The statement Of The Problem And Justification Of The Study (Significance)
In spite of growing interest on developing foreign language learners' communicative competence besides their linguistic knowledge through teaching some certain strategies in language classrooms, language learners have infrequent use of these communicative strategies as reported by Donato and MacCormic (1994) .The research conducted by Nyikos and Oxford on the strategy use of 1200 language learners indicated that the strategies dealing with the development of real communicative competence were rarely used by language learners.
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Speaking from my personal experiences, language learners are incapable of developing learning strategies in their context of learning due to their unfamiliarity with appropriate strategies in their learning context. The evidence from my colleagues' experiences confirms this undesirable fact as well. The evidence taken from my classes and my colleagues' indicate that language learners have different reasons. Some for instance, don't speak in English inside and even outside the language classroom, because they simply think that others will laugh at them or some get nervous when they are confronted with teachers' spontaneous questions. This problem is partly due to teachers whose teaching style doesn't focus the practice on functional strategies. As an example , one of my colleagues obliged his students to memorize seven words per day as a vocabulary learning strategy without sufficient practice on their contextual use, which may be considered as a barrier for the learner in terms of un ability to use the words in realistic communicative context. For instance, trying to talk or communicate with a foreigner. Furthermore, assessment methods by some teachers hiders real communicative interaction. Donato and MacCormic (1994) justify the ‘impoverished strategy use ‘of language learners in two ways:” First classrooms often do not provide opportunities for functional language practice; second, when they do incorporate more realistic communication patterns and processes , often the examinations and grading procedures do not reflect authentic and purposeful language use, students may lack the motivation to carry out these functional practice strategies even if they are made aware of them”(p.453). In this case whatever the language learners do is to satisfy the teachers expectations in the planned course objectives or assessment scale which in turn reduces the learners' motives for developing communicative strategies and then strategic learning.
From the explanation of the mentioned points , it can be interpreted that foreign language learners' difficulties have sources in culture of their class- room , i.e. Learning context in general and teaching and assessment methods in particular. Socio -cultural researchers (Mitchell , 2004 ,Lantolf,2000) believe that culture of a classroom consists of ‘mediating tools' , ‘mediating objects' and ‘mediators' which can be generalized under the title of ‘mediating agents'.
The basic claim of socio-cultural theory introduced by Vygotsky (1986) is that “higher forms of human mental activity are mediated by culturally auxiliary means”(p.26). Considering this view, language learning strategies (LLSs) can be constructed from the primary social practice in the class room culture.(Donato and MacCormic 1994) make an evidence “that supports the notion that the development of LLS is mainly a by -product of mediation and socialization into a community of language learning practice”(p.453). Furthermore, in the study conducted by Donato and MacCormic (1994) LLSs are defined as “the types of goal-directed actions “ and are incorporated into higher mental processes.
The above- mentioned beliefs support the claim that in order to understand the nature of LLSs ,sustaining the presupposition that learners' strategy use depends to some extent on the possibilities their learning context offer, a socio-cultural approach appears necessary. It seems that by reconfiguring the socio-cultural context of the class room and by creating new forms of mediation , Donato and MacCormic (1994) in terms of learning context , teaching and assessment method , the present study may present a guideline in reducing the foreign language learners' loads of learning and create an atmosphere of strategic learning. To come to this purpose , language teachers are suggested to take the efficacy of socio-cultural approach in developing a deeper understanding of language learners' learning and their strategy use and try to provide a learning context free from any stress which can be designed by a change in teachers' method of teaching and assessment. (for example, practice on contextual use of vocabulary instead of asking the learners to memorize long list of words or items).
Providing such an atmosphere in language classroom will help the learners be responsible for their own progress and develop learning strategies through the flexibility and adaptability of language learning strategies to other language activities that will lead to strategic and self-directed learning. This can also be a key factor in being as Donato and MacCormic (1994) believe a ‘competent and motivated members of their social community'. In other words, the mediation of their learning environment will help the learners explore some actual strategies, regulate their learning, have a sense of self-assessment by setting accurate and communicative goals and finally meet a self-directed learning. Pedagogically this achievement will contribute to the selection of tasks and classroom activities.
