Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Research Background
As an English teacher who has been working for more than ten years, the authorhas participated in the high school teaching process and cultivated hundreds of highschool students into colleges and universities of various levels. In communicationwith the former students, the students unanimously shared the view that theyencountered great challenges in English learning at university. They had to overcomethe obstacle of English listening, and even the students who had scored 110 points ormore in the National College Entrance Examination (NEMT) also felt that theirlistening ability was relatively poorer than those admitted from other provinces. As aresult, their confidence in learning English had dropped drastically and their anxietyabout compulsory listening of CET 4 and CET 6 tests had greatly increased. There aresome actual reasons causing this consequence. Above all, teachers and studentsgenerally pay little attention to English listening. Due to various test policies indifferent regions, the English listening test in the National College EntranceExamination in Qinghai Province is only the reference score and not included in thetotal English test score. Therefore, teachers and students pay far less attention to theteaching and learning of English listening than reading and writing, which results in agreat gap between the listening ability and reading or writing for most high schoolstudents, and also the weekly listening teaching hours are not allocated enough inmost high schools. In order to achieve better results in the NEMT, English teachers ofhigh schools have always been focusing their teaching on the training of reading,writing and test-taking skills. What’s more, even during the very limited listeningteaching hours, English listening teaching mode is still stuck in the traditional andrigid “three-step listening methods”, that is, playing the recording, checking the answers, and analyzing the key words of the questions. While the listening materialsused in teaching are also relatively formalized and standardized, the frequency of useof natural corpus in listening teaching and practice is extremely low, which makesstudents passively study in English listening teaching, and taking listening tests tendsto be a mere formality and becomes dispensable in the eyes of both teachers andstudents. Hence, during English listening teaching, phonetics teaching has alwaysbeen a very professional and challenging part for the teachers, which is the teachingcontent that many teachers attempt to avoid in their teaching process, so undoubtedly,phonetics teaching has been in a neglected position in domestic English teachingprocess for a long time. Quite a huge number of learners pay insufficient attention toEnglish phonetics learning, and improper learning strategies are applied. These factorsaffect and restrict the improvement of English phonetic proficiency (Xu Zhaoxing,2015).
1.2 Research Objectives
As the Ministry of Education of China has promoted, the reform of Englishteaching, the “student-centered” teaching mode, requires English teaching payingattention to cultivate students’ comprehensive ability, especially listening andspeaking. However, listening has always been the considerable difficulty for Englishlearners in China. The level of listening competence is to a large extent troubled bythe sound changes in speech stream with the “bottom-up” listening decoding process,which leads to deviations or errors in information acquisition of listening. At present,there have been many studies focusing on field cognitive style and reading ability, aswell as related studied on learning strategies and academic performances. Feng Jiajia(2014) took the field cognitive style as the starting point, and deeply explored the relationship between cognitive styles and reading strategy and performance. Takingthe studied conducted by other researchers as references, the author chose the fieldindependent and field dependent cognitive styles as the theoretical framework of thethesis, aiming at the result of whether the perception of sound changes in Englishlistening of high school students is affected by their individual cognitive styles. To bemore specific, this thesis intends to find out the following questions throughexperimental research:
1. What is the relationship between cognitive styles and English listeningproficiency of senior high school students?
2. How do different cognitive styles (FI/FD) affect the perception of soundchanges in connected speech in English listening for senior high school students?What are the differences?
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Research on Cognitive StylesCognitive styles refer to the internal psychological process of thinking,perception, organization of an individual learner when he/she faces a certain situation.Cognitive methods with individual characteristics, and cognitive differences aremainly manifested in perception and thinking. People’s cognitive style is formed byinnate endowments and the influence of the acquired environment. Because everyonehas different endowments and different living and educational environments, thecognitive styles developed by each person always have personal characteristics.Different cognitive styles have their own characteristics, not only their inherentuniqueness, but also certain stability. The following is a systematic introduction tocognitive styles.
Cognition is about the mental activities involving information processing, whichincludes the processes such as perception, problem solving, memory recalling, anddecision-making.
Cognitive styles are terms in psychology, also known as cognitive modes, whichrefer to the habitual behavior patterns that an individual shows during the cognitiveprocess. Cognitive styles are not related or not significantly related to intelligence, socognitive style is mainly about the attitudes and expressions of perception, memory,problem-solving that are cultivated since childhood (Riding & Pearson, 1994; Riding& Agrell, 1997).
Cognitive styles refer to the consistent and lasting tendencies and characteristicsshown by human when organizing and processing information and experience,reflecting the individual psychological differences in cognitive structure. It is thespecial intelligence function and personality types displayed by individuals inperception, memory and thinking, representing the universal cognitive activities ofhuman (Wang Lifei, 1999).
As linguist W. S. Allen (1973) pointed out that language actually moves, and hecalled the moving form of language “speech stream”. Speech stream or speech flow isactually refers to the utterance of connected speech, which is in contrast to the term ofcitation form. Under the mutual influences or interaction of phonetic contexts,phonemes are inevitably subject to variations in speech streams. Hence, thephenomena of sound changes appear. (Zhou Kaocheng, 2002).
