The Effect of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Technique at University Preparatory Classes

Sezen Balaban

American Journal of Educational Research

The Effect of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Technique at University Preparatory Classes

Sezen Balaban1,2,

1Department of English Language Teaching, Uludağ University
2Department of English Language Teaching, Yeditepe University


Listening forms a considerable role whilst communication. As for foreign language learning, listening is of major significance since it produces language input. For students, listening comprehension is one of the most challenging courses. For second language instructors, fostering the students’ listening comprehension skills and preparing them as active listeners is a big challenge. In this manner, this paper presents findings from an action research study exploring the impact of summarization technique as a pre-listening activity on EFL learners’ performance in giving correct immediate written response to listening comprehension questions. Data were elicited from 15 elementary level university prep class students at a state university in Turkey. A comparison between the pre-test and post-test scores demonstrated that the learners achieved significantly higher marks after the treatment classes. The findings suggest that summarization of listening passages is a useful predictor of improved performance.

Cite this article:

  • Sezen Balaban. The Effect of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Technique at University Preparatory Classes. American Journal of Educational Research. Vol. 4, No. 1, 2016, pp 126-133.
  • Balaban, Sezen. "The Effect of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Technique at University Preparatory Classes." American Journal of Educational Research 4.1 (2016): 126-133.
  • Balaban, S. (2016). The Effect of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Technique at University Preparatory Classes. American Journal of Educational Research, 4(1), 126-133.
  • Balaban, Sezen. "The Effect of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Technique at University Preparatory Classes." American Journal of Educational Research 4, no. 1 (2016): 126-133.

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At a glance: Figures

1. Introduction

1.1. Effects of Summarization as a Pre-Listening Activity

Listening skills in language learning have not received sufficient attention although forty per cent of daily communication is spent on listening. Despite the fact that most preparatory classes at universities in Turkey do not have a specific course called “Listening Comprehension”, most of the speaking courses embrace listening comprehension activities. The reason for this is that speaking sensibly is merely feasible through receiving input by listening. So, listening comprehension skill is one of the basics of language learning.

In terms of the difficulties which are experienced by learners in this second language learning environment; numerous hardships emerge. One hardship is the content of the listening tasks which are not familiar to learners. So, this induces learners to misunderstand what they hear.

Recent studies have additionally focused on different accents, idioms and unfamiliar language chunks spoken by English-speaking people. Moreover, what they listen to is eminently too fast for these learners to catch.

The most explicit point is that many classroom listening comprehension exercises require no response until the end of fairly long stretches of speech, so that when it comes to giving a response; it becomes a test of memory rather than of comprehension. Therefore, this study probed the following research question:

Does the top-down strategy of summarizing the listening context in advance activate elementary level prep class students’ ability to give correct immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions?”

In this manner, the purpose of this paper is to generate a top-down strategy for listening through an extensive listening project. A technique which could be applied in a listening class in order to improve learners’ listening comprehension was aimed. This listener-based strategy includes generating a background knowledge of the topic, the situation or the context through summarizing it in advance. So, the purpose is to check whether providing learners with background information has positive effect on listening comprehension.

2. Literature Review

Listening is one of the most challenging skills for ESL learners to evolve because it is presumably the least explicit of the four language skills [15]. It is a challenging process, not only out of the complication of the process itself; but also due to the motives that characterize the listener, the speaker, the content of the message and any visual assistance that consorts the message [2].

Vandergrift [15] states that listening plays a major role in the learning of a second language. This role is for it gives the learner information from which to build the knowledge requisite for operating the language. Listening assures the essential input for learners to acquire the language required for practicing a language. Rost [9] features that understanding spoken language is a significant circumstance for language acquisition.

There has been little concern in EFL listening in the English language classroom. This could because there has been a deficiency of research interest into listening. Moreover; listening has often been shown as a “passive” skill which learners merely “pick up”. Teachers assert that exposing students to spoken language is sufficient instruction in listening comprehension [6].

Previous research has identified numerous problems that hinder comprehension to take place. Anderson and Lynch specify that one of the reasons why the listener fails to process incoming speech is that the speech includes words or phrases that the listener can hear sufficiently but is inconvenient to comprehend owing to severe obstacles with the syntax or the semantics of the language. Lack of background knowledge, lack of context knowledge and obligation to give correct responses to questions of a lengthy listening comprehension task remain serious problems for comprehension.

