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Abstract: Metacognition plays an crucial role in regulating learning, and therefore it is an influential concept in second language learning. In order to seek an effective way to facilitate college English learning and teaching at professional college, the author carried out an experiment, where the effects of a metacognitive strategy training on students' metacognitive strategy use, autonomous ability, and learners' academic achievement were examined. The findings suggest that the training has statistically positive influence on the learners' metacognitive strategy use, learners' autonomous ability and learners' academic achievement though the frequency of their metacognitive strategy use is not as high as expected due to the factors in training supervision. Moreover, the pedagogical implications of metacognitive training for college English learning and teaching are discussed. The subjects in most relevant studies are the university students. Few studies concerning the students at professional college have been recorded. The students in professional college, who are less self-directed and having more difficulties in learning, are puzzled what to learn and how to learn. They are in great need of metacognitive strategies training to help them out of puzzlement. This study intends to make some contribution to this aspect.
Key words: Metacognitive strategy, learner training, learner autonomy
1.1 Research Background
Learning strategy falls into three categories: cognitive strategies, metacognitive strategies, affective/social strategies, among which metacognitive strategies are considered to be the most crucial factor (O'Malley and Chamot, 2001). Metacognitive strategy is theoretically defined as the ability to take charge of one's own learning. In the studies of strategy learning, evidence is accumulated for the importance of metacognitive strategy and the effect of metacognitive strategy training on learning outcome. Brown et. al (cited by O'Malley et al. 2001) asserted that students without metacognitive approaches are essentially learners without directions and ability to review their progress, accomplishments and future leaning directions. Metacognitive strategy training involves both knowledge about learning and control or regulation over learning, in which the students are encouraged to be autonomous learners as well as independent strategy users. Wenden (1991) claimed that strategy training, especially that in metacognitive strategies, is a key for facilitating learner autonomy, which is already accepted as the desirable goal of education.
The school where the author teaches is a 3-year professional college. The English teachers in the school are always perplexed by the students' low academic achievement. Compared with the students at university, the students enrolled in professional college are less motivated and more dependent in their studies. They lack self-discipline. The extent to which they do in English learning is to complete the assignments. Few of them have goals. The only goal they have is to pass the Practical English Test Level A or Level B, which is a compulsory task assigned by the school administration. Moreover, with the expansion of enrollment, the teaching task becomes tougher and tougher. In the author's school, each college English teacher is responsible for over 100 students in a class. How to cope with classes in such a size is really a serious problem the teachers have to face.
In view of the great influence of metacognitive strategy on language learning, the author intends to apply the metacognitive strategy training to her college English teaching. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of metacognitive strategy training on college students' English learning and their learning abilities. The training is combined with daily English class and the teacher provides strategy-based instruction to students as a part of English teaching curriculum. It is hypothesized that training of metacognitive strategy improves learner's language knowledge, their use of metacognitive strategy and learners' autonomy. It is hoped that students' strategy awareness can be raised and their effective use of strategies will be enhanced.
The subjects in most relevant studies are the university students (Wen Qiufang, 1995; Wang Duqingï¼Œ2002; Ji Kangli 2002). Few studies concerning the students at professional college have been recorded. The students in professional college, who are less self-directed and less goal-oriented, are puzzled what to learn and how to learn. They are in great need of metacognitive strategies training to help them out of their puzzlement. This study intends to make some contribution to this aspect, and hope that the strategy-based instruction will bring enlightenments to current college English learning and teaching.
2 Literature Review
2.1. Metacogntion, metacognitive strategies and language learning
Metacognition has rooted in research on developmental psychology and cognitive psychology. The American psychologist J. H. Flavell (1976:232) stated that metacognition refers to one's knowledge concerning one's own cognitive processes or anything related to them.
Metaeognition enables one to use knowledge tactically and to perform most efficiently in his learning. Metacognition presents the role of awareness and executive management of our own thinking. Sternberg (1998) noted that metacognitive skills are essential to intelligent functioning. They enable one to planï¼Œmonitorï¼Œand evaluate performance throughout the execution of a task. By means of metacognitionï¼Œone can define the nature of a task or problemï¼Œselect the most useful strategy for undertaking the task, pay attention to feedback on how the task is proceedingï¼Œand transfer feedback into better performances. Learners become active participants rather than passive recipients if they learn with metacognitive thinking.
