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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ------------------- ĐÀO THỊ HỒNG YẾN A STUDY ON THE APPICATION OF TOP-DOWN TECHNIQUES IN TEACHING LISTENING SKILLS TO ENGLISH NON-MAJOR 10TH GRADE STUDENTS AT TAM DUONG HIGH SCHOOL (NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VIỆC SỬ DỤNG PHƯƠNG PHÁP “TOP-DOWN” TRONG GIẢNG DẠY KỸ NĂNG NGHE CHO HỌC SINH KHÔNG CHUYÊN TIẾNG ANH LỚP 10 TẠI TRƯỜNG THPT TAM DƯƠNG) M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Teaching Methodology Code: 60140111 Hanoi, 2014 VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ------------------- ĐÀO THỊ HỒNG YẾN A STUDY ON THE APPICATION OF TOP-DOWN TECHNIQUES IN TEACHING LISTENING SKILLS TO ENGLISH NON-MAJOR 10TH GRADE STUDENTS AT TAM DUONG HIGH SCHOOL (NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VIỆC SỬ DỤNG PHƯƠNG PHÁP “TOP-DOWN” TRONG GIẢNG DẠY KỸ NĂNG NGHE CHO HỌC SINH KHÔNG CHUYÊN TIẾNG ANH LỚP 10 TẠI TRƯỜNG THPT TAM DƯƠNG) M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Teaching Methodology Code: 60140111 Supervisor: Ph.D. Ngô Hữu Hoàng Hanoi, 2014 DECLARATION I hereby, certify the thesis entitled “A study on the application of top-down techniques in teaching listening skills to English non-major 10th grade students at Tam Duong high school” is the result of my own research for the Minor Degree of Master of Arts at University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. The thesis has not been submitted for any degree at any other universities or institutions. I agree that the origin of my paper deposited in the library can be accessible for the purposes of study and research. Hanoi, 2014 Đào Thị Hồng Yến i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my deepest thanks to Mr. Ngô Hữu Hoàng for his assistance, encouragement as well as his guidance he gave me while I was doing my research. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all my lecturers at the Department of Post-graduate Studies, College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi whose support and considerations have enabled me to pursue the course. I would also like to express my thanks to the teachers of English at Tam Duong high school who helped me in providing the materials, giving me encouragement and making constructive comments. I am also thankful to my English non-major 10th grade students for their whole-heated participation in the study. Last but not least, I owe my sincere thanks to family who have always inspired and encouraged me to complete this study. ii ABSTRACT The research was implemented to investigate the effect of top-down techniques in teaching and learning to the English non-major 10th grade students of Tam Duong high school. In this research the investigator attempted to apply top-down techniques in teaching listening to improve the 10th grade students‟ listening skills. Two tests and a questionnaire survey were used as the powerful instruments to collect data. After that the data was analyzed and contrasted to check how top-down techniques can help to enhance students‟ listening skills. At the end of the research, the investigator proposed some suggestions to improve the learning and teaching listening skill at Tam Duong iii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS, TABLES AND CHARTS ABBREVIATIONS: % Percentage TABLES : Table 1.1: Some kinds of top-down exercises for beginners Table 1.2: Descriptive statistics for the pre-test Table 1.3: Procedures of the study Table 1.4: Paired Samples Statistics Table 1.5: Paired Samples Test Table 1.6: Activities motivated students in the pre-listening stage Table 1.7: Activities attracted students in while-listening stage Table 1.8: Useful and effective activities to students after listening CHARTS: Chart 1.1: The students‟ opinion about listening tasks Chart 1.2: The students‟ opinion about learning listening with top-down techniques Chart 1.3: The students‟ opinion about their listening skill after term learning with topdown techniques iv TABLE OF CONTENTS DECLARATION …………………………………………………………………i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS …………………………………………………..…ii ABSTRACT ……………………………………………………………………..iii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS, TABLES AND CHARTS……………………...iv TABLE OF CONTENTS ……………………………………………………….. v PART A: INTRODUCTION....................................................................................1 1. Rationale..........................................................................................................1 2. Aims of the study.............................................................................................2 3. Scope of the study............................................................................................3 4. Significant……………………………………………………………….......3 5. Design of the study..........................................................................................4 PART B: DEVELOPMENT....................................................................................6 CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW................................................................6 1.1. Theory on listening....................................................................................6 1.1.1. Definitions of listening.........................................................................6 1.1.2. Listening process………………………….…………………………7 1.2. Teaching listening skills.............................................................................7 1.2.1. Stages of a listening lesson...................................................................8 1.2.1.1. Pre-listening...............................................................................8 1.2.1.2. While-listening..........................................................................9 1.2.1.3. Post-listening...........................................................................10 1.2.2. Top-down process……………………….