A further issue about the difficulties of listeners while listening to lengthy texts is that all comprehension is related to the storing and processing of information by the mind. The matter to touch upon is that the human mind is less efficient in the second language whatever it is doing. Second language learners have cognitive drawbacks with listening that are not provoked by the defectiveness of language ability but by entanglements with processing of information in this language.

The oral aspects of language are by and large seen to be most closely associated with foreign language anxiety [10]. In disputations of anxiety in classroom language learning, speaking is the most adverted one, however, listening comprehension can also be considerably stressful for learners. According to Scarcella and Oxford [11], listening anxiety originates when students feel they are exposed with a task that is too intricate or unfamiliar to them. This anxiety is lessened if listeners apprehend that they must comprehend every word they hear. Hereby, the anxiety that emerges during the listening process is often derived from what Joiner calls a negative “listening self-concept” that is a low level of self-confidence in the field of listening.

Another considerable issue to be evaluated and commented on is the role of teachers throughout listening sessions. Teaching listening comprehension is- by all means- a challenging task for teachers. The fleeting nature of sound makes it difficult for listeners to concentrate on a particular word or phrase for detailed analysis. Herewith, it has been found that many teachers proceed to testing the learners’ listening comprehension rather than teaching them how to listen effectually. Instead of concentrating on the product of listening; teachers should concern their interest with the process. At this point; there are some issues for teachers to behold and some hedges to implement for further success in listening activities. Before all else; instead of expecting that learners will in the end improve their listening skills on their own, teachers should make allowances for the reasons why students experience adversities comprehending listening input [4]. Furthermore; to carry learners’ listening skills forward, teachers should pave the way for their adopting a positive attitude, being responsive, prevent distractions, listening for specific purposes, looking for non-verbal clues, evaluating the supporting materials, looking for the signals of what is to come and looking for summaries of what has gone before. An similar point is that teachers should guide learners to comprehend what is being said in conversations to let them disregard, redundancy, hesitation, and ungrammaticality. Moreover, practice of extensive listening is put forward as beneficial. Through extensive listening, all listening strategies could be taught.

In addition to the suggestions specified above, it is an important function for teachers to ensure the listeners with specific knowledge required for the comprehension of the listening text rather than merely analysing linguistic features. In this manner, before listening, Elkhafaifi highlighted the importance of students’ being “tuned in” so that they know what to expect, both in general and for specific tasks. In this manner, armed with evidence of why a misunderstanding of students throughout listening sessions have occurred, teachers can design remedial pre-listening exercises which solve the cause of the problem. At this point, “Schema Theory” comes into prominence.

Schema Theory was discussed by McDonald as associated with the organization of information in memory and how existing knowledge effects the encoding of incoming information and its retrieval from memory. In terms of listening, Schema Theory argues that formal schema derived from learners’ knowledge of the structure of discourse is being listened to make it easier to engage in top-down processing strategies, such as summarizing, predicting and inferencing. Carrell and Eisterhold propound that listeners lack culture-specific content schema seriously. It is of sgnificant that the content schema must be activated for the learners to access their prior knowledge in English listening.

In the light of above, two simultaneous and complementary approaches of processing a listening text arise: Bottom-Up and Top-Down Processing. The primary type, top-down processing has become a major issue, which profits by preceding knowledge and experience (schema) to predict, filter, analyse and interpret the information received. Top-down processing emphasizes the value of listener’s background knowledge. And in top-down processing, what has already been learnt helps make sense of what is heard. The second wise, bottom-up approach relies on listeners’ linguistic knowledge to recognize linguistic elements- vowels, sentences to do the construction of meaning.

The basic need for top-down approach in listening has been extensively studied by Gebhard. He argues that listening comprehension is much more flowing if the listener knows something about the speaker, his intention and the content of listening. Familiarity with the topic encourages the listener as he becomes able to relate to his own background knowledge. Top-down strategies are specified as listener-based, in which the listener benefits from his background knowledge. This background knowledge activates a set of expectances that assist the listener to interpret what is heard and expect what will come next. These strategies include listening for the main idea, predicting, drawing inferences and summarizing [4].

