Research Bites: A Metacognitive Listening Approach


Vandergrift, L., & Tafaghodtari, M. H. (2010). Teaching L2 learners how to listen does make a difference: An empirical study. Language Learning, 60(2), 470-497. [Link]

Twitter Summary

Vandergrift et al show that use and training in metacog. listening strategies is effective. Offer empirical study, activities.


Research shows that good L2 listeners employ strategies that monitor and regulate the various cognitive processes that occur during listening. In other-words, self-regulation is an important factor during listening. Activities that can help students learn self-regulation are important.


The authors sought to investigate a metacognitive approach that combined multiple listening strategies with self-regulation in order to improve listening. 106 French as a second language students listened to “authentic-type” texts once a week for 13 weeks, and completed the same activity (outlined below) for each listening. The results showed that this approach was very effective for less skilled listeners, but had mixed results for already skilled listeners.


The pedagogical approach used in this study is quite simple. It requires students to make a four column chart and all work is done within this chart. Depending on the length of a listening text, the procedure takes from 10-20 minutes. I have outlined the procedures for each column in the image below.


Personal Reflection

Since reading this article, I have been applying the technique in my own classroom. Most students agree that it is a useful and effective technique, though I could see that repeating it once a week for every week during a semester may become tedious and boring for both students and the teacher. I have also made some modifications to this technique that I find useful. Here is how I have been using it:

  1. After both the first and second listening, I ask students to summarize to their partner what they heard using their L1. I ask them to use their L1 because the point here is not language practice but effective monitoring and evaluation of one’s listening. Therefore, I feel using the L1 is a more metacognitive approach. The article did not state which language they used, but I assume it was also the L1.
  2. After the first listening, I give students suggestions for setting goals during the second listening. I tell them that if they thought the listening was really hard, they should focus on keywords or gist. If they thought it was “so-so”, I ask them to focus on getting some of the main points. If they thought it was relatively easy, I ask them to focus on getting details.
  3. If the listening text is quite difficult, I’ll set some comprehension questions for the second listening. This further gives them a goal to focus on.
  4. I haven’t reconstructed the text after the second listening yet. Instead, during the third listening, I’ve let them follow along with the script and notice any difficulties in understanding.
  5. I ask them to take one or two minutes to write a small reflection in their L1.


The metacognitive pedagogical approach outlined in this article is clearly useful for students and easy to implement for teachers. It combines a number of listening strategies together with important planning and evaluation strategies. It acts as a good listening activity that can be used on its own or combined with other techniques.

One thought on “Research Bites: A Metacognitive Listening Approach

  1. I am an elementary school teacher. I have plan to apply the Metacognitive Pedagogical Sequence in my English class. Your review is really helpful. Thank you.

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