This research is designed to:
1. examine the effect of mediation on the development of learning strategies in Iranian social context;
2. understand learners' perceptions of the factors which help them develop learning strategies;
3. investigate the ways through which culture of the classroom enhances strategic learning;
In order to attend the mentioned objectives , the current study will try to answer these questions:
1. How does mediation of teacher's method of teaching affect learners' strategy development?
2. How does the mediation of teacher's assessment method affect learners' strategy development?
3. What are the learners' perceptions of the factors which help them develop learning strategies?
4. How does the culture of the language classroom contribute to the growth of strategic learning?
In previous years ,very effective studies were reported in the field of second language acquisition in general and language learning strategies(LLSs) in particular, (Cohen,1998, Dornnyei,2000a,Dornnyei and Skehan, 2003,Rubin, 1987,O'malley and chamot,1995 and Oxford,1990)however as Donato and MacCormic, Ellis,1994 and Wenden,1998 note most of them have incorporated LLSs into the cognitive or psychological framework, i.e. defining, listing, and classifying the strategies emphasizing on the factors influence the strategy choice and use. Some other studies were carried out which particularly examined LLSs from socio-cultural perspective. As a result the present research tries firstly to have a deeper understanding of LLSs in general then specifically look at them through the lens of two perspectives, i.e. psychological and socio-cultural to bridge the gap between them on second language(L2) learner strategies and accordingly will try to present a comprehensive background of socio-cultural approach with its relevant theories.
Language Learning Strategies
Language learning strategies (LLSs) have become one of the research foci in second language studies since the 1970s. According to the literature on LLss, Weinster and Mayer (1986, in Ellis 1994) learning strategies are defined as "the behaviors and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning that are intended to influence in the learning encoding process." Among the early researchers (e.g. O'Malley and Chamot 1990; Oxford 1990; Wenden 1987 who have made great effort on the concept, definitions and classification of LLSs) Oxford's (1990) models of LLSs have been considered the most comprehensive and outstanding so far (Ellis, 1994). According to Oxford, LLSs are "specific actions taken by the learner to make learning faster, more enjoyable, more self directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situation." (1998,:8)
The literature on learning strategies shows some problems with the definitions.
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish whether the definitions are 'mental' or 'behavioral' or both, and whether they have direct or indirect effect on language development, what is clear is that: (Ellis, 1994)
1.Strategies refer to both general approaches and specific actions or techniques used to learn an L2.
2.Strategies are problem-oriented -the learner deploys a strategy to overcome some particular learning problem.
3.Some strategies are behavioral while others are mental. Thus some strategies are directly observable, while others are not.
4.In the main, strategies contribute indirectly to learning by providing learners with data about the L2 which they can then process. However, some strategies may also contribute directly (for example, memorization strategies directed at specific lexical items or grammatical rules).
5.Strategy use varies considerably as a result of both the kind of talk the learner is engaged in and individual learner preferences.
The current literature reveals that learning strategies are helpful in making learners autonomous. According to Oxford(in Carter and Nunan 2001) "learning strategies also enhance self-efficacy, individuals' preparation that they can successfully complete a task or series of tasks”(p.42)
In order to have a good understanding of learning strategies, it is better to review the order of classification. One outstanding classification is the one in O'Malley and Chamot's framework which is done in accordance with their research i.e. "information-processing model." In this framework, cognitive strategies refer to 'the steps or operations used in problem-solving that require direct analysis, transformation or synthesis of learning materials." (Rubin 1987, in Ellis 1994). Some of these cognitive strategies are 'repetition' as Rubin believes (imitating a language model, either covertly or overtly), 'note taking' (writing down information presented orally),(relating new concept to other information in memory). The second type is 'meta cognitive strategies' which are in fact "making use of knowledge about cognitive process and constitute an attempt to regulate language learning by means of planning, monitoring and evaluating." Examples given by Chamot (1990:.82)are directed attention of language input and 'self-management' (displaying understanding of the conditions which help learning and trying to bring this about). The third type is known as 'social affective strategies.' This type deals with the selected ways by the learners in which they interact with native speakers or other learners. But the most comprehensive classification of learning strategies has been provided by Oxford. Her classification scheme was used as a criterion for designing a questionnaire to learning strategies.