Metacognitive strategies are tactical ideas that one uses to control cognitive activities, and to ensure that a cognitive goal has been reached. These processes help to regulate and monitor learning, as they consist of planning and monitoring cognitive activities, as well as checking the outcomes of those activities.
Regarding metacognitive strategies in learning process, Brown (2002) elaborated that they involve planning for learning, thinking about the learning process as it is taking place, monitoring of one's production or comprehension, and evaluating learning after an activity is completed. O'Malley & Chamot (2001) viewed metacognitive strategies from other perspectives. They considered metacognitive strategies as general skills through which learners manage, direct, regulate, and guide their learning, i.e. planning, monitoring and evaluating.
Metacognitive strategy and learner autonomy
The definition of learner autonomy was initiated by Holec (1981:3) who viewed autonomy as the ability to take charge of one's learning. Dickinson (1987:11) maintained that autonomy is a situation in which the learner is totally responsible for all of the decisions concerned with his or her learning and the implementation of those decisions. Whatever term is adopted, autonomous language learners possess some characteristics in common: They initiate the planning and implementation of their own learning program (Gardner & Miller 1999).
Metacognitive strategy is regarded as a means to facilitate learner's autonomy. Meanwhile, former studies have shown that autonomous learners are always those who are skillful in making use of metcogntive strategies both consciously and unconsciously.
Metacogntive strategies are of high level among all the learning strategies, which has been proved critical in developing learner autonomy. Oxford (1990ï¼‰emphasized that the importance of metacognitive strategies for successful language learning is to make language learners more capable, which is the key feature of autonomous learners. Making good use of metacognitive strategies can empower foreign language learners. When learners reflect on their learning strategies, they become more aware of what to do to improve their learning, more prepared to deal with the problems in their learning process, and eventually they develop the ability to take charge of their own learning. In this way, metacognitve strategy helps to enhance leaner autonomy.
Moreover, being engaged in metacognition is a prominent feature of good language learners. The studies on successful language learners have found that their success attribute to their effective use of learning strategies. The experience of successful language learners provides enlightenment to the learning of less successful language learners. It has been taken into consideration that if the less successful learners are taught to apply strategies appropriately in their study, their language proficiency will be improved.
Wang (2004) discussed that the training of metacognitive strategies is the main approach to developing learner autonomy, and how to develop learners' autonomy is the main area in research of teaching and learning metacognitive strategy. He states that by the training of metacognitive strategy, learners can develop the ability of making plans, selecting learning methods, arranging tasks, monitoring learning processes, evaluating learning performance, and finally they can gradually become autonomous learners.
3. Analysis of research findings on metacognitive strategy training
Since the important role of metacognitive strategy in language learning had been identified, researchers went about exploring the possibility of improving language proficiency and learner autonomy through metacognitve strategy training. O'Malley & Chamot (1985) undertook vocabulary training on 75 intermeditate-level ESL students. The result of the experiment suggests that the experimental group didn't outperform the control group, while the Spanish students outperformed the Asian students. Carrel (1989) conducted an experiment to see the training effect of metacognitive strategies in reading. It was found that metacognitive training was effective in enhancing second language reading. O'Malley (2001) continued with the study on effects of strategy training on the learners' listening and speaking. No significant effect was found in listening, while in the case of speaking, the group taught 'functional planning' (a metacognitive strategy) outperformed other groups.
The previous experiments are encouraging enough to promote further empirical studies in metacognitive strategy training. The efforts are aimed at developing learner autonomy and self-regulated learners.
