The effectiveness of increasing language learning strategy awareness for students studying English as a Second Language
Boyce, Alan Edmond
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Learning strategies, the thoughts and actions that learners use to improve their learning, and increase their ability to learn independently, have interested researchers for many years. They are one of the few factors that are known to aid language learning that might be alterable. This raises the prospect that learning strategies could be taught, or improved upon, thereby creating more successful language learners This study assesses the current strategy practices of a group of English language learners, the intention being to increase the learners‟ awareness of their strategy usage and help them identify future learning opportunities. In doing so, the study is assessing the feasibility of class-based strategy introduction and instruction. A teacher/researcher, mixed-methods approach was used for the study, employing quantitative collection methods (including Oxford‟s (1990) SILL – the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning) to measure current strategy usage. Qualitative methods, in the form of focus groups and interviews, were used to gauge participant opinion into their current strategy usage, and to attempt to identify areas that might be regarded as useful ways by which their learning could be improved. The participant sample was a reasonably homogenous one in terms of age, learning experience and learning goals. It consisted of a class of IELTS students at a Chinese international high school, with Chinese, Thai and Korean learners taking part. The inclusive nature of this study helped to reveal highly individual approaches to language learning, not only in terms of the strategies that were used, or thought to be useful for future learning, but in terms of the specific reasons that certain strategies and strategy types might be used. The active discussions that took place encouraged the learners to look at the way they go about their learning and, as a result, also identified specific, individual learning goals that could be included in future teaching methods. The implications here appear to support the introduction of strategy instruction in class, which if conducted in an inclusive manner, could positively affect the way learners go about acquiring their target language, while at the same time clarifying individual learning goals for the teacher, and how these might be most effectively achieved.