'The Strategy Inventory for Language learning (SILL) as Oxford,(1990), asserts contains sixty-four strategies divided into two main groups, 'primary strategies' and 'supporting strategies'. In her framework, a general distinction is made between direct and indirect strategies as two sub-categories of learning strategies shown in a diagram.
Oxford defines direct strategies as the areas that directly involve the 'target language' in the sense that they 'require mental processing of the language', while indirect strategies 'provide indirect support for language learning through focusing, planning, evaluating, seeking opportunities, controlling anxiety, increasing cooperation and empathy and other means'. (1990) The framework shows that 'memory strategies', 'cognitive' and 'compensation strategies' are types of direct strategies, while 'meta cognitive', 'Affective' and 'social strategies' are types of indirect strategies.
In Oxford's model (1990) all kinds of strategies help the learners in different ways. For example, ‘meta cognitive strategies' help learners in self-regulation, ‘affective strategies' are linked to learner's emotional requirements such as self-confidence, ‘cognitive strategies' support learners in terms of mental processes during their learning. They help learners make and reinforce association between new and existing knowledge.(O'Malley and Chamot 1990,Oxford 1990, 1996)
‘Compensation strategies' are helpful in the sense of developing communication by overcoming the information gaps and ‘memory strategies' are used for keeping and storing information in learner's mind. Oxford's (1990:17) detailed taxonomy of LLSs provides examples for each kind:
A. Creating mental linkages
B. Applying images and sounds
C. Reviewing well
D. Employing action
B. Receiving and sending messages strategies
C. Analyzing and reasoning
D. Creating structure for input and output
3. Compensation Strategies
A. Guessing intelligently
B. Overcoming limitations in speaking and writing
1. Meta Cognitive Strategies
A. Centering your learning
B. Arranging and planning your learning
C. Evaluating your learning
2. Affective Strategies
A. Lowering your anxiety
B. Encouraging yourself
C. Taking your emotional temperature
3. Social Strategies
A. Asking questions
B. Cooperating with others
C. Empathizing with others
Factors Affecting Strategy Choice
From Oxford's viewpoint, many factors influence strategy choice. These affecting factors are motivation; 'the language learning environment', 'learning style and personality type', 'gender', 'culture and national origin', 'career orientation', 'age' and 'the nature of language task'. Oxford and Ehrman 1995; Chamot 1999, O'Malley and Chamot 1990; Oxford and Nyikos 1989.
According to the literature on LLSs (Ellis 1994) research on LLSs were in three main aspects:
1.Correlations between LLS use and learning success/proficiency (Mangubbai 1991; Reiss 1985; Cohen 1997)
2.Individual differences and LLS use such as age, aptitude, motivation, etc. (Bialystok 1981; Wenden 1987)
3.Cultural background and LLs use (Bedell and Oxford 1996; Gopal 1999)
Psychological And Socio-Cultural Perspectives On LLSs
Examining LLSs from two perspective , namely psychological and socio-cultural, though sometimes conflicting indicates a complementary nature of the two view points. As Oxford and Schramm (2007:48)state” the difference between them lies in the focus, individual versus group”. They present a psychological definition of LLS as “L2 learner strategy is a specific plan, action, behavior, step, or technique that individual learner use with some degree of consciousness, to improve their progress in developing skills in a second or foreign language”.
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As mentioned earlier , the basic difference between the two perspective is in their focus. While psychological perspective focuses on individual, socio-cultural starts with group or in fact with society and particularly the culture of that society as the unit of analysis. Socio-cultural perspective according to Oxford and Schramm (2007) tries to discover both ‘material tools', such as hammers and ‘non-material tools' such as language which are left from ones' ancestors. Oxford and Schramm (2007:48) present the most general definition of L2 strategy from socio-cultural perspective, “a learner's socially mediated plan or action to meet a goal , which is related directly or in directly to L2 learning”. They continue by quoting Vygotsky (1978, 1979)who considers L2 learning strategy as a “higher order mental function, such as analysis , synthesis, planning, and evaluation which the L2 learner strategy is a socio-culturally based on action pattern that aims to reach an L2 learning goal”. The current literature (Cohen and Macaro,2007 and Oxford and Schramm,2007) indicates that psychological perspective is a broader title which includes ‘meta cognitive' (‘regulation and control') and ‘affective' (‘emotion-and motivation-related') aspects and is associated with quantitative research while socio-cultural approach which is sometimes called ‘interpretivist', ‘constructivist', or ‘relativist' is linked with qualitative research and requires detail description of a socio-cultural setting observed by a participant.