…………………………12 1.3. Factors that make listening difficult in learning a foreign language ......14 1.4. Summary..................................................................................................16 CHAPTER II: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY................................................18 2.1. Research approaches................................................................................18 2.2. Research setting.......................................................................................19 v 2.3. Participants……………………………………………………..………20 2.4. Research types .........................................................................................20 CHAPTER III: THE STUDY…………………………………………………...21 3.1. Study stages ………..…...........................................................................21 3.1.1. Finding out a problem …………………………………………..21 3.1.2. Setting a hypothesis……………………………………………..21 3.1.3. Forming a pilot course…………………………………………..22 3.2. Students‟ perceptions after taking a pilot course……..………….…….29 3.3. Discussions..............................................................................................35 3.3.1. For students.......................................................................................35 3.3.2. For teacher........................................................................................36 3.3.3. Weakness..........................................................................................36 3.4. Summary..................................................................................................36 PART C: CONCLUSION......................................................................................38 1. Conclusions....................................................................................................38 2. Pedagogical Implications………………………………………………….39 3. Limitations………………………………………………………………...42 4. Suggestions for further study.........................................................................43 REFERENCES………………………………………………………………….44 APPENDIX 1……………………………………………………………………...I APPENDIX 2………….………………………………………………………...III APPENDIX 3………….………………………………………………………...VI vi PART A: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale Being the international language, not only is English a foreign language but it is also considered a means to communicate and promote mutual understanding and cooperation between people all over the world. With the rapid use in the fields of science, technology, culture, education, economy and so on, the need of teaching and learning becomes one of the most significant problems in each nation including Viet Nam. Recently, the number of people who would like to learn and become a master in English in their fields become more and more increasing, especially when Viet Nam adopted the policies to integrate with other countries all over the world, teaching and learning English is not only a personal concern, but it also becomes one of the noticeable nation‟s problems. Moreover, English also affirms its important role by becoming a compulsory subject at high school and universities. Thus, the teaching and learning English is one of the most crucial issues for not only students and teacher but also our society. However, the teaching and learning English is seriously influenced by the traditional methods such as Grammar Translation Method, or Audio-lingual Method and so on which mainly focus on the grammar, vocabulary and structures; and listening and speaking skills „seem to be forgotten‟ in high school. The researcher has worked as an English teacher in Tam Duong high school since 2011. With her experience in teaching English at high school, she realized some reasons which made her have a strong motivation to do this study. Although in class, students are taught and follow the English course book offered by the Ministry of Education and Training Department, in which each unit is designed to be composed of five parts - reading, listening, speaking, writing and language focus; assessment and testing only aim at students‟ knowledge of English grammar along with reading or writing. Therefore, they have encountered many difficulties in learning listening and speaking English. 1 In addition, when students studied at primary school or secondary school, teaching listening seems to be ignored. They even don‟t have enough essential equipment for their listening lessons as qualitative records or cassettes, stereos. Instead of using stereo, their teacher often read tape script for them in listening lesson so that when attending class in high school, they feel really difficult to listen to the native speaker‟s voice and listening tape script. Most of the time, the teacher used her native language to develop the class and the listening input in the second language was only evident when reading aloud sentences or phrases written on the board. It showed that learners had few opportunities to listen to the target language. One more reason is that the limited time in learning and teaching English in class. According to estimating, students are learnt one listening period (45 minutes) per week, and most of them don‟t spend their time to practice English at home. Because of these above reasons, students have little or even no motivation and interest in learning English, especially listening. According to Nunan (1998), he believes that listening is the basic skill in language learning. Without listening skill, learners will never learn to communicate effectively; in fact, over 50% of the time that students spends functioning in a foreign language will be devoted to listening. For all the reasons above, the researcher decided to do a study on the application of top-down techniques to help improve listening skills of her students in English non major 10th grade students. 2. Aim of the study The study aims at finding the most suitable ways to improve the students‟ listening competence at Tam Duong high school. To reach this aim, the students‟ difficulties when they listen and do English tasks will be explored first, and then top-down techniques will be applied to teach listening skills for students by teacher to find out that if it is the most suitable way for enhancing students‟ ability in learning listening. Teacher will investigate the effects of using top-down techniques in teaching listening when she applies them in her listening lessons. 