The final issue concerning listening comprehension – exclusively strategic listening- is the metacognitive strategy use in listening comprehension. There has been growing interest in Metacognitive Approach to listening, which supports training learners to apply effective strategies to accomplish the demands of listening. Assisting students in managing their learning more influentially, metacognitive strategies seem to have a wide range of advantages such as generating strategic learners, increasing the speed of learners’ cognitive engagement with listening texts, forming a confidence on learners to learn, removing hesitation to obtain help from their environment, actualizing continual learners who can successfully cope with new situations and executing tactics which match the listening task and adjustments [12].

As a result, this study was specifically carried out in order to investigate whether learners’ performance in giving immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions could be developed through assuring the top-down strategy of summarizing. The significance of the study arises from its results which are expected to fill in a brand new gap in the research field. This study will evaluate some of the activities associated with the Schema and Metacognitive Theories to observe whether they are indeed effective in enhancing listening skills.

3. Methods and Materials

This study aims to answer the following research question:

“Does the top-down strategy of summarizing the listening text in advance activate elementary level preparatory class students’ ability to give correct and immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions?”

To determine the value of summarization as a pre-listening activity, the process below was materialized.

3.1. Research Context and Participants

The study was carried out at a state university in Turkey. The participants of this study comprise university preparatory class students at a foreign languages school of this state university from diverse departments. The participants are currently in semester one at elementary level. Skills-based instruction is deployed over a period of 15 weeks. Classes are held on every week day. The language of instruction is English, including grammar.

Table 1. Demographic Data of the Participants

These students regularly participated in a variety of listening activities, especially inside the classroom. Sitcom video series, songs and audiotapes ancillary to their reading and vocabulary tasks are a massive part of their classroom instruction and practice. Periodically, invited native speakers speak to these students in English.

3.2. Data Collection Instruments

The following instruments were implemented in the study:


A pre-test and post-test design was opted for to measure the degree of change occurring as a result of the treatment/intervention.

The pre-test was a listening midterm exam of 2013 Fall semester. The test, including 3 distinct sections of multiple choice questions, was carried out in conjunction with some procedures such as giving clear instructions, playing the tape twice and stopping playing the tape at frequent intervals with the aim of letting students give immediate written responses to questions.

In this test, students listened to a passage which they were not familiar with without attaining a background information concerning the content.


Subsequent to the pre-test, the treatment- via an extensive listening project- was materialized over 4 weeks. The materials for these treatment lessons were obtained from New English File- an elementary level course book for university prep class students. The listening passages were- by a majority- the same level of the students. However, some diversifications were executed in some requisite situations in order to generate a more student-friendly listening atmosphere for students.

The intervention- stood by the Schema Theory, Metacognitive Approach to listening and Top-Down Processing Approach- promoted a background of the listening comprehension text through teacher’s summarization without letting students read the text as a top-down pre-listening activity. In this manner, activities were tailored to assist learners understand the listening concept beforehand. Since the primary objective of the study was to carry forward students’ performance in immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions, the chief principle during listening was to stop the tape within frequent intervals in order to let students give immediate response

to questions and recede from testing their memory through non-stop listening till the end of the test.

Each extensive listening session was carried out for 40 minutes a day for four consecutive weeks. In all the treatment lessons, the students did the required activities individually. They- as participants- were given multiple choice, gap-filling, chart completion, note taking/ summarizing short stories and written transcription activities throughout the sessions. Even though learners’ pre-existing knowledge was activated by means of summarization as a pre-listening activity, they were additionally ensured motivational support and encouragement, mentioning the simplicity of listening through strategies in order to obviate their listening anxiety.


4 weeks later, and subsequent to 8 treatment sessions of the extensive listening project, the post-test was administered. All participants were given the post-test at the same time, enclosing the same listening midterm exam of 2013 fall semester. The entailment for the students was to answer the same questions that they had answered earlier in the pre-test.


Following the post-test implementation, the participants were asked to answer a questionnaire on metacognitive listening strategies. The application of this questionnaire was carried out in order to increase the reliability of this study. The questionnaire was adapted from the Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire (MALQ) by Vandergrift, Goh, Mareschal, and Tafaghodtari. The questionnaire items are related to 4 metacognitive factors associated with listening strategies.

