Chapter 1 Literature Review of Language Learning Strategies
Research into language learning strategies began in the 1960s, particularly , development in cognitive psychology influenced much of the research done on language learning strategies (Williams & Burden 2000 :149). Since then, there has been a prominent shift within the field of language learning and teaching with greater emphasis being put on learners and learning rather than on teachers and teaching.
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In parallel to this new shift of interest, how learners process new information and what kinds of strategies they employ to understand, learn or remember the information has been the primary concern of the researchers dealing with the area of foreign language learning. Therefore, a lot of researchers have been devoting themselves to the area, among whom best represented by Rubin (1975), Cohen (1981), Wenden (1982), Oxford(1989), O'Malley & Chamot (1990), etc. In China, the research into language learning strategies began in the middle 1980s, such as Huang Xiaohua(1985), Gui Shichun (1988), Liu Runqing (1990), followed by Wen Qiufang(1996) and Cheng Xiaotang(2000).
1.2 Significance of the Studies of English Learning Strategies
Learning is a lifelong task for each person. With the development of the times and the promotion of the English education reform, we, teachers of English have been clearly aware that our duty is not only to teach students language knowledge, what's more, we should teach them to learn to learn. As far as the reality is concerned, the studies of English learning strategies are significant in these regards as follows:
- The studies of English learning strategies meet the needs of the current implementation of quality-oriented education in our country.
At present, quality-oriented education is being carried out in both primary schools and middle schools, whereas quality-oriented education is the one focusing on students' overall development. As we see, the humankind has entered the information and knowledge-based economy era in which science and technology are advancing by bounds and leaps with each passing day. Therefore, students should be equipped with lifelong capabilities of learning if they want to succeed in fierce competitions in future. As teachers of English, we should help students to master the correct methods of learning English, develop students' learning potentials, foster their sound learning habits and bring up the abilities of teaching themselves English so that they can have concrete foundations of English learning after they leave school. In addition, the fosterage of learning strategies is beneficial to developing students' fine personalities as well as their spirits of innovation. No wonder that the newly-issued national English Curriculum Standard (2003:29) points out "Helping students develop sound learning habits and form the effective learning strategies is an important task of English curriculum". Just as the Chinese saying goes, "Give a man a fish and he eats a day; teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime".
- 2. The studies of English learning strategies are conducive to shifting our teachers' traditional beliefs so as to elevate our own quality and thus improving the quality of our teaching and education in large scales.
In the current world, the rapid development of social economy, culture, science and technology have been all the more seeing the traditional beliefs and modes fail to adapt to the modem educational requirements .
Through the studies , we can better update the teachers' educational beliefs and constantly learn new teaching methods and new knowledge to meet the needs of educational reforms. Furthermore, we hold that quality is the absolute principle in the educational career. Regrettably, a lot of problems leading to poor educational quality come down to the inefficient learning methods rather than teaching methods. Hence, if we want to improve the quality of our education and teaching in large scales, we shall regard the studies of learning strategies as the breakthrough point . According to foreign language pedagogy theory, teaching and learning belong to an inseparable organic entity which are interdependent and complementary to each other. All these require we should strengthen the studies of the English learning strategies in middle schools.
- 3. The studies of English learning strategies help the learners(students) become more successful in their learning.
The SLA theory and practice have all the more been proving that the cognition of learning methods plays an increasingly important role in one's learning and the prerequisite to learning English well is to learn how to learn effectively. More and more research results have also shown that the effective learning strategies are quite relevant to one's academic achievements . Biggs(1990) points out that when students are eager to learn and know how to learn, they will be able to achieve ideal achievements. So the studies of English learning strategies are important means to improving students' learning efficiency in an all-round way.
1.3 Language Learning Strategies
Since the emergence of learning strategies, many researchers have been concentrating their attention on language learning strategies, however, defining and classifying language learning strategies has been a major concern for researchers devoted to this area. As language learning strategy studies develop and researchers identify more and more strategies, the classification schemes become more elaborate and complicated, which in themselves are not a problem because they help us to have a better understanding of the nature of language learning strategies.