It seems that to examine the complementarity of the two perspective from the viewpoint of Oxford and Schramm (2007)at first it would be helpful to study ‘self-regulation from both perspective.
Psychological Views Of Self-Regulation
According to Zimmerman (2000) in Oxford (2007:50) psychologically based self-regulation models consist of a)strategies b)learners' feedback which is a tool to control the efficacy of their strategies ,c) motivation required for learners to self-regulate, and d) their accurate reasons such as attitudes and beliefs for self-regulation. Accordingly they include strategies for ‘setting goals', ‘planning approaches to tasks', ‘evaluating progress', ‘assessing the utility of strategies', 'controlling the physical and social environment', ‘using analysis and synthesis' and ‘dealing with motivation and emotion'. O'Malley and Chamot (1990) claim that the knowledge of strategies move from ‘declarative knowledge' to procedural knowledge'.
The difference between the two kind of knowledge is that the former is a conscious knowledge which is achieved during an effortful process, such as ‘definitions of words', or ‘conventions of punctuation', but the latter is a kind of unconscious knowledge which is achieved without any effort and automatically ,for example ‘using correct punctuation habitually'. They continue that since learning strategies in definition are conscious, procedural knowledge in this sense is considered as a ‘process'. Chamot and O'Malley (1987,1994b,1996) created the ‘Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach' (CALLA) in order to change declarative knowledge into procedural by teaching, practicing and evaluating the declarative knowledge of strategies. CALLA is used widely as a well-known model for L2 ‘strategic self-regulation'.
Socio-Cultural Views Of Self-Regulation
Oxford and Schramm (2007:52) present self-regulation and strategy instruction due to three sociocultural models: ‘a) the dialogic model', b)'the communities of practice model' and c) ‘the social autonomy model'.
A.The Dialogic Model: This model is the most popular model of self-regulation and strategy instruction used by Vygotsky. In his model, Vygotsky (1978-1979) refers to ‘higher order functions' and doesn't directly use the term ‘strategy'. The term ‘higher order function' is called ‘strategy' by Oxford and Schramm (2007). In their analysis of the term , Oxford and Schramm use the term ‘cognitive strategies' to Vygotsky's ‘higher order functions of analyzing and synthesizing' in contrast, his higher order functions of ‘planning, monitoring, and evaluation were called ‘meta cognitive strategies'. Vygotsky believes that these functions are acquired through social interaction by necessary use of social strategies, such as asking for a direction in the form of a dialogue with other people, especially with the help of a ‘more capable other' often a teacher. In other words ,the teacher or any other capable person in that society assists or scaffolds the learner. By his mastering the principles of the society, the learner will no longer need that assistance. Teachers can utilize these techniques in developing cognitive learning strategies or in Vygotsky's term ‘higher thinking skills', such as analyzing or synthesizing.
B. Situated Cognition In Communities Of Practice:
By ‘situated cognition' Oxford and Schramm (2007) mean learning in a specific socio- cultural context. The term ‘communities of practice' , indicates meaningful and authentic communities which are special for some particular practices in a specific aspect of life.(See Lave and Wenger 1991; Rogoff 1994; Wenger 1998) Inside this community ,'old timers' (the term often used for masters) have the most crucial role, and because of their centrality in the community they model the strategies.' New comers' in the case of possessing the requirements for entering the community ,have at first a kind of ‘peripheral' participation as ‘apprentices'. In Vygotsky's description these apprentices learn from ‘old timers' or older apprentices. This learning will takes place if old timers have tendency to help the new-comers in terms of ‘insider knowledge', ‘cultural understandings', ‘practices' or what Oxford and Schramm (2007) call ‘master-strategies'. They conclude that in the socio-cultural perspective, this is the social environment which tries to learn the strategies of old-timers.