3.3. Data Analysis

Analysis of data in this study was effectuated with the aid of descriptive statistics to summarize the groups of data using a combination of tabulated description (i.e., tables), graphical description (i.e., graphs and charts), and statistical commentary (i.e., a discussion of the results). These tools to analyse the data were employed to construct simple descriptions about the characteristics of a set of quantitative data and to summarize the findings of the data of the study.

4. Results

To discover the answer to the research question of the study “Does the top-down strategy of summarizing the listening context in advance activate elementary level prep class students’ ability to give correct immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions?”, findings of the data collection instruments were attentively analyzed. The findings reveal an apparent improvement in learners’ listening response to listening comprehension questions. The findings of pre-test and post-test and the questionnaire are stated below:

As specified in Table 3, in the pre-test, the participants were required to answer a total of 18 multiple choice questions included in 3 sections. The first 2 sections of the pre-test embodied a conversation between merely two people. Herewith, each question in the first 2 parts were 5 points. However, the third part of the pre-test embraced 5 speakers having a discussion and making suggestions about what to do on a cold Sunday afternoon. Therefore, each question of this part was 7 points (Table 4) and in this manner, the least scores were obtained from the third part (Table 4).

As seen in Figure 1, Part B is the section where students achieved highest scores. Even though section A and B include inferential questions, which students find more demanding than referential questions, section C was still the least graded section, including referential questions. In this manner, it seems apparent that a 5 people’s discussion in part C was assumed to be more complicated than parts A and B presenting 2 people’s conversations. The levels of the listening tasks in all 3 parts were virtually the same. However, part C embraced considerably more effortless referential items.

Figure 1. The percentages of student scores depending on the 3 distinct listening sections in pre-test and post-test

In terms of the final scores of students in the pre-test and post-test, there exists a marked improvement in their scores.

The pre-test results indicate that none of the students got a grade between 76-100. The highest percentage in the pre-test belonged to the scorers of 26-50 which embraces 86% of the participants taking the test. There emerges 1 student each within the grades 51-75 and 0-25; which constitutes solely 13.2% of all participants.

In comparison with the pre-test results, the post-test outcomes conceive that a considerable increase in participants’ performance to give correct immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions. There is a 33.4% accrual in the number of students who received marks between 51-75. The results indicate no lower grades than 51. Furthermore, 60% of the students come in sight within the highest grade category as a result of the treatment lessons.

Table 3. Pre-test and Post-test Listening Comprehension Scores

The questionnaire implemented sequel to the completion of the extensive listening project was adapted from the Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire (MALQ). Since the questionnaire items were classified into 4 metalinguistic awareness groups; the results of this instrument were interpreted from 4 discrete aspects via descriptive statistics.

Planning-Evaluation factors could be defined as the strategies listeners use to prepare themselves for listening and to evaluate the results of their listening tasks. The results – comprising the answers to questions 2, 3, 8, 11, and 18 have indicated that 93.3% of the participants try to set the scene and construct a plan of the listening comprehension task with the aid of teacher’s summarization before listening. This considerable percentage of students has revealed that they strived to comprehend teacher’s summarization excessively.

73.4% of the participants have agreed and 26.6% of them have strongly agreed that they have an evaluation of their listening comprehension performance as a post-evaluation. Additionally, all participants conceive remedies for success in their future performances in giving correct immediate responses to listening questions.

Person-Knowledge factors, which are the second type in the questionnaire, relate to listeners’ perceptions concerning the difficulty presented by L2 listening and their self-efficacy in L2 listening.

The consequences ensuing from listeners’ answers to items 12, 13, 15, and 19 could be deciphered as an explicit cursor to the effect of teacher’s summarization on students’ awareness of listening. 66.6% of the students have strongly agreed that they relaxed, tried not to worry and dissipated all their nervousness in the wake of teacher’s summarization. 33.3% agreed on this item and none of the students had an opposing sight.

Figure 3. Students’ percentage of relaxation as a result of teacher’s summarization
Figure 4. Students’ perception of listening as considerably positive

Figure 4 emphasizing item 17 construes students’ perception of listening as considerably positive since 33,3% of them agreed and 66,6% of them strongly agreed upon the notion that they always try to enjoy listening even if they have to respond immediately to written questions.

Figure 5 embodying the highest percentage throughout the questionnaire reveals that 86.6% of the participants strongly agreed that they felt listening in English was a positive challenge and 13.3% supported this notion.