In China, Wen Qiufang (1995), incorporated a training program in a normal classroom instruction, with an objective to enhance the trainees' metacognitive knowledge and to cultivate their metacognitive regulating abilities. The experiment got a positive result showing that the experimental group outdid the control group. Wang Duqing (2002)'s research demonstrates that cognitive strategies training combined with metacognitive strategies training has positive effect on the learners' motivation, self-management. Ji Kangli (2002)'s metacognitive strategy training in Qinghua University once again proved that the training can improve the students' self-evaluation, make them do planning, motivate them to become autonomous learners. While the literature does not embody a large amount of data in the area of metacognition, it does suggest that metacognitive strategy, as a subset of learning strategy, assist in the promotion of learners' autonomy.
3. Research Design
The purpose of this research is to find out the effects of metacognitive strategy training on college English learning and teaching. Based on the literature review, the study is intended to explore the following questions:
1) What are the effects of the metacognitive strategy training on English learning?
2) In what ways does metacognitive strategy training influence students' employment of metacognitive strategies?
3) What is the relationship between metacognitive strategy training and students' learner autonomy?
Independent variable of the study is metacognitive strategies training, and there are 3 dependent variables: learning outcome, metacognitive strategies use, and learner autonomy.
3.1Research Site and Subjects
The study involves 60 voluntary students from 2 natural classes of a professional college in Guangdong, all of whom were newly enrolled students. The two classes were carefully chosen to ensure that the subjects had close average scores of English in National College Entrance Test and had similar gender rate. Both classes were under the author's instruction in college English, with the same text-book. The experimental group participated in a series of metacognitive strategies trainings in planning, monitoring and evaluating, along with the regular English classes, in other words, the strategies training was an explicit and integrated one, while the control group only received the regular English instruction.
3.2 Research method
The study is based on a quantitative dominating qualitative design. The instruments employed in this study were pre-test and post-test, questionnaire, learner diary, and personal interviewï¼Œand they were complementary to one and another, which gave the opportunity to gather data from various angles and to obtain objective and mutually verified results.
A pre-test and a post-test were administrated before and after the training respectively. The scores of the experimental group and the control group were compared to explore the effect of metacognitive strategy training on their English learning outcome. To ensure the reliability and validity of the test, the paper chosen was the authentic one used in Practical English Test for College Level A (Gu & Qin, 2006). The degree of difficulty of the test has maintained stable since the test was launched in 2002. Meanwhile, the test pattern remained the same each time, including such 5 test items as listening comprehension, vocabulary and structure, reading comprehension, translation and writing.
Two questionnaires, one is concerning metacognitive strategies, and the other is regarding learner autonomy, were conducted to learn about the subjects' metacognitive strategy use and their state of learner autonomy both before and after the training.
Diary is an important introspective tool in language research, especially in the study of metacognition, for it is concerned with the subjects' mental activities as well as their behaviors.
Interviews are particularly applied to seek follow-up certain response to questionnaires. From the result of the interviewees, in-depth information on the research questions can be pursued.
3.3 Data Analysis
In this study, Independent Samples T-test was conducted to see whether there was any significant difference among the variables. Paired Samples T-test was applied to test the change of a single variable. A Pearson correlation test was used to identify the interrelationship between the variables. The data were processed with SPSS V16.0 in order to ensure the accuracy and the effectiveness of experiment.
4. The Implementations of the training
The training focuses on instructing students to apply planning strategy, monitoring strategy and evaluating strategy to their learning process with the purpose of developing students' autonomous ability. The training lasted for two semesters with four successive stages: preparation, goal setting and planning, monitoring and evaluation. The training was integrated with regular college English class.
The main task for the preparation stage is to evoke the students' metacognitive awareness and to make them psychologically accustomed to the instruction.
First of all, the purpose of the training was clarified explicitly by the teacher in hope that everyone concerned was clear about what he was doing and why. Secondly, an introduction of the fundamental concepts of "metacognition" and "metacognitve strategies" was presented as well. Thirdly, with the help of the questionnaire for metacognitive strategies, the students reflected on the metacognitive strategies they had employed in group discussion. Though this stage only lasted for 2 weeks, it was by no means unnecessary, which provided the students with the fundamental knowledge of what they were going to do and how so as to enhance their metacognitive awareness.
