University of Leicester
2021_KILBON_J_PhD.pdf (4.03 MB)
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L2 student perceptions regarding their comprehension of academic lectures – a longitudinal study

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posted on 2022-01-31, 12:51 authored by Jayn Kilbon
Despite the significant number of postgraduate students studying in a second language (L2 students) at British universities, there is little in situ research into their comprehension of academic lectures. This thesis investigates the perceptions of L2 students, with a language level equivalent to IELTS 6.5, regarding lecture comprehension and compares their perceptions with those of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) tutors and academic lecturers.
Qualitative data was collected via a series of semi-structured interviews. Seven students were interviewed six times over a nine-month period, and ten EAP practitioners and five academic lecturers were each interviewed once. The data was analysed thematically and two main themes were identified: processing aural input and multi-tasking in lectures.
The students perceived significant problems with the cognitive aural processing of lecture input, both at a lower-level: decoding input and recognizing vocabulary; and at a higher-level: constructing meaning from the input. These issues are predominantly related to linguistic proficiency and prior knowledge of the lecture content. The students also identified that simultaneous listening and reading, or listening and writing, negatively impacted on their comprehension. The lecturers had similar perceptions to those of the students.
There were, however, significant differences in the students’ perceptions regarding the listening tasks in the pre-sessional EAP course and their lecture experiences on the master’s courses. This raises questions about the design of pre-sessional EAP listening strands which often teach listening as an isolated skill. The EAP tutors interviewed also lacked knowledge about the problems which L2 students may encounter in academic lectures.
The findings identified from the student perceptions improve the understanding of issues which impact on the lecture comprehension of L2 students at this language level. The research also suggests that these students require considerable support in order to learn from academic lectures, and that EAP departments should take a more holistic approach to developing students’ lecture comprehension skills.



Julie Norton; Jim Askham

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD