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Language Learning Strategies

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  • 1. Language Learning Strategies : Students’ and Learners’ Perceptions Carol Griffiths
  • 2. Abstract • Although issues related to learner variables have received considerable attention over the years, issues related to teachers have not been researched thoroughly. This study aimed to investigate the point of intersection of teachers’ and learners’ perceptions regarding language learning strategies. Actually this study examined reported frequencies of strategies used by international students and teachers perceptions regarding the importance of strategy use. Although students’ and teachers’ perceptions were not perfectly matched , results indicated that there was a high level of accord (71 percent) between strategies which students were using and those teachers were using which were respectively highly frequent and important.
  • 3. Background • Over the years a great deal of research has been carried out into learners variables which might affect language learning such as nationality, age, gender and motivation among many others. The variable on which the present article will focus is students’ language learning strategy use. For the purpose of the present article language learning strategies will be taken to mean “ Activities consciously chosen by learners for the purpose of regulating their own language learning”. • Although teachers have essential roles in teachings and learning processes, issues related to teachers have not attracted the same degree of attention which is paid to learner variables. The importance of finding out more about teacher perceptions of language learning strategies is underlined by the research which suggests that teachers are generally not aware of their students’ language learning strategies.
  • 4. • For example a teacher may believe in an special strategy usage on the part of the students, which is quite contrary to what his/her students actually report they use. When the well known Strategy Inventory for Language Learning or SILL( Oxford1990) was used to examine students’ reported frequency of use of six types of language learning strategies ( Memory, Cognitive, Compensation, Metacognitive, Affective and Social) as well as teachers’ perceptions of how often these six strategy groups were used by their students( Griffiths and Parr2001), the results indicated that students’ and teachers’ perceptions did not coincide at any point. Nunan(1988) also talks of clear mismatches between learners’ and teachers’ view. • This article is conducted at a private English language school for international students in New Zealand. This study used a real classroom situation to investigate students’ language learning strategy use. The class involved was called Study Skill class.
  • 5. The school context • After the Study skills class was setup, the strategy Inventory for Language Learning or SILL (Oxford1990) was used but because of some drawbacks it was not suitable for students in this setting. In deed, a few of them reported using rhyme or flashcards, and they often found it difficult to understand what these strategies involved. On the other hand, some other strategies which were used by students were more frequent for example consulting a dictionary, was not included in the SILL. For the above mentioned reasons, it was decided to create a new questionnaire which was more reflective of actual usage in the current setting. • In order to reduce the difficulty of classifying strategies into Oxford’s (1990) memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, social and affective categories, teachers decided to state the strategies without any category.
  • 6. • Since they found that many strategy items could be included in more than one group, e.g. a strategy such as looking for opportunity to speak in English , might be considered both Metacognitive ( because of selfmanagement ) and Social (because of interaction ). • Research question: • How do teachers’ reported perceptions of the importance of language learning strategies correspond with students’ overall reported frequency of strategy use and reported frequency of use of specific strategy items? • Instrument: • The new questionnaire was developed over a period of one month. It was actually a list of 32 items some of which suggested by the students themselves and the others were constructed by teachers. The new questionnaire was called the English Language Learning Strategy Inventory(ELLSI)which was used instead of SILL.
  • 7. • Students were asked how often they used the strategy items, using a 5-point Likert scale from 1( never or almost never) to 5( always or almost always). The same was true of teachers, who were asked to rate the items in terms of importance from 1( very low) to 5 ( very high). • Participants: • Over a period of three months ELLSI was completed by 131 students. There were both male(N= 55) and female( N= 76) students from 14 different nations ( Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Italy, Argentina, Thailand, Germany, Indonesia, Lithuania, Austria, Taiwan, Brazil, China, Hong Kong). Their ages ranged from 14 to 64 and students were spread over seven course levels: elementary, mid-elementary, upper-elementary, pre-intermediate, midintermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced. In addition to the students, 34 English teachers who were speakers of other languages (ESOL) in New Zealand, who were teaching at the language school at the time, returned the teachers’ version of the questionnaire. • The sentence is vague. Correct it urself.
  • 8. Data analysis : • The collected data was entered onto SPSS to enable data analysis to be carried out. The average reported frequency of language learning strategy use across all students was calculated for each strategy item and overall, and the number of strategies used at a high rate of frequency( defined as average =3.5 or above, cf.Oxford1990) was counted. • In order to get the patterns of strategies used by higher and lower level students, the sample is divided into two groups: the lower level included elementary, mid-elementary, and upper-elementary students(N= 73), and the higher level included pre-intermediate, mid-intermediate, upperintermediate and advanced students (N= 58). • The data obtained from the teachers’ ELLSI questionnaire(N= 34)were also analyzed. The number of strategies which teachers considered highly important (average3.5 or above) were also counted. These results were then compared with those of the students.
  • 9. Results: • The relationship between course level and overall reported frequency of language learning strategy use as measured by the ELLSI was found to be significant(r =0.35, p< 0.01, N = 131). Although this is not a strong relationship, it is more than would be expected merely by chance and suggests the usefulness of further research into the relationship between course level and language learning strategy use. The students reported an average frequency of language learning strategy use overall ELLSI items of 3.1, while lower level students reported a low average of frequency 2.9 than higher level students 3.5 or above. Seven items were considered as the highly used across all students, while there were 5 strategy items for lower level and 15 strategy items for higher level students. On the other hand 17 strategy items with high level of importance(average=3.5 or above).
  • 10. • perhaps because homework is set by the teacher whereas revision is more likely to be self-directed. Then students prefer teacher-directed study while teachers were expecting students to take more responsibility for their own learning, that may reflect different educational tradition of teacher and student and cause a lack of accord between student and teacher expectations. • As you can see in the table item 13 (using dictionary) is also not reported as being considered highly important by teachers, although it is reported as being used highly frequent across all students. Furthermore low level students reported using a dictionary more frequently ( average= 4.2) than higher level students( average= 4.1). This raises a question regarding teaching practice : since higher level students reported using dictionaries less often than lower level students, should dictionary use in classroom be discouraged, or even banned, or should dictionaries be accepted as a necessary support without which lower level students would struggle to cope with the demands of learning a new language?
  • 11. Areas of disagreement: • A possible area for disagreement would be the twelve strategies which teachers reported as highly important but which students across all levels did not report to be highly frequent ( items 3,4,7,9,15,16,18, 19, 22, 24,28,32). This gap in student / teacher perception is most salient in the case of the two strategies which students overall reported least frequent which are item 32( writing a dairy, student average = 1.9) and item 9( using language learning games, student average= 2.1), teachers on the contrary reported these two strategies as highly important, indicating another perceptual gap which lead another question: whether these two strategies are important for language learning or not? And whether or not students should use them more frequently than they do now?
  • 12. Conclusion: • • Overall, it is useful to discover that a learner variable ( language learning strategy) which was found to be significantly correlated with course level, is considered highly important by teachers, giving the assumption that teachers might therefore be expected to promote language learning strategy use by their students. Although as might be expected, there are some strategies where teacher perceptions of importance and student reported frequency of use are mismatched, it is encouraging in terms of implications for the efficacy of what goes on in the classroom to have discovered that teachers report a strong awareness of the importance of language learning strategies and that so many (71 percent) of the strategies which students report using highly frequently are considered important by teachers as well. These findings which are somehow on the contrary to the findings of previous studies(e.g. Griffiths and Parr 2001)reflect a growing awareness of the importance of language learning strategies in the language learning and teaching area generally.
  • 13. Thanks For Your Attention