In top-down processing, the listeners need to use their pre-existing knowledge to interpret or get a general view of the listening passage and to create appropriate and plausible expectation of what they are about to come across (Harmer, 2001; Goodman 1967; Shohamy & Inbar, 1991; Smith 1971). Top-down processing occurs as the perceptual system makes general predictions based on general schemata, or prior knowledge, and then searches the input, either visual or auditory, for information to fit into, or verify these predictions, and thus top-down processing is conceptually-driven or knowledge-based (Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983; Shohamy & Inbar, 1991). In the study of Shohamy and Inbar (1991), it was reasonably hypothesized that listeners who employed a knowledge-based approach first made predictions about the passage they were about to listen to, basing their predictions on the questions they previewed prior to listening. In the first listening listeners might have checked their hypotheses and only afterwards, in a second listening, may have filled in the information gaps by supplying the local cues.
Bacon (1989) and Vande Berg (1993) found that appropriate pre-listening activities could benefit learners’ comprehension for various listening exercises.
Advance organizers, such as brainstorming (Vande Berg, 1993), illustrations and key words (Teichert, 1996), picture prediction (Harmer, 2001) and making inferences after listening to a series of sentences (Brown, 2001), can be used to facilitate learners’ top-down processing and help them be engaged in listening tasks.
This chapter contains an overview of theory related to listening comprehension in EFL environment. First, the importance of listening comprehension is discussed. Second, difficulties in listening comprehension for EFL learners are illustrated. Third, listening comprehension processing is discussed. Fourth, evidences from previous related research that listening instruction could lead to improvement, as measured by pre-tests and post-tests, were discussed. Fifth, nature and characteristics of children’s learning are reviewed. Lastly, research questions of the present study are stated.
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Solutions are provided at the back of the course books for all these listening activities. There are no course assignments or grading, however, to test students’ comprehension of the listening component of USP’s study skills course. The students, however, are expected to submit an audio-taped seminar presentation for assessment as part of their coursework.