4.2 Goal setting and planning
This stage was oriented to goal-setting and planning. Goal setting helps the students specify their direction of learning. Students were directed to set up their respective goals and objectives according to the previous self-evaluations of their academic performance. They were required to set up short-term goal, mid-term goal and long-term goal, which covered the tasks to come within one month, three months and ten months. Though their goals varied from person to person, they were closely related with curriculum, including what they wanted to achieve during the semester, in terms of listening ability, reading comprehension, writing skill and exam-tackling etc. For example, one student set his long-time goal as passing CET Band 4 at the end of the school year, and another conceived his objective as being able to talk with foreigner fluently. Nevertheless, most of them hoped to pass Practical English Test Level A.
Making plan and setting goal are highly correlated. Planning can facilitate the achievement of one's goal, so planning strategy can improve the students' ability of making arrangements for their learning. On the ground of the goal, learning plan was made accordingly. Students made concrete schedules to ensure the accomplishment of their goals and plans. For example, one student wanted to enlarge her vocabulary, so she planned to memorize 30 new words a day. Another student was aware of her weakness in reading comprehension, and she scheduled to read 5 pages of simplified classics every day.
Monitoring strategy serves as the guarantee of the successful implementation of the plan during the learning process. Flavell (1981:272) notes that monitoring consists of keeping track of how the learning process is going and taking appropriate measures to deal with difficulties that interfere with the process.
Learner diary is an introspective approach to monitoring learners' learning, which is presumed to promote autonomous learning, encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning (Nunan, 2002). In the training, contents of diary were confined to the students' implementation of learning plan, their application of learning strategies and the difficulties they encountered in the process. Students' diaries were collected once a week, and the teacher always gave comments to them, showing appreciation to their progress, assisting them in coping with difficulties, recommending alternatively effective strategies. Diary keeping helps to find out the students' responses to the training, the strategies they employed and their progress in English learning.
Evaluation is mainly related to thinking about how well the learner can accomplish a learning task (Nunan, 2001:192). In this training, evaluation strategy was instructed as follows:
At the first stage of the training, students were guided to make a self-evaluation by comparing their ways of English learning with effective learners'. Evaluation report helped them have a deep reflection on the issue.
Students also assessed their English learning performance by judging how well they had done in the pre-test, post-test and tests for each unit, working out the causes of their errors, reflecting on the strategies so as to make improvement.
In order to facilitate the evaluation of learning, self-questioning report was assigned after each test, the contents of which were related with questions raised by Anderson (2002): 1) What am I trying to accomplish? 2) What strategies am I using? 3) How well am I using them? 4) What else could I do? In addition, the strategy of making summary is undertaken to deal with specific task in a metacognitive way as well.
5. Data Analyses and Discussions
In accordance with the research questions, the data are collected and analyzed so as to explore the relationship between 1) metacognitive strategy training and English learning outcome, 2) metacognitive strategy training and metacognitive strategies use and 3)metacognitive strategy training and learner autonomy.
5.1 Quantitative research
5.1.1 Metacognitive strategy training and English learning outcome
Both the experimental groups (EG) and the control group (CG) were involved in a pre-test and a post-test. Score means were calculated to identify the differences between the two groups before and after training.
184.108.40.206 Before training
A pre-test was administrated before training, and the mean scores were compared to tell whether there was any difference between the scores of the two groups then. The mean score of control group is 47.17, while experimental group is 46.77, slightly lower. The significance value in the Independent Samples T-Test for equality of means is 0.797 (P>.05), and therefore under 95% confidence interval of the difference, indicating there is no significant difference between the two variables statistically. The result implies that before training, the two groups stretched from the same starting point.
220.127.116.11 After training
According to the result of the post-test, the mean score of control group account for 61.95, 14.78 points higher than that in the pre-test. On the other hand, the mean score of experimental group is 68.20, which rises from 46.77 in the pre-test with an increase of 21.43 points. It is clear that both groups make progress in their learning. However, the improvement of the experimental group is even greater. The output of an Independent Samples T-Test shows the significance value of the difference of the post-test mean scores between the two groups. The result reflects that there is a significant difference at the level of .018 (Pï¼œ.05) between the post-test score means of the control group and experimental group.