1.3.1 Definition of Language Learning Strategies
The term language learning strategies has been defined by many researchers. Learning strategies are defined by Rubin(1975:43) as "the techniques or devices that the language learner may use to gain knowledge."
Weinstein and Mayer (1986:315) state that " Learning strategies have learning facilitation as a goal and are intention on the part of the learner, the goal of strategy use is to affect the learner's motivation or affective state, or the way in which the learner selects, acquires, organizes, or integrates new knowledge."
Wenden (1987: 19) defines learning strategies as "...any sets of operations, steps, plans , routines used by the learner to facilitate the obtaining, storage, retrieval, and use of information."
According to Stem (1992:261) , " the concept of learning strategies is dependent on the assumption that learners consciously engage in activities to achieve certain goals and learning strategies can be regarded as broadly conceived intentional directions and learning strategies ."
Williams and Burden (2000:216) define learning strategies as "...series of skills used with a particular learning purpose in mind. They involve an ability to monitor the learning situation and respond accordingly and they also mean being able to assess the situation, to plan, to select appropriate skills, to sequence them, to coordinate them, to monitor or assess their effectiveness and to revise the plan when necessary".
Based on Chinese students' learning and development , the newly-issued National English Curriculum Standard (2003:23) regard learning strategies as "...all kinds of actions and measures students take in order to learn efficiently and develop themselves".
To sum up, we may understand English learning strategies as follows:
Firstly, learning strategies are the complex plans concerning learning process learners make. In a strict sense, all the plans of the learning activities should be different, that's to say, the learning strategies each time used by the learners are quite different. However, relatively speaking, for the same sort of learning, learners may have similar plans, which we may call learning strategies in common use, just like the reading method SQ3R(Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Revise)many learners use.
Secondly, learning strategies are initiatively used by the learners so as to achieve a certain learning goal. Therefore, learners should make appropriate learning plans in the light of their learning tasks accordingly. Generally speaking, learners are conscious when they use certain learning strategies. When the plans are being carried out over and over, learners' level of using them will reach a certain sort of automation.
Thirdly, to use learning strategies is to learn efficiently. On the contrary, if the learners don't use certain strategies in their learning, they may find it difficult to attain their learning aim. In other words, they won't get satisfying effect even if they finally attain a certain aim. Take memorizing English words as an example, given enough time, one can also remember words through mechanical repetition. However, if one uses other methods , the memorizing efficiency may be improved greatly.
1.3.2 Classification of Language Learning Strategies
Classifying language learning strategies has been a major concern for researchers devoted to this field. So far language learning strategies have been classified by many scholars, such as O'Malley(1985), Wenden & Rubin(1987) , Oxford (1990), Stern(1992) , Ellis (1994), Wen Qiufang (1996) and so on.
Let's see a few representative viewpoints:
O'Malley's (1985) classification of language learning strategies
- Cognitive strategies
Rubin's (1987) classification of language learning strategies
/ Learning strategies - Cognitive learning strategies
"Metacognitive learning strategies
-- Communicative strategies
Oxford's(1990) classification of language learning strategies
Direct strategies Memory
Indirect strategies Metacgnitive strategies
Stem's(1992) classification of language learning strategies
Management and planning strategies
Wen Qiufang's (1996) classification of language learning strategies
- Methods- Management methods
As different researchers have given different ways of classification from different aspects . In order to make the operation of English learning strategies instruction and training more convenient and effective, on the basis of National English Curriculum Standard (2003) and taxonomies mentioned. above, on the one hand , I've adopted the following classification according to the role that strategies play in the learning process, that is , affective strategies, cognitive strategies, metacognitive (regulative) strategies, communicative strategies and resourceful strategies; on the other hand, in accordance with the fields of language knowledge and language skills, I've listed strategies for learning vocabulary, grammar, and strategies for developing listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. The former will be penetrated in my daily English teaching (Strategy-based instruction) and the latter will be trained through special lectures.
