Chamot&Küpper, 1989). The instructional applications of the tools that researchers have used to identify language learning strategies are especially valuable for teachers who wish to discover their students’ current learning strategies before beginning to teach learning strategies. For example, teachers can ask students to complete a language task, and then lead a classroom discussion about how students completed the task and point out the learning strategies that students mention. Teachers could also develop a questionnaire appropriate for the age and proficiency level of their students and have students complete it immediately after completing a task. For a more global picture of their students’ learning strategies in general, teachers might want to use the SILL. When strategy instruction is underway and students show evidence that they understand and are using some of the strategies independently, teachers could ask them to keep a diary or journal about their use of strategies in the language class and in other contexts, thus encouraging transfer. Teachers can make their own thinking public by “thinking aloud” as they work on a task familiar to students, commenting on their own learning strategies as they go. All of these approaches can help students develop their own metacognition about themselves as strategic learners.
Although difficulties remain even at the basic level of terminology, awareness has been slowly growing of the importance of the strategies used by learners in the language learning process. By recognizing that “learning begins with the learner”, Nyikos and Oxford (1993, p.11) acknowledge the basic reality that, like the proverbial horse led to water but which must do the drinking itself, even with the best teachers and methods, students are the only ones who can actually do the learning. This growing awareness has resulted in more recent years in what Skehan (1989, p.285) calls an “explosion of activity” in the field of language learning strategy research. In spite of this activity, however, defining and classifying language learning strategies remains no easy task. Wenden and Rubin (1987, p.7) talk of “the elusive nature of the term”, Ellis (1994, p.529) describes the concept as “fuzzy”, Cohen (1998, p.3) talks of “conflicting views”, while O’Malley et al (1985, p.22) put it this way:
There is no consensus on what constitutes a learning strategy in second language learning or how these differ from other types of learner activities. Learning, teaching and communication strategies are often interlaced in discussions of language learning and are often applied to the same behavior. Further, even within the group of activities most often referred to as learning strategies; there is considerable confusion about definitions of specific strategies and about the hierarchic relationship among strategies.
Learning strategies are the conscious thoughts and actions that learners take in order to achieve a learning goal. Strategic learners have metacognitive knowledge about their own thinking and learning approaches, a good understanding of what a task entails, and the ability to orchestrate the strategies that best meet both the task demands and their own learning strengths. An area of basic research in second language acquisition is the identification and description of learning strategies used by language learners and the correlation of these strategies with other learner variables such as proficiency level, age, gender, motivation, and the like (Chamot& El- Dinary, 1999; El-Dib, 2004; Green & Oxford, 1995; Oxford &Burry-Stock, 1995). Current research is also investigating the selection and use of learning strategie by Iranian learners including gender variable.
Applied research on language learning strategies investigates the feasibility of helping students become more effective language learners by teaching them some of the learningstrategies that descriptive studies have identified as characteristic of the “good language learner” (Rubin, 1975; 1981; Stern, 1975).
As stated in the first chapter, language learning strategies are “specific actions or behaviors accomplished by students to enhance their learning” (Oxford, 1990).
O’Malley and Chamot (1990, p.1) defines learning strategies as “the special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn or retain new information.” Oxford (1990, p.9) lists the features of language learning strategies.
According to her list, language learning strategies;
1. Contribute to the main goal.
2. Allow learners to become more self-directed.
3. Expand the role of teachers.
4. are problem-oriented.
5. Are specific actions taken by the learner?
6. Involve many aspects of the learner, not just the cognitive.
7. Support learning both directly and indirectly.
8. Are not always observable.
9. Are often conscious
10. are flexible.
11. Are influenced by a variety of factors.
The choice of language learning strategies is affected by a number of factors such as learning styles, degree of awareness, gender, cultural background, attitudes and beliefs, type of task, tolerance of ambiguity, nationality, personality traits, (Oxford, 1990 )
The study of the listening comprehension processes in second language learning focuses on the role of individual linguistic units (e.g. phonemes, words, grammatical structures) as well as the role of the listening expectations, the situation and context, background knowledge and the topic. It therefore includes both top down processing and bottom up processing. While traditional approaches to language teaching tended to underemphasize the importance of teaching listening comprehension, more recent approaches emphasize the role of listening in building up language competence and suggest that more attention should be paid to teaching listening in the initial stages of second or foreign language learning.
According to Chamot (2005), one of the importance of exploring the strategies used by the second language learners is ‘to gain insights into the metacognitive, cognitive, social, and affective processes involved in language learning’. Additionally, results of descriptive studies guides ‘the instructional investigations’, Chamot (2005). To know more about the listening strategies, researchers have sought ‘to measure relationship between strategy use and proficiency level’ Cohen and Macaro (2007). Thus purpose of this study is to look into the males and females students’ preferences for strategies in listening tasks.
As Farhadi (2006) mentioned, the problem of getting students to listen has both cognitive and affective components. First, the students need to feel that it is possible for them to comprehend what they hear. Second, for maximum concentration, the students should be aware of the purpose behind the activity. Third Underwood (1989) outlines seven potential problems that could hinder listening comprehension.
First, the speed of delivery is beyond the control of listeners. Underwood says, “Many language learners believe that the greatest difficulty with listening comprehension, as opposed to reading comprehension, is that listener cannot control how quickly a speaker speaks” (Underwood, 1989, p.16). Second, it is not always possible for learners to have words repeated. This is a major problem in learning situations. In the classroom, it is the teacher who decides whether or not a recording or a section of recording needs to be replayed. It is “hard for the teacher to judge whether or not the students have understood any particular section of what they have heard” (Underwood, 1989, p.17).
Third, the small size of the learner vocabulary frequently impedes listening comprehension. The speaker does not always use words the listener knows. Sometimes when listeners encounter a new word, they stop to figure out the meaning of that word, and they therefore, miss the next part of the speech. Fourth, listeners may not recognize the signals that the speaker is using to move from one point to another, give an example, or repeat a point. Discourse markers which are utilized in formal situations (i.e., firstly, and after that) are relatively clear to listeners.
However, in informal situations, signals such as gestures, increased loudness, or a clear change of pitch are very ambiguous, especially to L2 learners.
Fifth, it can be very challenging for listeners to concentrate in a foreign language.
It is generally known that in listening, even a slight break or a wander in attention can impede comprehension. When the topic of the listening passage is interesting, it can be easier for listeners to concentrate and follow the passage; however, students sometimes feel that listening is very challenging even when they are



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