On the other hand, the output of a Paired Samples T-test further illustrates the profound progress in academic performance of the students in experimental group. The significance of difference between pre-test and post-test is less than .01, indicating the considerable rise of the score of experimental group after training.
On the whole, it can be concluded from the results that both groups make an improvement in their learning at the end of the experiment. There is a prominent rise in the score of experimental group after the training. In comparison, control group's academic performance lags behind even though it stretched from the same starting point with the experimental group.
In order to make sure that it was metacognitive strategy training that influences the learning outcome, a Pearson correlation analysis was performed between metacognitve strategy use and score as shown in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1 Correlation between frequency of metacognitive strategies use and score
*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
It was hypothesized that if there was an improvement in learner's metacognitive strategy use, then there would be an improvement in their learning outcome. That is to say metacognitive strategy use and English score have positive correlation. Table 5.1 tells that the Pearson correlation coefficient between metacognitive strategy use and English score is .457*, statistically significant at .011 (Pï¼œ.05) level (2-tailed), which indicates that metacognitive strategy use and English score are positively correlated.
Thus, it can be concluded that metacognitive strategy training has a positive effect on the students' English learning outcome. At the end of the metacognitive strategy training, students in experimental group make greater progress in English learning outcome than the control group. In view of the significant correlation between metacognitive strategy use and score, it can not be denied that metacognitive strategy training is beneficial to students' academic performance.
5.1.2 Metacognitive strategy training and metacognitive use
The second research question is in what ways the metacognitive strategy training influences students' employment of metacognitive strategies. Before training, a questionnaire of metacognitive strategy was distributed to both the experimental group and the control group for the purpose of exploring the overall situation of students' metacognitive strategy use and examining whether there was a distinction between the two groups in the average frequency of metacognitive strategy use. One out of 60 questionnaires was invalid due to its incompleteness.
The metacognitive strategy questionnaire is revised on base of a questionnaire devised by Liu Runqing ï¼ˆLiu, 2003:352ï¼‰, which is comprised of 22 items concerning the students' use of planning strategies, monitoring strategies and evaluating strategies and is functioned for examining the frequency of strategy use. The students were asked to circle their response to each statement on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 point meaning "never or almost never used" to 5 points meaning "always or almost always used". The data collected before and after the training were compared and processed by means of descriptive statistics and Independent Samples T-Test.
18.104.22.168 Before training
Table 5.2 Metacognitive strategy use before training
Std. Error Mean
The overall situation of metacognitive strategyï¼ˆMSï¼‰ use in both control group and experimental group before training was shown in the Table 5.2. The mean of control group's metacognitive strategy use is 2.7948, while that of experimental group is 2.7611. According to Oxford's (1990:300) STRATEGY INVENTORY FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING (SILL.Version7.0), in a 5-scale response questionnaires, the average frequency of strategy use can be divided into 3 levels: 1) HIGH: "always or almost always used" ranging from 4.5 to 5.0, "usually used" from 3.5 to 4.4 ; 2) MEDIUM: "sometimes used" from 2.5 to 3.5; 3) LOW: "generally not used" from 1.5 to 2.4, "never or almost never used" 1.0 to 1.4. In this table, both mean values rate "media level" indicating that the students sometimes use metacognitive strategies in their English learning. The values of standard deviation suggest that the phenomenon that most students sometimes use metacognitive strategies is a commonplace in both groups, involving most of the students. The situation of the students' metacognitive strategies use is far from satisfaction, so it is necessary for them to participate in the relevant training to help them become efficient metacognitive strategies users.
The value of Sig. (2-tailed) is .732 (Pï¼ž.05) in the Individual Samples Test, which tells that there is no significant difference between means of metacognitive strategies use of two groups involved. In other words, control group and experimental group have approximately equal variances on metacognitive strategy use before training.
22.214.171.124. After training
At the final stage of the training, the same questionnaire for metacognitve strategy use was returned by both the control group and the experimental group.
