A Study on Using Podcast to Facilitate English Listening Comprehension
Mei-Jen Audrey Shih
Graduate Institute of Network Learning Technology
National Central University
Graduate Institute of Network Learning Technology
National Central University
Abstract—While acquiring English as a foreign language, a
consideration on providing a genuine English learning
environment to learners can arouse a more active and direct
immersion of the language learning. By the feature of
authenticity, English listening comprehension has been seen
as an important prerequisite to other language skills in
English learning. Moreover, a different receiving listening
process of bottom-up or top-down way might influence how
learners comprehend the information. Besides, an
appearance of podcast is identified as a beneficial facilitation
to foreign language learning, and through its usage might
enrich the language learning efficiency. To this end, this
study addresses these notions to concern how the podcast
can be an aid to advance alternative means of English
listening comprehension to EFL learners. The findings
discuss how and the distinction of the two different listening
comprehended processing within podcast affect learning
outcome, the role of prior knowledge, background
information, and podcast among the learning procedure.
The expected results tend to show the alternative listening
comprehended processing would benefit EFL learners who
engage in different prior knowledge and background of
English learning experience. A concern of different English
level learners might favor either distinct or alternate means
of listening processing.
Keywords- listening comprehension; bottom-up processing;
top-down processing; prior knowledge, podcast
I. MOTIVATION AND BACKGROUND
In a counting with English as a Foreign Language
(EFL), how to acquire the foreign language, English
effectively has been considerably discussed. EFL learning
is distinct from the first language learning that is seen as a
procedure of information generation; in other words, as a
process of skill learning , , . Previous studies
indicate that listening skill should be recognized prior to
other language skills due to its authenticity, applicability
and affection , , . Moreover, by a notion of
receiving method, an alternative means of bottom-up and
top-down processing might influence and reflect on
language learning outcome respectively , . Bottom-
up processing emphasizes on a local and linguistic
understanding, while top-down processing aims at a
global and comprehended cognition , , . In
other words, the former way inclines to text-based
information processing while the latter one refers to a
knowledge-based means. In addition, except from
concerning how to obtain the listening skill, an aspect on
how the learning process of listening comprehension
might be altered via different learners’ prior knowledge
and background should also be taken into considerations
Listening comprehension is not valued as important as
it should be in practice, since reading and writing
comprehension play more prerequisite roles in EFL
learning through a sequence of grammatical rules and
sentence structures in nowadays’ English teaching and
learning environment. As a result, EFL learners have less
opportunity to engage in listening comprehension, and
more listening anxiety appears . The learners might
just ignore or even give up on listening comprehension if
they have not gained any support.
The abovementioned problem might be due to a lack of
authentic material or environment for either instructors or
learners. The advent of podcast might be able to shape
and foster alternative learning experience  though it is
regarded as limited explorations in foreign language
learning, especially for empirically-based studies or in-
depth investigations , .
II. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The issues involved include English listening
comprehension, bottom-up and top-down comprehended
processing, learners’ prior knowledge and background,
and the potential of podcast. An initial set of research
questions is designed to investigate the correlation among
the issues. The research questions are as follows:
A. How do the two contexts (bottom-up and top-
down processing) of podcast influence the process
of English listening comprehension?
B. What are the distinctions between the two contexts
(bottom-up and top-down processing) of podcast
for English listening comprehension?
C. To what extent do the prior knowledge and
background information affect English listening
comprehension using podcast?
D. What issues might be concerned while using
podcast for English listening comprehension?
III. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
An experiment is designed to study the calling issues.
The target learners are Year ten students who have at least
three-year English subject learning in Taiwan, and two
classes of about 100 students would be participating in the
experiment. Before the experiment begins, students would
be divided into high level and low level English
proficiency groups without telling them the task
assignment. The independent variable is the two-way
comprehended contexts (bottom-up vs. top-down
processing) in order to inspect whether there is different
learning efficiency or not.
The experimental procedure would last for four weeks
which include one pilot study and three topics of podcast
on English listening. Pretest, posttest and questionnaire
results would be collected as quantitative data;
observation and semi-structured interview would be
arranged and supported to view as qualitative data
The expected contributions from the initial stage of
research should give insight in distinguishing the
alternative contexts of English listening comprehension
and suggest the potential learning efficiency to English
listening comprehension respectively; though studies did
not clearly reveal the distinction and relevance , .
An expectation to show the use of authentic learning
material to enhance comprehension via podcast is actually
beneficial to learners. The study should also examine how
the prior knowledge and background information might
play as crucial elements to affect the learning process and
results according to different levels of English proficiency
Several studies , , ,  demonstrated that
podcast supports foreign language learning positively, but
yet there were scanty of examinations to see the
relationship between different learning processes with
podcasts. Moreover, a study on ‘listening only’ or
‘reading while listening’  can further explore more
possibilities on English listening comprehension and the
usage of podcast.
We would like to acknowledge the oncoming
participated target learners for the time in the experiment
and suggestions. This study is partially supported by grant
(NSC 97-2628-S-008-001-MY3) from the National
Science Council of Taiwan.
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