Sound changes in connected speech refer to the phonetic changes of sounds dueto the influence of neighboring sounds in a continuous speech, or because of thevariation of phonetic positions in the speech flow based on the speed, pitch, intonationor stress of the speaker (Ren Guoqing, 1989).
The existence of sound changes in connected speech conform with the principleof saving effort in speaking, which means to helps to simplify the pronunciationmovement, makes the adjacent sounds more close or unified, and adjust the vocalcord states to tending to harmony. Sound changes in connected speech are naturalresults in the process of speaking, which exists in any spoken language.
Chapter 3 Research Design.........................................30
3.1 Research Questions...................................................30
3.2 Research Subjects..............................................31
3.3 Research Instruments........................................31
Chapter 4 Data Analysis and Results Discussion....................................39
4.1 The Relationship between Cognitive Styles and Listening Proficiency................39
4.2 The Effects of Different Cognitive Styles on Sound Changes.............................. 40
Chapter 5 Conclusion.............................49
5.1 Major Findings............................................. 49
5.2 Pedagogical Implications............................50
Chapter 4 Data Analysis and Results Discussion
4.1 The Relationship between Cognitive Styles and ListeningProficiency
In order to explore the relationship between listening proficiency and cognitivestyles of the students, research data will be presented by two sets of scores. First, thescores of English listening test stand for the listening proficiency of the students.Second, the scores of Cognitive Style Figure Test show students’ tendency ofcognitive styles. The results of data will be presented in detail by SPSS22.0 asfollows.
As is shown in table 4-1, the two sets of data presented are from the same groupof subjects, in a total of 100. One set is data of CSFT of the subjects.The total of theCognitive Style Figure Test is 24, and the mean of subjects’ CSFT scores is 10.71,lower than the median 12, which is the standard of field tendency. The highest scoreof cognitive style is 22.50, which is very close the perfect score, so it means that somestudents successfully find out most of the simple figures from the complex figures. Inconsequence, there are typical FI learners among all the subjects. Also, the minimum is 1.5, which means that it is difficult for the subjects to dissociate themselves fromthe external interference to find the simple figures. Thus, there are also typical FDlearners. In addition, the average score is 10.71, which is higher than the nationalaverage 9.76 in the study of Xie and Zhang (1988), because in this experiment, onlysenior high school students are chosen as the subjects instead of farmers, workers andother groups in Xie and Zhang’s research. Thus, the subjects in this study can bettercomplete the tests and thereby obtain higher scores. The other set is data of Listeningtest of the all the subjects. The full score of the listening test is 30, and the mean ofthe listening test for the 100 subjects is 12.85, which shows the average proficiency ofthe subjects. The minimum (4.50) and the maximum (24.00) manifest that theindividual differences on the listening proficiency of the subjects are obvious.
ChapterChapter 5 Conclusion
5.1 Major Findings
According to the analysis of the data of the CSFT, listening test and the LTSCcollected from the subjects, the main findings of the two research questions of thethesis are concluded.
For the first research question, English listening proficiency of the senior highstudents is correlated to their cognitive styles. Students with higher CSFT scores tendto have better English listening ability in senior high schools. Namely, the studentswho get higher scores on the CSFT are more inclined to be the field independentcognitive style, and their listening scores are higher, which is consistent with theconclusion given in previous research by others. Field dependent and fieldindependent cognitive styles are one of the factors that affect English listeningproficiency of senior high school students. Taking advantages of the characteristics ofFI cognitive style, FI learners usually have a higher level of psychologicaldifferentiation and FI learners are good at analyzing problems independently andseldom affected by external factors. As a consequence, FI learners generally performbetter in English listening.
For the second research question, the research results manifested that cognitivestyles of the senior high school students do affect the student’ listening of soundchanges in connected speech, not only are the students with higher scores of the CSFTlikely to get higher scores in the listening test of sound changes, but also FI learners score higher than FD learners in the listening test of sound changes, which alsoindicates that the students with higher English listening sores tend to perform better inthe test of sound changes. Furthermore, the research results have shown that FI andFD learners perform differently on various types of sound changes such asassimilation, liaison, weakening, elision and stress. FI learners have got more scoresin two forms of sound changes which are assimilation and liaison, as one of thefeatures of FI cognitive styles manifest that FI learners rely more on the specificdetails on processing information. The sound changes occur in assimilation andliaison are noticed and recognized. However, as to weakening part, FD learners havedone better than FI learners, which might be benefited from the external influence ofthe nearby environment or related factors, especially when the sound is changed froma strong form to a weak form, the sound has not changed too much. FD learners candefine it easily with the help of the whole sentence or phrase. Finally, not only arethere significant differences shown between the two groups of the learners, but bothgroups have performed poorly in elision and stress. There could be other factors thatmight cause the result, such as the complexity and difficulty of the test questions.Thus these two types of sound changes need further explorations in the future.