Table 5.3:Metacognitive strategy use after training
Std. Error Mean
As the descriptive statistics shown in Table 5.3, the mean of control group is 2.9905ï¼Œslightly higher than that of 2.7948 before training. In contrast, the mean value of experimental group accounts for 3.4552, compared with the value of 2.7611 before training. Though the mean of experimental group still falls in the range of medium level of frequency, it is quite close to the upper limit of 3.5 points, approaching the range of high level.
After training, the Individual Samples Test for the comparison of metacognitive strategy use between CG and EG was undertaken again, in which the value under Sig. (2 tailed) is .001 (Pï¼œ.05), indicating that the difference between the control group and the experimental group is significant. A prominent change took place to the students in experimental group who were using metacognitive strategies more frequently, whereas control group remained almost unchanged. Students in experimental group are approaching the usual users of metacognitive strategy who can make applications of strategies to their daily learning consciously.
It is concluded that metacognitive strategy training influences the students' employment of metacognitive strategy positively and the students in experimental group use matecognitive strategies more frequently than those in control group after training.
5.1.3 Metacognitive strategy training and learner autonomy
As to the third research question, the answer lies in the questionnaire for learner autonomy. The questionnaire is composed of 8 items. Each item is a statement or a question concerning one aspect of autonomous learning.
Statement 1 is devised to examine the students' recognition of the concept of learner autonomy. The result hints that before training, over half of the students in both groups regard learner autonomy as self-learning without teachers' instruction. In comparison, after training, the CG's recognition of the concept remains the same, while over 80% students in EG are convinced that autonomous learning is the ability to learn independently and actively, and the teachers' instruction will facilitate their learning.
Statement 2 is concerned with the relationship between teachers and students. Before training, both groups have similar recognition of the teacher-student relation.
More than four fifths of the total thinks teachers act as the knowledge spreaders who are responsible for instructing knowledge to the students, and students are expected to follow their teachers' instruction. This phenomenon is probably the result of the traditional Confucius's ideology which perceives the teacher's words as universal truth, and teachers are respectable with a higher hierarchic rank. This is probably why over 10% students in each group conceive the teacher-student relation as master and prentice. Furthermore, the students who newly graduated from high schools are accustomed to the traditional way of teaching, where teacher is the center of class and arrange everything concerning learning well for them. The students are greatly dependent on their teachers.
After training, 84% students in CG's give similar response to the teacher-student relation, whereas 76% students in EG's think the relation between the student and teacher is equal, and teachers are helpers and facilitators in their learning.
Statement 3 is about the choice of learning material. Before training, a majority of students in both groups have consensus that the teacher's choice is the best. They seldom choose learning materials for the sake of their weaknesses in learning. They just choose whatever the teacher requires. The result after training tells that 45% students in EG begin to choose reference books according to their personal need in learning, except that 51% still only use the materials given by the teacher, The state of CG is reported to be unchanged. Therefore, it is obvious that the training helps the students become more independent and make their own decision.
Statement 4 examines whether the students are self-directed. Before training, over 80% students in both classes agree that it is their teacher who is responsible for the arrangement of their English learning, telling them what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. After training, EG students' attitude towards English learning makes a change, with 54% of all participants believe it is the learner who should take control over their learning, including learning about one's strengths and weaknesses and seeking the appropriate learning strategies to cope with the difficulties in learning. The training definitely facilitates the development of students' ability in self-direction and self-management.
Statement 5 is in regard to the students' way of dealing with error. Before training, the number of the students in each group who are in favor of the idea that it is the teacher's duty to identify and correct the students' errors is slightly more than that of those who assert that students should find the problems and make corrections by themselves. After training, there is no significant difference in CG, whereas, students in EG who can discover error and make a correction themselves increase to 71% with a rise of 31%. The result indicates that students in EG involve themselves in monitoring their learning more frequently than before.
Statement 6 checks whether the students employ self-evaluation. The result before training shows that a majority of subjects examine their learning outcome through the various tests given by the teacher. Those who self-evaluate their learning only account for 8% of the total respectively. Compared with the situation before training, there are more students involving themselves in self-evaluation and less simply rely on the tests given by the teacher after training. So we can conclude that the training is beneficial to improving the students' ability of self-evaluation.