2 Simultaneously, the study also aims at studying the learner‟s perception regarding listening activities using top-down listening techniques. The final aims is formulating pedagogical implications and making suggestions for improving the teaching and learning of the listening skill at Tam Duong high school. The focus of the paper was directed toward high school students because the problems in listening have their origins in high school where few students have been the recipients of listening teaching. Thus, these high school students have difficulties in learning English not only at present, but also in the future if they can‟t find the solutions for it. In order to find out the answer for the study, two research questions was conducted as following: Research questions 1. What is the effect in terms of English language learning with the application of applying top-down techniques in teaching listening for English non-major 10th grade class? 2. What are the learner´s perceptions regarding listening activities using topdown techniques in an English non-major 10th grade class? 3. Scope of the study In this study, the researcher intends to use top-down techniques to help English non-major students who are at grade ten in Tam Duong high school, can overcome their difficulties in learning listening skills, not using the other kind of techniques. These techniques were conducted over a period of time with 8 weeks and were applied in the three stages of a listening lesson: pre-listening; whilelistening and post-listening. The sample populations are 35 students from class: 10A10. 4. Significance of the study First of all, this study brings benefits for the researcher‟s professional development. The findings will indicate that whether top-down techniques is useful to be applied to raise her students up in learning listening as well as raising their 3 interest and attitude in learning English. As can be known, to learn a foreign language well, learners need to develop all the four skills. Listening comprehension is a very complex process that students often find most difficult in learning English. This thesis, therefore, is carried out so as to help students to improve their listening skills. In addition, this study also contributes to develop the learning English movement between the investigator‟s colleagues in her school or even from the other schools. Most of her colleagues often claim that teaching listening often causes stresses and demotivation because of students‟ attitude and their abilities in learning listening. Therefore, this study can promote a movement or a competition in finding the best ways to teach not only listening but other skills to improve students‟ competence in learning English. The other teachers are able to express their ability and creativity in teaching listening and contribute to enhance the quality of teaching and learning English. Moreover, the findings will help the researcher to realize her weaknesses in teaching listening and from them she will improve to make them become more suitable and better to her students‟ learning. This study also is considered as a report for what the researcher did to deal with listening English problems in her high school as well as finding a better way to improve her students‟ ability in learning listening. 5. Design of the study There are three main parts in this study: Part A: Introduction, presents the rationale, research questions, aims, scope, significance and design of the study. Part B: Development, which is divided into 3 chapters: - Chapter I: “Literature review”, sets up theoretical background that is relevant to the purpose of the study. - Chapter II: “Methodology”, indicates the setting, the participants, the methods 4 - Chapter III: “The study”, shows the way to collect data, the application of topdown techniques on teaching and learning listening skill at Tam Duong high school, the findings and some discussions. Part C: Conclusion, summarizes the key issues in the study, giving the implications of the study in which suggestions for improving listening skills to the students at Tam Duong high school are proposed points out, the limitations and provides some suggestions for further study. 5 PART B: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter aims at providing a theoretical background for the study by giving the concepts most relevant to the topic. Firstly, a number of the theory on listening is introduced. Secondly, some difficulties in learning listening and some problems in teaching listening skills are discussed. Finally, top-down processes along with its techniques in teaching listening will be presented. 1.1. Theory on listening 1.1.1. Definitions of listening It is believed that listening is a significant and essential area of development in a native language and in a second language. Therefore, there have been numerous definitions of listening (by Anderson and Lynch (1988); O‟Malley, Chamost and Kupper (1989); Buck (2001)) which present different views of scholars towards the concept. According to Anderson and Lynch (1988), there are two influential views about listening: traditional view and alternative view. Traditional view considered listening as a passive language skill, like reading skill. It means that learners learn in a passive way in listening lessons. The learners tends to listen to the information which relates to their exercises without paying sufficient attention in the discourse such as the background knowledge of the speakers as well as their intentions, attitude, implication and other shades of meaning etc. This leads to a serious problem: teachers merely test students‟ capacity of hearing and remembering utterance they hear in the recording, not students‟ understanding of the conversation or talk. In fact the learners are not provided enough information about what they are going to hear before the tape plays and they cope with a wide range of problems while they are listening and the result is that they cannot get any listening experience from the teacher. For this perception, teaching listening, in the traditional way, is thought as teaching listening for sounds not for meaning. Anderson and Lynch criticized this view as inappropriate and inadequate. 