An Investigation into, and Re-conceptualisation of, Second Language Learners' Metacognitive Awareness and Activity in the Listening Process

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In recent years, there has been a growing body of literature investigating metacognition in second language (L2) listening (e.g. Cross, 2010; Vandergrift & Goh, 2012; Vandergrift & Tafaghodtari, 2010). The theoretical underpinning of the majority of these studies is that metacognition and listening are individual psychological processes. This led to a limited understanding of metacognition in listening that highlights the regulation of oneself, whilst disregarding the communication partner and the wider context. The present study contributed to the existing body of literature by investigating and re-conceptualising metacognition in L2 listening. Informed by a sociocultural and dialogical perspective on discourse and thought, this thesis offered new insights that recognise L2 listeners’ metacognitive awareness and activities as reciprocal monitoring and control processes.International students for whom English was a second/foreign language participated in the study. They worked in pairs on a collaborative problem-solving task and their interactions on this task were video-recorded. Directly after the task, individual interviews with each member of the pair were conducted to gain their accounts of how they perceived the task and how they monitored and regulated the interaction. A grounded theory informed approach was used to analyse the interview data, and a conversation analysis informed approach was used to analyse the interaction data.The findings of this study have established that a wider view of metacognition in L2 listening is required. The re-conceptualisation, underpinned by existing theories and deriving from the study’s empirical data, moved beyond conventional views of metacognition, and argued that the monitoring and control processes in listening are dialogical and reciprocal. This re-conceptualisation was encapsulated in the term Metacognitive Discourse Awareness (MDA). The central tenet of the MDA framework is that metacognition in listening involves the complex regulation of the discourse, thought and social-affective dimensions. This multidimensional framing of MDA entails the listener’s awareness of his/herself as the co-regulator of the other(s) in the reciprocal relationship in which meaning is socially co-constructed and negotiated.This study thus foregrounded the situatedness of the monitoring and control processes in L2 listening and the connections within, between and across the thought, discourse and social-affective dimensions. The thesis concluded with recommendations for L2 teachers and learners to develop a broader understanding of metacognition in the listening process so that this understanding can have an impact on practices in the increasingly diverse global higher education context.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • second language
  • metacognitive awareness
  • listening


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