Figure 5. Students’ perception of listening as a positive challenge

The third type of metacognitive factors – Mental Translation Factors- concern students’ own translating strategies during listening.

It is solely 20% of the students who agreed and 6,6% who strongly agreed that they did not feel the necessity to translate the listening comprehension task mentally as long as they had an exposure to teacher’s summarization. The outcomes of students’ responses to item 9 reveals that there exists 13,3% of students who still have difficulty in translation even if they hear teacher’s summarization.

Figure 6. Students’ reliant on translation even if they hear teacher’s summarization

Problem-Solving Factors, which comprise the last category in the questionnaire, corresponds to strategies used by listeners to inference (to guess at what they do not understand) and to monitor these inferences.

The response of students to items above in Table 4 bring out that there exists an excessively high percentage of students who ameliorated their listening comprehension strategies by dint of teacher’s summarization. 100% of these students achieved to make guesses of words, and give correct immediate written response additionally, they were thoroughly able to interpret what they had heard.

However, even if the students agreed that they received sufficient support from the teacher’s summarization to interpret the listening comprehension task; their responses to item 1 indicate that 13,3% of them are still in need of comprehending the meaning of every separate word to apprehend the entire text.

Among these four factors in the Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire; the highest percentage of findings was obtained from Problem Solving Factors category. This could be expounded as participants of this study utilize what they know to interpret the listening text, make use of clues attained through teacher’s summarization and have sufficiency to monitor their process of interpretation with the aid of a top-down processing strategy.

In conclusion; in response to the research question “Does the top-down strategy of summarizing the listening context in advance activate elementary level prep class students’ ability to give correct immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions?”, the analysis of the subjects’ answers in the pre-test and post-test depicts an improvement in their response to listening comprehension questions. There exists clear evidence that the students’ scores in the post-test are higher than those in the pre-test.

Along with the adapted version of MALQ, this improvement could be attributed to the fact that they have acquired new knowledge, strategies and notion to listening comprehension from the treatment which was generated as an “extensive listening project”.

5. Discussion

The practice of summarization as a pre-listening activity has proven to be beneficial at university prep elementary level classes. Data from this study has indicated that teacher’s summarization as a distinctive means of pre-listening activities could considerably activate learners’ performance in giving correct immediate written responses to listening comprehension questions.

Owing to the presence of Schema Theory and Top-Down Processing Approach principles, which were excessively influential to direct this study, exposing learners of English to schema and background knowledge concerning the listening comprehension content was found substantially important. Activating prior knowledge of students was found significant throughout this study. It has been observed that the time prior to listening session is quite important, additionally that this session should be replicated with a pre-listening activity to abolish students’ anxiety. A consideration has appeared in students’ mind that they have a subconscious anxiety of not merely speaking, but also listening.

Having an academic listening experience through a listening strategy questionnaire (MALQ) for the first time, students took their first step in order to obtain a metacognitive awareness and strategies to activate their listening comprehension skills.

From the aspect of teacher researcher who implemented this study, teacher’s role not just as a manager of the listening process but also as a facilitator who orients the listening process into a low-anxious and meta-cognitively aware atmosphere has come into prominence. The last considerable inference to conclude from the findings of this study is that listening is an vital one of the 4 skills and presents a big challenge for the participants in their language learning process.

6. Implications

The time prior to a listening session is quite momentous, and should be replenished with a pre-listening activity to abolish students’ anxiety.

EFL teachers should create a low-stress listening atmosphere which will allow listeners to concentrate thoroughly on listening items.

Listening skill should not be ignored. Instead, it should be emphasized more than before.

The final point is; further research needs to be conducted on the effects of pre-listening strategies on listening comprehension skills. It is hoped that through the enhancement of students’ meta-cognitive listening awareness, they will be able to play a more active role in overcoming their listening adversities, rather than approving that the complexities are unavoidable.

7. Limitations of the Study

Two limitations come into prominence for this study. One is the limited time to implement the extensive listening project. A longer application could have resulted in excessively more activation of learners’ listening output. A further limitation is the number of participants which could have additionally effected the results of the study.


The author is grateful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Erkan Karabacak for their kind assistance to reproduce this research paper convenient to academic writing style.


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Appendix A Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire (MALQ)

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