6 On the other hand, alternative view considers the learner as an “active model builder”. Listeners of this kind can combine the new information with their own background knowledge to reach full comprehension of what has been heard. Both researchers agree with this view, which emphasizes the active interpretation and integration of listeners on incoming information. According to Littlewood (1981), listening demands active involvement from the hearer. In order to construct the message that the speaker intends , the hearer must actively contribute knowledge from both linguistic and nonlinguistic sources. Only by applying the knowledge of the language , can the hearer divide the continuous stream of sound into meaningful units and only by comparing these units with the shared knowledge between himself and the speaker , can the hearer interpret their meaning. The nature of listening comprehension means that the hearer should be encouraged to engage in an active process of listening for meanings, using not only the linguistic cues but also has nonlinguistic knowledge. 1.1.2. Listening process A variety insights into the listening process have been developed in the past 40 years by Richards (1983); Anderson (1983; 1985); Wolvin and Coalky (1985); Underwood (1989); Buck (2000). Listening to spoken language has been acknowledged in second language theory to consist of active and complex process that determines the content and level of what is comprehended. These processes use utterance as the basis for constructing meaning based propositional presentations that are identified initially in short term memory and stored in long term memory. Anderson (1983; 1985) differentiates comprehension into three interrelated and recursive process: perceptual processing, parsing and utilizing. During a single listening event the processes may flow one into the other, recycle and may be modified based on what occurred in prior or subsequent processes. On the other hand, the conceptions of bottom-up and top-down processes in comprehension are mentioned by some authors such as Lynch (1988), Nunan (1999). According to them, bottom-up process refers to the listening process that 7 starts with discriminating sounds, identifying words and comprehending grammatical structures and build eventually to comprehension of meaning. This is a somewhat mechanistic or "data-given" (Brown, 1994) view of processing and has been the focus in some styles of teaching. Top-down process may be described as holistic or "conceptual driven" in that they focus on the overall meaning of the passage and the application of schemata. Schemata are mental frameworks based on past experiences which can be applied to help us interpret the current situation. Inferring ideas, guessing words‟ meaning and identify topics are all examples of top-down processing. As such, bottom-up process sees language comprehension as a process of passing through a number of consecutive sequences or levels and the output of each sequence becomes the input for the next higher one. Generally, the results of the studies, Bacon (1992) as well as O‟Malley (1989), show that successful or effective listeners use more top-down strategies compared with less successful or ineffective listeners. Moreover, ineffective listeners are at a disadvantage because they fail to elaborate on what they hear; they are not able to make the connections between what they hear and their own „personal experiences‟. 1.2. Teaching listening skills 1.2.1. Stages of a listening lesson. 1.2.1.1. Pre-listening According to Davies and Pearse (2000), it is a useful stage to prepare the learners for what they are going to hear, arouses students‟ interest and provides students with the purposes of listening, just as we usually prepare for real-life situations. Pre-listening stage consists of activities to help listeners get certain knowledge related to listening text gradually. It is undeniable that learners will encounter certain difficulties to do a listening lesson without being provided with the idea of what they are going to hear. Even if the sounds or the words they hear are familiar, 8 they may still be unable to understand because they lack certain kinds of knowledge of the topic, discourse or the relationship between the speakers. It is, therefore, of great importance to let students know what to expect for the tasks before listening. This kind of work is generally called pre-listening stage. According to Penny Ur (1984), he states that “I t would seem a good idea when presenting a listening passage in class to give students some information about the content, situation and speakers before they actually start listening”. With the aim is setting-up certain knowledge before listening to help the students get the most of what they are going to hear. The main purposes of this stage, therefore, are: + To motivate students to pay more attention to the listening text. + To activate or build students' prior topical and linguistic knowledge. It is important for students to be able to relate what they already know to the speaker's content. + To help the students match what they hear with their stored knowledge by activating their prior knowledge about the coming topics. + To set purposes for listening: When students set purposes for listening, they become active listeners who listen for something, not to it. These purposes can be achieved by one of the following activities: the teacher introduces the listening topic, gives background information, gives clear instructions for the while-listening activity; or the students are given guidance on the structure of what they are going to hear, discuss the topic situation, look at pictures, read through the questions if asked. Each of the above activities will help the students focus on the main points of listening passage by narrowing down the things that the students expect to hear and activating their previous knowledge. 