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METACOGNITIVE KNOWLEDGE AND CHINESE EFL LISTENING PERFORMANCE

C. Goh1, Y. Zeng2

1Nanyang Technological University, National Institute of Education (SINGAPORE)
2Yangtze University (CHINA)
The role of metacognitive knowledge in second language learning has gained recognition in the last few decades. However, the significance and contribution of metacognitive knowledge to learner listening has yet to be discussed extensively, and more importantly, supported by empirical evidence.

This study investigated Chinese EFL learners’ current level of metacognitive knowledge in listening and examined how the listening strategies that listeners report using are correlated with their actual listening performance. Participants (N=1066) are all EFL learners in a Chinese provincial University, randomly chosen out of a cohort of over 8000 freshmen students from various disciplines like sciences, medicine, engineering, agriculture, and economics.

An analysis of Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire (or MALQ in Vandergrift, Goh, Mareschal, & Tafaghodtari, 2006) demonstrates that Chinese undergraduates have a fairly high degree of metacognitive awareness of listening learning in aspects like person knowledge, planning, and problem solving. Students are, however, still limited in their use of strategies like directed attention and online-appraisal. Furthermore, most participants are found to have a misconception of the mental translation strategy, a debilitating strategy according to the MALQ. They still believe translating help ensure their understanding and they tend to translate whatever they hear to help them comprehend.

To establish a relationship between the listening behaviour reported in the MALQ and actual listening performance, a regression analysis is run with the scores of a large-scale high-stakes listening test (the dependent variable) against the MALQ scores (the independent variable). Results (F=82.88, p<0.001, R2=0.156) suggest that metacognitive knowledge might predict participants’ listening scores. In other words, this indicates that around 16% of the variance in listening performance could be explained by learner’s metacognitive knowledge. The finding confirms what was reported by Vandergrift, et al., (2006) where R squared is 0.13.

Finally, the pedagogical implications of findings from this study are discussed in light of the modified learning goals of the foreign language standard as issued by the Ministry of Education of China, a document which places clear emphasis on developing EFL learners' communicative ability, especially listening and speaking skills. We argue that future studies direct more attention to examining the connection and interactions between EFL learners’ metacognitive knowledge and their strategy use as dynamic systems in relation to L2 listening achievement (Zhang, 2010).