Gebhard (2000: 143) is of the opinion that listening is not a passive skill but an active one because we need to be receptive to others, which include paying attention to explanations, questions, and opinions. Similarly, Brown (2001:249) also defines that listening is an interactive process involving a number of different cognitive, psychomotor, and affective mechanisms. Gebhard (2000:144) states that listening comprehension activity involves two distinct processes, bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing in listening refers to a process of decoding a message that the listener hears through the analysis of sounds, words and grammar. Top-down process in listening refers to the process of using background knowledge to comprehend a message. The background knowledge can be in the form of previous knowledge about the topic, in the form of situational knowledge, and in the form of ‘schemata’ or plans about the overall structure of events and the relationship between them.
Gunning in Casper, et al. (1998) defines a schema as an organized knowledge that one already has about people, places, things, and events. The schemata relates especially to our real-world experiences and the expatiations we have, based on our experiences, about how people behave. The schemata we draw from includes our experience in assigning specific kinds of interaction to an event, the way we categorize language, and the ability to predict a topic in discourse and infer a sequence of events (Gebhard, 2000:145)
There are two purposes of listening: interactional function which is focusing on creating harmonious interaction among individuals, and transactional function which is focusing on transferring information and it is important for the listener to comprehend the content of the speaker’s message.
Gebhard (2000: 147) states that we can provide the students with a variety of listening activities. The following are some of the listening activities for EFL students as suggested by Gebhard: (a) identifying linguistic feature, (b) a stress and rhythm listening activity, (c) a minimal pair listening activity, (d) responding to request and commands, (e) interacting as a listener, (f) eavesdropping, and (g) comprehending extended speech.
Teachers should be familiar with some practical principles for designing listening comprehension teaching technique. Brown (2001: 258-260) summarizes some of the listening teaching technique principles as elaborated in the following. First, in an interactive, four-skills curriculum, teachers should not overlook the importance of techniques that specifically develop listening comprehension competence. The second principle is that teachers should use techniques that are intrinsically motivating. In order to appeal to the students’ personal interest and goals, teachers should take into full account the experiences, goals and abilities of the students in designing lessons. The next principle is utilizing authentic language and context to enable students to see the relevance of classroom activity to their long-term communicative goals. The fourth is carefully considering the form of listeners’ responses to see whether or not their comprehension has been correct. Another principle is encouraging the development of listening strategies because most foreign language students are simply not aware of how to listen. The last principle in designing listening technique is that teachers should include both bottom-up and top-down listening techniques, because both of them can offer keys to determining the meaning of spoken discourse.