, pedagogical implications, and suggestions for further research.
CHAPTER 5: Discussion
The aim of this quasi-experimental study was to investigate the effect of contrastive based pronunciation teaching on the listening comprehension skills of Upper Intermediate level students. In this respect, the research questions addressed in this study was:
Does contrastive based pronunciation teaching have any effect on Iranian EFL learners’ listening comprehension?
To answer this question, one experimental group and one control group were formed at Iran Language Institute (ILI). The sample size was 40, with 20 students in the experimental groups and 20 students in the control groups in total. The participants of the study were selected based on their performance in an OPT test. Then Two groups were administered a pre-test at the beginning of the study. After the pre-test, the experimental groups received four-week contrastive based pronunciation awareness. In this 4-week period, the control group continued their regular English classes without special pronunciation training. At the end of this four-week period, both groups were administered another listening test as the post test. The pre-test was administered to determine the level of the participants in both the experimental and control groups, and the post-test was administered to examine the improvement the participants have made at the end of four weeks. The participants’ tests were scored and the raw scores were obtained as the first step of data analysis. Secondly, the results of quantitative data have been analyzed through descriptive statistical methods (mean and standard deviation), inferential statistics (t-test) and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). In this chapter, the research findings will be discussed in detail referring to the relevant literature. In addition, pedagogical implications, limitations of the study, and suggestions for further research will also be presented.
5.1. General Discussion
The findings and discussion relating to the results of the study will be presented in accordance with the research question.
5.1.1. The Experimental Group
The results of the study showed that, the experimental group improved their listening skills significantly at the end of the 4-week pronunciation awareness training. This increase may be attributed to the contrastive based pronunciation teaching this group received. As suggested by the literature (e.g., Brown, J.D, 2006; Coskun, 2011, 2008), the teaching of spoken English in normal environment [naturally spoken language in everyday life] will help learners understand how the language is naturally spoken, and by this way the understanding of utterances will take place (Brown, 1977) (emphasis added). This argument by Brown (1977) implies that listening comprehension can be developed through training learners in the pronunciation contours, a claim that is in line with the literature on listening comprehension (e.g., Brown, 2006; Coskun, 2011, 2008; Çekiç, 2007; Gilbert, 1995; Morley, 1991; Nunan & Miller, 1995; Rixon, 1986). In other words, since spoken language does not occur as in the taped recordings, the students are exposed to in classes, the difficulty of understanding real speech arises. Therefore, by providing the students with the spoken varieties of English language, greater success in listening comprehension can be achieved. A further discussion on the effectiveness of the training will be presented later in this chapter.
Affective factors can be regarded as another related factor for development of students’ listening too. According to Lightbown and Spada (2006), motivation in the classroom plays an important role in second language acquisition. Crookes and Schmidt (1991) suggest that varying the activities, tasks, and materials in classes would decrease boredom and increase interest in the classes (as cited in Lightbown & Spada, 2006). Therefore, the development in listening comprehension is attributable to the participants’ interest in the classes throughout the 4-week period. Since the students were studying something new and different from what they were used to, they participated in the classes -thus the study- more attentively. Yet, even though the improvement demonstrated by the experimental group was statistically significant, it is advisable that the findings be interpreted cautiously since the control group also exhibited such a significant development.
5.1.2. The Control Group
According to the results, there is a significant difference between the averages of experimental group in the dependent variable (post-test). In other words, since there has been no instruction in the control group, no change has been evident. The students at Iran Language Institute are exposed to different interactive techniques in language teaching. The classes are equipped with technological devices and the teachers make use of these devices constantly. Regular video classes are held in which students receive natural input through movies in English. The way language is taught in the program is in line with the current literature on developing listening through authentic materials as well as the use of technology and communicative approach (e.g., Hayati & Mohmedi, 2011; Özgen,2008; Rixon, 1986; Rubin, 1995). Additionally, language teaching is presented in an integrated manner at Iran Language Institute (ILI). Listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills practice together. This approach is also in accordance with the literature which emphasizes the integration of skills in order to foster learning (e.g., Brown, 2001; Hinkel, 2006). Students in their supplementary listening classes practice listening strategies which is highly recommended in the literature (e.g., Berne, 2004; Chamot & Küpper, 1989; Jia & Fu, 2011). Due to these reasons, the students may have made progress in their listening skills as the program also aims to foster.
5.1.3. Difference between the developments of both groups
As discussed above, the experimental demonstrated statistically significant development at the end of the 4-week period. When the development that both groups achieved was compared, the experimental group development was found to be higher than the control group, a difference which was statistically significant. This finding is parallel to the literature on teaching listening which suggests that the integration of contrastive based pronunciation teaching into the teaching of listening is more effective in developing listening comprehension skills than solely employing traditional methods such as using technology or adapting listening strategies (e.g., Brown, 1977; Çekiç, 2007; Gilbert, 1995; Morley, 1991; Nunan & Miller, 1995; Rixon, 1986). The reason behind the effectiveness of the contrastive based pronunciation teaching can be explained in reference to the previous literature on listening comprehension. The literature not only suggests integrating listening with pronunciation but also employing segmental feature and paying attention to errors made by the learners focusing on sound discrimination and so forth, all of which existed in the training.
It should be noted that the focus of this study was on segmental features of phonology. The contrastive based pronunciation teaching in the present study included the segmental features (e.g., Demirezen, 2011; Gilakjani & Ahmadi, 2011), however, suprasegmental features cannot be denied; although, according to James (1976), some listeners may not be able to assess the suprasegmental features of L2 speakers such as intonation, pitch, and stress without at the same time being influenced by segmental substitution. These researchers suggest that, the problematic sounds in the target language (because they do not exist in the native language or the places of articulation are different in target and native languages) should be presented to learners particularly in context, and the present study employed this presentation.
In addition, acknowledging this suggestion in the literature, the training that was provided in the present study employed this component of pronunciation. As can be seen, the training pack of the present study included different components of pronunciation and very importantly, it exploited the language scope; that is integrated pronunciation teaching with other language skills (i.e. vocabulary, grammatical skills). Whence, it is implied in the findings of the study that the pronunciation training is expected to be effective in terms of raising pronunciation awareness since it applied all the suggested approaches. What is more, the literature on listening comprehension suggests integrating listening with different language skills (e.g., Ellis, 2003; Fotos, 2001; Hinkel, 2006; Snow, 2005) which is what this study tried to achieve.
Pronunciation and listening were integrated to go beyond their own practices and aims, and the findings of the study revealed a very strong sign of the effectiveness of what it suggested: contrastive based pronunciation teaching as an aid to developing listening comprehension skills. The findings of the present study are parallel with all the studies in the same subject, although it did not test separate features of pronunciation; rather assigned segmental features of pronunciation. Çekiç‟s (2007) study found statistically significant difference between the pre and post-test results of the experimental group (both the segmental and the suprasegmental group) while the control group’s results did not reveal such difference (although the post-test results were not statistically different from one another). Even though, the research designs were different (1. Çekiç‟s dividing the experimental groups into segmental and suprasegmental groups while the present study investigating segmental features, 2.