C. The Social Autonomy Model
In Holliday's (2003) social autonomy model, learners' strategies are not judged by teachers' experiences or other criteria rather learners themselves share all their strategies with each other and even with teachers. In this sharing situation , teachers can have a better understanding of learners' strategies and may have a supporting feeling toward them.(Oxford and Schramm,2007)
Socio-Cultural Theory (SCT)
In this section, the rationale behind SCT and its interrelated components, are briefly explained.
Mediation/ Mediated Learning
Socio-cultural theory is based on the work of Vygotsky (1987), Leontiev (1981) and Wertsch (1985).The central idea for Vygotsky and SCT according to Lantolf (2000a:80) is that “higher forms of human mental activity are mediated.”Vygotsky (1987) argued that human in this physical world regulate their relationships with others and even with themselves through some tools, or signs. These physical tools which mediate the relationships are generated by human cultures and gradually transferred to next generations. For Vygotsky, the most outstanding tool is language as a ‘tool for thought' or as a ‘means of mediation ,in mental activity'. Schmit and Celce-Marcia (2001) introduce 'socio-cultural theory as a view of cognition which emphasizes
“individual-social integration by focusing on the necessary and dialectic relationship between the socio-cultural endowment (the 'inter'-personal interface between a person and his or her environment) and the biological endowment ( the 'intra'-personal mechanisms and processes belonging to that person), out of which emerges the individual. Socio-cultural theory suggests that in order to understand the human mind, one must look at these two endowments in an integrated manner. They continue that the only way to develop one's language and cognition is through social interaction with others.”(p.11)
From socio-cultural perspective , learning is a mediated process. Mitchell (2004:195) believes that “learning is mediated partly through learner's developing use and control of mental tools”. He also considers learning to be ‘socially mediated', i.e. it takes place during a face-to-face interaction and a common process such as the ‘situation of a discourse'.
Lantolf (2000b:.8) describes activity theory as a “unified account of Vygotsky's original proposals on the nature and development of human behavior.” This theory is developed by Leontiev (1978,1981).Donato and MacCormic (1994:455) define activity theory:” Activity is defined in terms of sociocultural settings in which collaborative interaction, inter-subjectivity ,and assisted performance occur….. In his analysis Leontieve conceived activity as containing a subject, an object ,actions, and operations.” In his example, he considers language learner as subject who is involved in an activity for achieving a goal and achieving the goal motivates the subject. The object as they express differs from ‘full participation to a passing grade'.
Donato and MacCormic (1994) continue that this learner takes the action which is goal-directed to achieve the objective. They consider language learning strategies ‘actions motivated' by specific objectives, and are instrumental to fulfilling specific goals. Some of the strategies to be mentioned in this regard are ,'guessing meaning from context', ‘reading foreign language newspapers' or ‘using a bilingual dictionary' to improve reading comprehension. Through these strategies a student (subject) will be able to achieve the same goal. The operational level of activity (Donato and MacCormic,1994:455) “is the way an action is carried out and depends on the condition under which actions are executed”. In the case of guessing meaning from context, when the learner intends to master in deriving meaning from context, after becoming proficient, it will no longer be a strategy.
It is asserted by Donato and MacCormic (1994) that activity theory is helpful for the literature on LLSs for two reasons: first,” it provides a framework for situating strategy use within the total context'. Second it helps the researchers “to define strategies more completely than can be achieved with discrete-item lists and static categories”.