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1.3.3 Factors Influencing Language Learning Strategies
The use of learning strategies is not an isolated phenomenon. The mastery and adoption of students' learning strategies are undoubtedly affected by various factors. So the research and investigation into these factors will surely be of great help to teachers who are engaged in learning strategies instruction and training, as the teachers can control or eliminate the disturbance of these elements. Furthermore, the research into the factors influencing learning strategies plays an extremely important role in shortening students' learning time and improving their learning efficiency and making the strategies instruction and training more targeted. As we know , learners(students) and teachers are two closely related aspects in teaching, so the factors influencing the mastery and adoption of students' learning strategies mainly derive from students and teachers.
22.214.171.124 Motivation and Interest
By motivation, I mean the term of describing , arising, maintaining and guiding of the human behaviors. To some extent, motivation is the driving power of human behaviors. Therefore, motivation is very important when students learn English. They are believed to be always dominated by a certain motivation. In the educational field, motivation is a very important requirement to keep the education and class-teaching going smoothly and effectively.
Motivation is the most frequently used term for explaining success or failure in virtually any complex task. It's easy to claim that a motivated learner will do better in language learning. This is of course not groundless, for countless studies and experiments have demonstrated that motivation is a key to success in language learning. But researches also show only neither too high nor too low learning motivation can improve learning efficiently.
It's clear that if learning motivation is too low, higher efficiency can't be achieved. Students with lower learning motivation are usually short of study enthusiasm. They are the passive participants in the learning activity and their learning efficiency will be negatively influenced. Students with too high of a motive intensity will fail to face difficulties confidently, fail to take part in the communication calmly and their potentials for study will not be desirable.
According to Oxford and Nyikos'(1989: 404-19) research, the higher the learner's motivation is , the more learning strategies and the more frequently he will use. As we know, learning is a kind of ,conscious activity, only when students hove the definite awareness to improve their learning and the strong desire to master learning strategies will they positively be able to find out and summarize strategies leading to success. Also, the outer learning strategies instruction and training can be internalized.
In addition, the intensity of students' learning motivation determines what kind of strategies they will choose and therefore affects the efficiency of their strategy use. For example, Biggs'(1990) research shows that students with extrinsic motivation tend to choose mechanic learning strategies while those with intrinsic motivation tend
to choose meaningful organizing learning strategies; and students with higher motivation tend to use more frequently the learning strategies they have mastered while those with lower motivation are insensitive to the use of strategies. OO According to Gardner and Lambert(1972) , learners mainly with instrument motivation tend to use communicative learning strategies more frequently.
Last but not least, interest is an important aspect in motivation. Interest is aroused and developed on the basis of needs. When one shows interest in certain things, they'll undoubtedly take positive attitudes towards them. As Einstein once said "Interest is the best teacher." Some British psychologists' experiments have proved that interest rather than intelligence can better promote students' autonomous learning. Therefore, teachers should design creative and lively teaching activities and new forms and ways through various teaching media to help students learn better.
What is personality? How is it to be generally delineated and understood ? In psychology, Eysenck (1974) occupies a pivotal position in this field. He elaborates a most comprehensive and objective approach to the study of personality. His theory, using dichotomies, identifies the general traits: extrovert/introvert and neurotic/stable. As for personality influencing foreign language learning, more researches are concerned with exploring the personality of extroversion and introversion.
Traditionally, it has often been assumed that learners who are extroverts will be better and faster foreign language learners, who are generally more sociable and gregarious. They enjoy change and excitement. Extroverts will be more actively involved with the language than their introvert classmates. They will be more responsible to the input they get, be keener to try producing their own foreign language utterances and so have more opportunities to build up and test hypotheses about the language. It's also most noticeable in the language classroom where the teacher likes talkative, outgoing students who participate freely in class discussions. On the other hand, introverts are often thought of as reserved, bookish and slow. Unfortunately, this prejudice has had a considerable influence on language teaching, which vie should be careful with.
So far, Griffiths' (1991) viewpoints have been widely accepted: introverts have advantages over extroverts in developing their cognitive academic language ability, as they usually spend more time in grammar, reading and writing and they are good at observing and thinking. While extroverts are capable in basic interpersonal communication skills, as they have more opportunities and more language input. This is also in accordance with Zhu Chun's conclusion(1 994:347). In my opinion , as far as my 13 years' teaching practice is concerned, these ideas are authoritative. So it needs to be judged fairly in our teaching practice. Personally, in our daily learning strategies instruction and specialized training, I'd like to propose that we teachers of English should consciously encourage students to be extroverted, while at the same time being
1990, ( -fj kEi 03N*)IY. ]e~l t, M 122 ;
aware of the optimum between extroversion and introversion, which may vary from student to student, from moment to moment.