Statement 7 is investigating the students' ability to arrange their learning after class. Before training, Those who don't have any learning plan after class cover 44% and 46% out of total respectively, those who make plans but do not have effective implementation occupy 45% and 44%. After training, more students in both groups make improvement in making plans after class. Though there is similar percentage of students in CG and EG making plans for their learning after class, only 12% students are capable of fulfilling their plans in CG, compared with 39% in EG.
Statement 8 is concerned with the effect of teaching method on the development of students' learner autonomy. It is not surprising that there are 36% in CG and 40% in EG prefer the traditional way of teaching before training because the teaching method has been prevailing in China over several decades, which is somewhat suitable for helping students pass tests. 45% in CG as well as 41% in EG choose the traditional class with more classroom activities as their favorite, which possibly implies their willingness to be active in class and their preference to more relaxing classroom atmosphere. It seems that before training fewer students have any idea of autonomous learning, and they never think of being the center of class.
After training, the situation in EG makes a change, 56% students, with a rise of 45%, approve of student-center class and appreciate teachers' effort on cultivating their autonomous ability, while students in CG still find it necessary to have classes in a traditionally teacher-center way. It is proved that through the metacognitive strategies training, students are more skillful when confronting with difficulties in learning and become more confident of taking control over their learning, which make them overwhelmed with the happiness of standing on their own, and therefore they think the training is most beneficial.
It can be concluded that students involved in metacognitive strategy training are more conscious of what to learn, how to learn and when to learn. They are more dependent on their own instead of on the teacher. They are more willing to take the responsibility for their own learning, including making learning plan, monitoring the learning process and evaluating the learning outcome. They are more confident of using the strategies most appropriate to their learning. The training cultivates their habits of learning autonomously. So it is clear that metacognitive strategy training has positive effect on developing students' autonomy.
5.2 Qualitative research
The two main qualitative research methods are learner diary and personal interview. As learner diary has been elaborated in 4.3, personal interview will be focused on in this part.
Immediately after the post-test, 6 students were selected from the participants to take personal interviews about their ways of using learning strategies, their state of autonomous learning, and their feeling about the training. Three of them are more proficient English learners, and the other three are less proficient English learners. The followings are two extracts from their interviews:
Extract 1: At the end of the training, I have developed the habit of making learning plan. It is very useful. It helps me complete the learning task on time and ensure the achievement of my learning goal.
Extract2: I didn't know that I was using metacognitive strategies until this training. The training gives me an opportunity to learn how to learn independently and more efficiently.
From their responses, we can see that some proficient learners were applying some metacognitive strategies to their learning without their consciousness. They didn't know they were using some metacognitive strategies until this training. The less proficient learners feel that it was beneficial to be trained to use proper learning strategies to deal with the difficulties in English learning. They emphasized that the training helped them become more goal-oriented, more self-disciplined.
6. Implications for college English learning and teaching
6.1 The implications for college English learning.
From the data collected above, it is decided that metacognitive strategy training has positive effect on learner's metacognitive strategy use, their autonomous ability and their learning achievement. Even though the progress of metacognitive strategy use is not as great as expected, it indeed motivates the students to become frequent metacognitive strategy users. It is proved by the empirical study that metacognitive strategies training and learners' autonomy are highly positively correlated. With the progress of their metacognitive strategy use, they gradually develop into autonomous learners. Compared with the situation before training, changes have been noticed in the following aspects:
Students are more goal-orientated.
Learning goal can stimulate students' learning motivation. The students used to be deficient of self-motivation. They arranged their learning activities according to their emotion. That is, if they were in good mood, they would spend more time in learning. Otherwise, they would turn back to it. This situation is quite a commonplace at the preliminary stage of the training When it comes to the end of training, participants in EG are quite used to the goal-oriented task. They have a sense of success and confidence when their goals are achieved. Students are apparently more interested in knowing more about language strategies and how they can apply this knowledge to help them learn more effectively;
Students are more self-regulated.
