Language Learning Strategies :
Students’ and Learners’
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.
• 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.
• 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’
• 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.
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
• 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?
• 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.
• 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).
• 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.
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.
• 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).
• 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
• 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?
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?
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
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.