126.96.36.199 Learning Styles
The way we learn things in general and the particular attack we make on a problem seem to hinge upon a rather amorphous link between personality and cognition_ This link is called learning style or cognitive style. Ellis (1985) states "Cognitive style is a term used to refer to the manner in which people perceive, conceptualize , organize and recall information. Each person is considered to have a more or less consistent mode of cognitive functioning." According to Wedell, M & Liu Runqing (1995:209) " Cognitive style refers to the ways that individuals organize, analyze and recall new information and experiences." Up till now, different researchers have identified different types of learning styles from different angles. For instance, Margaret. Morgan (1982:52) identifies 16 types of learning styles from two dimensions: extroversion-introversion; sense-intuition. Cl) Reid (1987) identifies as Audio-Sense Type, Visual-Sense Type, Moval-Sense Type, Touch-Sense Type from the angel of different sensories. OO As far as the researches are concerned, the more detailed the divisions are, the better we can perform. However, in daily applications we find them too trivial. To make our studies convenient and operable, a distinction is made between Field-Dependent and Field- Independent language learners in the light of students' perceptional styles.
The following are seen in our practical English teaching:
Field-dependent students are more positively influenced by their teachers; they perform better on structural tasks than unstructured; they don't try to analyze or think about English themselves; they are very reliant on what other people think of them and depend a great deal on positive feedback in their English learning; they tend to be seen as outgoing and interested in others and they are usually perceptive of the feelings and thoughts of others. In contrast, field-independent students do better without teacher's interference; they are good at fmding patterns, organizing data to make generalizations and learning rules and they have a strong sense of personal identity and often seem insensitive to and distant from others.
It's possible to say that these characteristics are not totally related to the styles of field independence or dependence, but it's necessary for us teachers to be conscious of these cognitive elements in English teaching. What I would claim is that individual student vary their utilization of field dependence or field independence, depending on the context of learning. If a task requires field independence, individuals may invoke their field-independent style; if it requires field dependence, they may invoke a field-dependent style. Obviously, our role is to understand the preferred style of each student and to encourage the appropriate style for the context in our learning strategies
Gordon Lawrence. 1982:52-53. People Types and Tiger Strips. Centre for Application of Psychological Type, Inc. ( Reid, J. 1987. The Learning Styles Preferences of ESL Students. TESOL Quarterly 21: 87-111 instruction and specialized training. It's worth mentioning that English learners themselves should be aware of their own learning styles so that they can make full of their own characteristics.
Subjectively speaking, learners won't consciously choose and use learning strategies in line with their own intelligence, as learners are not necessarily aware of their own intelligence, furthermore, there hasn't been evident relationship between intelligence and learning strategies so far. However, objectively speaking, intelligence is still a factor influencing the formulation and choice of learners' learning strategies to some extent, as we know, some learning strategies require learners' higher intelligence, for example, when learners are required to summarize grammatical rules through language analysis and observation. Although the less intelligent learners may also attempt to foster and use these strategies, the efficiency when they use these strategies will surely be not as high as those more intelligent learners. Gradually, they will abandon these learning strategies consciously or unconsciously and thus they may turn to other learning strategies.
The research into language strategies training has proved that the more intelligent students tend to develop their own effective learning strategies spontaneously through trying to figure out teacher's daily interpretations and summarizing experiences in solving problems. While for the general intelligent students, they tend to develop their learning strategies through teacher's specific and explicit instructions or training. For the poor students, they need not only teacher's specific help and explicit interpretations but constant practice as well. In this case, they can use the learning strategies they've got mechanically , but when the learning tasks , learning environment or learning contexts are changeable , they are at a loss as to how to choose appropriate learning strategies, or rather, even if they use the strategies, they still fail to solve problems effectively.