Students are more skillful in organizing their learning activities, such as when to learn, how often to learn, and how to arrange the task well so as to achieve the learning goal, and how to take advantage of the language learning resources available to them inside and outside the classroom. Well-arranged plans help the students avoid the learning aimlessly. Students are acquainted with the nature of the task to come and themselves as language learners better. They are conscious of the strategies most appropriate to them and to the specific task. By means of assessing and monitoring learning progress regularly, it is easier for them to discover the difficulties and errors in their learning and work out ways to deal with them timely and accordingly.
Students have better academic performance.
English proficiency tests for today not only focus on testing learners' linguistic knowledge but also on evaluating learner's competence for using the language, including the ability of using various learning strategies. Therefore, only those who are capable of utilizing appropriate learning strategies to enhance their linguistic abilities can survive the tests. In addition, their strengthening autonomous ability makes them more independent, and thus they participate more actively in learning. After class, they make plans to reinforce the linguistic skills that they are not quite confident of. Effective use of learning strategies improves their linguistic ability so as to better their academic performance.
6.2 The implications for college English teaching.
6.2.1 College English class integrated with metacognitive strategy training
The experiment reveals that college English Class integrated with metacognitive training has more advantages over the usual model of college teaching, where students are facilitated to learn how to learn. The main advantage of this integrated class is that it not only provides the students with linguistic knowledge but also equips them with the ability of self regulation. With deliberately designed contents, the teacher instructs and guides the students to develop their individually appropriate learning strategies, to take control over their learning behavior, and to evaluate what knowledge and strategies are most efficient to achieve their goals. Students with high metacognitive strategies recognition are more likely to regulate their learning process with the help of self-monitoring, self-assessing, and self-regulating.
What's more, the integrated class helps to exert the students' initiative in learning. Students are encouraged to actively participate in the learning activities, such as setting goals, making plan, monitoring learning process, evaluating the learning outcome and so on. The utilization of those metacognitive strategies makes students learn more efficiently. In addition, this way of teaching helps to enhance the students' learning ability, and therefore they become more confident when confronting difficulties. The more problem they are able to solve by themselves, the more self-assured they will be. The process brings them a sense of success and self-satisfaction, which motivates them to step further in their learning.
This integrated English teaching model is most suitable for the current college English teaching situation. Because the purpose of this model of teaching is to teach students how to learn, the classroom teaching extends to the time after class and the place outside classroom, where students continue learning automatically, which can overcome the limitation of classroom teaching and make up for the deficient teaching resources.
6.2.2 The teacher's role in strategy-oriented class
Metacognitive strategy-oriented class emphasizes the individualized teaching, and thus students are the center of class. The teacher's role is more a facilitator than a manager, more an inspector than a commander. Teachers are engaged in the activities like organizing, training, controlling, testing, and persuading in class. On the whole, in the training, the teacher is a trainer with multiple roles.
Cohen (1998) proposes that teachers must be responsible for choosing whether explicit or embedded instructions, selecting proper instructional materials and tasks, and determining suitable strategies to fit the complexity of tasks. In the integrated class, the teacher firstly is a facilitator, who presents and makes the students practice the relevant strategies and helps students regulate their individual learning strategies to achieve personal goals. Besides, he acts as a consultant when students query how to carry out the task with appropriate strategies. He is expected to be able to take measures to ensure the accomplishment of the task, so the teacher is supposed to have adequate knowledge about what students have known and how well they have learnt. At the same time, the teacher acts as an inspector. He is required to give feedback to the students about their learning strategy use in order that they can make adjustment accordingly. When students encounter difficulties or feel frustrated, he is the right person to offer comfort and encouragement.
7. Limitation of the study
Although the study has been carefully designed, there is still much to be desired: The scale of the questionnaires is restricted to 60 professional college students. Therefore, the results cannot be taken as conclusive evidence.
Future investigation should involve more detailed information on metacognitive strategy use, such as whether there is any significant change to planning strategy, monitoring strategy and evaluation strategy. In this way, a more complete and concrete picture of students' metacognitive strategy use will be presented.
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