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The Curious Case of Improving Foreign Language Listening Skills by Reading Rather than Listening: an Expertise Reversal Effect

Abstract

The expertise reversal effect occurs when instruction that is effective for novice learners is ineffective or even counterproductive for more expert learners. Four experiments designed to explore the expertise reversal effect in the field of teaching and learning foreign language listening skills were conducted. Three instructional formats (read-only, listen-only, and read-and-listen) were designed to teach native Chinese students English (experiments 1–3) or French (experiment 4) listening skills. Experiment 1 found a significant interaction with no effect for learners with lower levels of listening expertise but a significant effect for learners with higher levels of listening expertise favoring the read-only approach. The results of experiment 2 replicated the counterintuitive findings of experiment 1. Experiment 3 testing less knowledgeable students than experiments 1 and 2 indicated that the read-and-listen condition was more effective for novice learners. Experiment 4 testing beginner-level learners of French as a foreign language obtained results consistent with those of experiment 3 in that lower expertise learners gained greater benefits from the read-and-listen than the read-only or listen-only teaching approaches. It is concluded that the read-and-listen approach benefitted novice learners but more expert learners could benefit more from the read-only approach.

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Correspondence to John Sweller.

Appendices

Appendix A

Table 5 Instructional material used in experiment 1, phase III: learning passage, Flight UA 755
Table 6 Phase IV: subjective rating of cognitive load

Appendix B

Table 7 Instrument of subjective rating of cognitive load used in experiments 2, 3, and 4, phase IV: subjective rating of cognitive load

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Jiang, D., Kalyuga, S. & Sweller, J. The Curious Case of Improving Foreign Language Listening Skills by Reading Rather than Listening: an Expertise Reversal Effect. Educ Psychol Rev 30, 1139–1165 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-017-9427-1

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Keywords

  • Cognitive load theory
  • Expertise reversal effect
  • Teaching foreign language listening skills