Socio-Cultural Theory And Language Learning Strategies
For entire human race,(Vygotsky 1996) as well as for the individual infant, learning is seen first social, then individual. Regarding socio-cultural theory, the culture of language classroom consists of 'mediating tools', mediating objects' and 'mediators' which can be considered under the general title of 'mediating agents'. Lantolf (2000) suggests that mediation in second language learning involves:
1.mediation by others in social interaction
2.mediation by self through private speech
3. mediation by artifacts, e.g. tasks and technology
(For further information see: Lantolf, 2000; Mitchell 2004; and Thorne 2006)
As mentioned before, the basic claim of socio-cultural theory introduced by Vygotsky (1986) is that 'higher forms of human mental activity are mediated by culturally auxiliary means' Lantolf (2006:59).Language learning strategies as the kinds of goal-directed actions are incorporated into higher mental processes. Considering this view, LLS can be constructed from the primary social practice in the classroom culture. LLSs are the 'by-products' of socialization into the classroom practices of language learning. Donato and MacCormic (1994) believe that classroom language learning and the learning strategies are the outcome of mediation similar to other forms of socio-culturally mediated development such as ‘the development of cultural beliefs and values', which are in fact central means for change since change itself is a social process made by socio-cultural mediation.
They argue that classroom context is not the only factor to shape the learner's orientation to the learning task. Other various ‘social', ‘political', ‘economic' 'institutional', and ‘educational' context affect language learning as well.
This chapter provides a presents a comprehensive description of the research methodology used in the present study. First, the researcher presents rationale for using qualitative method design and then describes the educational setting of the study. Details of the methodology including participants, instruments, data collection and data analysis procedures are described as well.
As mentioned in 1.2. ,the purpose of the study is to investigate the role of mediation in developing language learning strategies. To address the research questions listed in 1.3.,the current study will employ qualitative approach. The current literature (Cohen and Macaro, 2007 and Oxford and Schramm, 2007) indicates that socio-cultural approach which is sometimes called ‘interpretivist' , ‘constructivist', or ‘relativist' is linked with qualitative research and requires detail description of a socio-cultural setting observed by a participant. Researchers such as Mackey and Gass (2005); Hubbuch (2005) ,Ellis (1994), Creswell (2008)and Creswell (2009), believe that the most interesting topics for qualitative research are ‘human behaviors' and socio-cultural patterns and norms which underlie ‘the behaviors'. Furthermore, Creswell(2009) characterizes doing qualitative research in the sense of collecting data in natural setting for the purpose of face-to-face interaction.
This study will be conducted in an undergraduate EFL conversation classroom, in English Language Department , Maragheh Azad university, Iran. The criterion for selecting this setting is the availability of the place , since the researcher is the faculty member of the mentioned university.
Participants in this study will be about 20 second year students (junior students) both male and female aged 20-24 learning English as a foreign language (EFL) attending conversation class twice a week with general attendance of 12 weeks. The duration of each session is 90 minutes. Junior students are selected for two reasons, first to delimit the scope of participation. Second, because they have received enough input to carry out the required procedures of doing tasks and activities in conversation class satisfactorily.
In order to study the participants' learning behavior from more than one viewpoint, triangular techniques will be used. Triangulation creates the opportunity for the researcher to explain fully the complexity of the participants' learning feedback and learning environment from different sources of data (Mackey and Gass,2005). The instruments are chosen on the basis of research questions. Triangulation of data includes: 'Semi-Structured Interview', ‘Document writing'(Student's Diary),and Audio-Visual materials, i.e. Video-tapes.
Diaries are defined differently by researchers. According to Porter et al. (1990) diaries are valuable pedagogical instruments in themselves in that “when teachers ask students to introspect about learning, comment on the class, and communication about what they are learning , students get more involved in the course and make materials”(p.227) . Johnson (2001) believes that diary describes how languages are learned, how learners feel about the language, it also describes emotions , issues, difficulties, achievement, learning strategies and even progress. What is common to all definitions is that “each has sought to investigate issues not normally accessible through outside observation” (Bailey, 1990:223).To sum up, diary writing is supposed to help learners in terms of self-assessment, goal-setting and strategy use.
Focus Group Interview
Interview as another important data collection tool for qualitative research, enables a researcher to investigate phenomena that are not directly observable and the data that cannot be obtained from the observation. In the case of this study, focus group interview with semi-structured questions will be employed to help the researcher investigate the participants' perception of the socio-cultural situation in which their language learning takes. The questions will be semi-structured regarding the distinctive feature mentioned by Gass (2005) that only in this kind the researcher has fr
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