Second Language Listening Comprehension: Interactions between working memory, vocabulary knowledge, prior knowledge, and metacognition

Project Number
ETS-TOEFL Young Stds

Project Duration
July 2015 - February 2017


This study will investigate the interaction among second-language (L2) listening and four cognitive factors considered essential for comprehension—working memory (WM), vocabulary knowledge, prior-topical knowledge, and metacognition—for 200 Japanese first-year senior-high school English as a foreign language (EFL) learners. Of these factors, WM, the memory system responsible for temporarily storing and processing information, is the least understood as it relates to L2-listening comprehension. Recent studies investigating the WM-L2 listening relationship have reported mixed findings, indicating that the storage component of the WM system may be more predictive of L2-listening comprehension than the overall system and the processing component. To clarify the relationship, latent-variable analysis will be used to examine the interaction among scores on the TOEFL Junior Standard listening test and scores from a battery of tests representing the storage and processing components of the WM system. Additionally, the interaction among the WM system overall, vocabulary knowledge, prior-topical knowledge, and metacognition will be examined. These factors reportedly share a significant relationship with L2-listening comprehension, independently. However, it is unclear how they may predict comprehension scores when they interact. Therefore, latent-variable analysis will also be used to examine how the factors interact to predict scores on the TOEFL Junior Standard listening test. Findings from this study could provide empirical support clarifying the WM-L2 listening relationship for young EFL learners. This study could also reveal how cognitive factors influence the relationship between other factors and L2-listening comprehension.

Funding Source
Educational Testing Service

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