1.2.1.2. While listening The while-listening stage involves activities that students are asked to do during the time they are listening to the text. The purpose of while listening activities is to help students develop their skills of eliciting messages from spoken language. Rixon (1986) 9 pointed out the purposes of while-listening stage is to challenge and guide students to handle the information and the message from the listening text. Therefore, activities of this stage must be interesting and carefully chosen. To be effective activities, these while-listening ones should possess the two following characteristics. Firstly, they should be interesting enough to make the students want to listen and complete the activities. The topic, the content and the length of the listening text as well as the students‟ interest decide the success of the while-listening activities. If students have to do the same kind of work again and again, they may get bored and lose their interest. Secondly, they should be things that are within the capacity of most students. It is because failure can easily and rapidly lead to de-motivation. The level of difficulty can be adjusted by giving support (which can be done at the pre-listening stage). It is advisable to provide while-listening activities which are a challenge for the more advanced students, but not discouraging those who only gain little success. Like choosing pre-listening activities, as suggested by Underwood (1990:49), the teachers must consider a number of factors when choosing while-listening activities as follow: the possibilities for varying the level of difficulty if needed, the convenience of carrying out activities which need individuals to give oral responses in the classroom, the possibility for the work to be done with the teacher present or as self-study and either in a listening center or at home, material or ideas which might be used for post-listening work, immediate feedback on the extent to which the students have succeeded in the task To conclude, "Good while-listening activities help learners find their way through the listening text and build u p the expectation raised by the pre-listening activities". (Mary Underwood, 1990:46). 1.2.1.3. Post-listening Post-listening stage relates to the activities which are done after the listening is completed. Some post-listening activities are extensions of the work done at the pre-listening and while-listening stages and some relate only loosely to the listening 10 text itself. This stage is also very importance, with certain purposes as well as activities. According to Underwood (1989), the first purpose of post-listening activities is to check how well the students understood and whether they have completed the listening task. The teacher may give an answer orally, showing the answer on the board or on the over-head projector or ask students to check again the answer in the book. Students can work in pairs to check each other‟s answer or work in group to discuss any problem related to the listening text. The second purpose of the post-listening work is to reflect on why some students have failed to understand or miss parts of the passage.Another purpose of post listening activities is to expand the topic or the language of the listening text. Students are asked to deal with activities which are more or less general language learning activities. Sometimes, this does not mean that they should not be done, but it should be recognized they do not give practice in listening skill, although the additional language learning can well enable students to listen more successfully in the future.The fourth purpose is to give students opportunity to consider the manner and attitude of the speaker in the listening text. This is also important because the listeners can see the aims of the speakers based on his/her attitude. Additionally, the general factors listed in pre-listening and while-listening, Underwood (1989) indicated that the attention should be given to the following factors in selecting post-listening activities: + The amount of language works the teacher wish to do in relation to the particular listening text. + The speaking, reading or writing skills should be included in the post-listening work. + The students should work in pairs or in groups. + The chosen activity should be make motivating. It can be seen that the learning language programme consists of four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In fact, speaking, writing and reading can arise from listening, especially from post-listening work. The order and organization of 11 a language lesson are usually not decided at the same time integrating these into other language skill work. For instance, the students listen and respond in writing, the teacher ask students to answer orally. Therefore, listening exercises always involve in the rest three skills. To achieve these mentioned purposes, the following are possible activities:  The teacher give the answers orally, or show the answer on the black board  The teacher draw the students' attention to specific parts of the listening text and focus on the forms and function, lexis, stress and intonation which have caused problems for the students  The students work in pairs to check each other's answer or in groups to discuss any problems related to the listening text. 1.2.2. Top-down process According to Jack and Willy “the top-down view suggests that the listening actively constructs the original meaning of the speaker using incoming sounds as clues. In this reconstruction process, the listener uses previous knowledge of the context and situation within which the listening takes place to make sense of what he or she hears. Context and situation includes such things as knowledge of the topic at hand, the speaker or speakers and the relationship to the situation, as well as to each other and prior events.” (p. 239). Anderson and Lynch (1988 : 11) refer to such listeners as “active model builder.” To arrive at such listening comprehension, they suggest that three sources of knowledge are needed: schematic or background knowledge, context and systemic knowledge. Exercises that require top-down processing develop the learner‟s ability to do the following: + Use key words to construct the schema of a discourse + Infer the setting for a text + Infer the role of the participants and their goals 12
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