It should be pointed out that intelligence is only one of the factors influencing students' formulation _ and adoption, but not the mere condition. It's shared understanding that the more intelligent learners won't necessarily master the effective learning strategies naturally; while those who can't master effective learning strategies are not necessarily the less intelligent learners.
188.8.131.52 The Teacher
Teaching, as a kind of cognition, is mainly embodied through students' understanding, which is believed that students are the subjects of teaching. However, in the process of teaching, students' cognition is not isolated, but conducted by the teacher. As a result, students' acquirement , choice and application in learning strategies are dominated by the teacher. The teacher may influence students' formulation and adoption of learning strategies directly or indirectly. The direct influence refers to the teacher's special or embedded learning strategies training in
English teaching. In terms of the teacher's indirect influence, I mainly refer to the teacher's teaching experience, teaching methods and teaching procedures, all of which may exert a subtle influence on the formulation of learners' learning strategies. For example, an experienced teacher may have the following impacts on students' acquirement and adoption of learning strategies:
- In teaching practice, the teacher is good at recognizing important learning strategies, and clearly aware which strategies are crucial to students of different ages, which strategies are indispensable to different learning tasks. Therefore, the teacher is able to teach students the appropriate strategies effectively in the light of students' characteristics of different ages and meet the needs of different learning tasks.
- The teacher is constantly trying to seek new learning strategies . With the in-depth of the theory research and summarization of pragmatic teaching experience, learning strategies have been creating and discovering accordingly. The experienced teacher has to explore and seek new learning strategies in the light of teaching requirements , also, the teacher will provide the students with new learning strategies so that they may master more learning strategies effectively.
- The teacher is adept in choosing the appropriate learning strategies materials and making the materials more relevant and typical, which will make the selected materials in accordance with the students' cognitive characteristics and personality, fully reflect the learning strategies being trained and also arouse students' learning interest.
- The teacher is adept in converting the so-called "implicit" requirements of the teaching contents into "explicit" ones. It means that the teacher will be able to teach the learning strategies vaguely and consciously.
- The teacher is able to raise students' awareness of learning and mastering learning strategies with the help of the outer teaching requirements at the right moment. That's to say , when students are unconscious of the learning strategies, the teacher is able to stir their awareness efficiently; when students are subconscious of the learning strategies, the teacher is able to promote them consciously and clearly. Little by little, the students will learn to improve their learning , summarize their own experience and accumulate their learning strategies, which will undoubtedly help augment their learning efficiency.
On the other hand, whether the teacher can adopt his teaching methods appropriately will also have an important impact on students' formulation and adoption of learning strategies. As it's known to us that learning strategies , after all, are kind of implicit learning techniques, the teacher who can adopt appropriate teaching methods will be able to make the abstract.teaching contents more specific, more vivid and more illustrative.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that when the teacher has a profound understanding of the characteristics of the teaching procedures , he will teach students necessary learning strategies at the pivotal links and crucial periods. Similarly, in learning
strategies instruction and training, the teacher can adopt the elicitation method rather than cramming method . Then the students can draw interferences about other cases from one instance with the teacher's unraveling at certain crucial moments.
184.108.40.206 Other Factors
Besides the factors mentioned above, learner's age also has a conspicuous influence upon students' formulation and adoption of learning strategies. With the growth of age, learners' cognitive abilities will grow accordingly. As far as the learners are concerned, the periods can be divided into three periods: pre-school period, primary-school period and high-school period. C On the basis of the actual circumstances, the thesis is mainly focused on the high -school period. Although learners' cognitive abilities are growing rapidly, and their cognitive ways are being enriched gradually, without the teacher's help and instruction , high school students still can't develop and adopt learning strategies spontaneously and systematically. In view of this fact, learning strategies instruction and training among high school students is quite necessary.
Indeed, there may be different factors influencing students' mastery and adoption of learning strategies. Therefore, in our learning strategies instruction and training, we should take the following factors into full consideration: students' learning motivation, personality, intelligence, learning styles, the teacher's teaching methods and so on, because these studies will make our learning strategies instruction and training more directed, shorten students' learning time and improve students' learning efficiency.
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