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Background of the Study
In past years there has been an increasing focus on the teacher-centred classroom shift to a learner-centred one. This view has stressed on the learner as the active participant in the teaching-learning act with the help of the educators. Teacher-centred classroom is based on standards, content, and methods are determined by educators not the learners. Under teacher-oriented, Freire claimed that learners have been exposed to "schooling" and conditioning that equips them to fit themselves to the world and to conform (Withall, 1991). According to Dewey (1963) the learner-centred processes ensured the students' analysis of their experiences and encouraged learners to become more self-directed and self-responsible (Withall, 1991). Learner plays an important role in teaching-learning act, as the effect of teaching will reflect on learner's knowledge and active cognitive processes (Dansereau, 1985).
In ESL context, the active cognitive process is referred as learning strategies. In early research regarding learning strategies done by O'Malley and Chamot (1981), there was no theory to guide their study. The lack of theory to explain learning strategies in second language acquisition studies due to the lack of a comprehensive theory to explain how individuals learn the structures and functions associated with the second language use. Later learning strategies are integrated within the cognitive theory (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990). Learning strategies are special ways of processing information that enhance comprehension, learning, or retention of the information (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990). Language learning strategies (LLS) can be defined as behaviors or actions which learners use to make the language learning more successful, self-directed, and enjoyable (Oxford, 1989a).
Statement of the Problem
Gender differences have been found in many areas of human social and cognitive development. Previous research have shown that gender play an important role in influencing the language learning strategies (LLS) of English as second language (ESL) learners. A research done by Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974, indicated that females are more interested in social activities compare to males; females are less competitive and more cooperative than males (Kamarul Shukri et al., 2009). In learning English as second language, previous research data found out that females and males used different strategies. Politzer (1983) indicated that female students used social learning strategies more often than male students in his research regarding foreign language students in U.S (Kamarul Shukri et al., 2009). In most studies regarding gender and language learning strategies, the results showed that females used language learning strategies (LLS) as a whole more often than males. However, some studies showed that male students used more Language Learning Strategies (LLS) than female students in certain categories.
The aim of this study is to examine the relationship of gender on ESL learners' Language Learning Strategies (LLS). From the general objective above, two specific objectives are addressed:
To investigate the language learning strategies use by B.A (English) students.
To investigate the differences of language learning strategies (LLS) use between male and female B.A (English) students.
This study attempts to answer the following research questions:
What kind of strategies does B.A (English) students at Universiti Putra Malaysia use?
Does gender influence the choice of language learning strategies?
What are the differences between male and female B.A (English) in the use of overall language learning strategies?
Significance of the Study
This study is important in second language acquisition as learners need to be able to learn independently as the teacher-centred approach is shifted to learner-centred approach. The findings of this research will provide greater insight of the appropriate language learning strategies that can help learners in their learning process. The processes of learning mainly depend on the learners themselves with the help of the educators.
Definition of Terms
Gender : According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, gender means males or females which considered as a group. In this study gender refers to male and female undergraduates.
ESL learners: In this study, ESL learners refer to the second year students of B.A (English) Programme at Universiti Putra Malaysia whose first language is not English.
Language Learning Strategies (LLS) : In this study, Language Learning Strategies is defined as a specific steps or actions taken by the learner to facilitate acquisition, retention, retrieval and performance (Rigney, 1978) which make the learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and transferable to new situations (Oxford,1990). Language Learning Strategies (LLS) in this study is measured using questionnaire namely Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL).
Language Learning Strategies (LLS)
Learning strategies in second language acquisition emerged from a concern for identifying the characteristics of effective learners. Researchers had observed students' language learning situation and had identified the characteristics of a good language learner which can contribute to learning (Rubin 1975; Naiman et al. 1978). Rubin in her early research has identified that a good language learner is a willing and accurate guesser; has a strong drive to communicate or to learn from communication; is often not inhibited (he is willing to make mistakes); is constantly looking for patterns in the language; take advantage of all practice opportunities; monitor his own speech as well as the others; and pay attention to meaning where he realizes that in order to understand the message, it is not sufficient to pay attention to the grammar of the language or to the surface form of speech (1975). The primary classification proposed by Naiman et al. included active task approach; realization of language as a system; realization of a language as a means of communication and interaction; management of affective demands; and monitoring L2 performance (1978).
Many research reported that a successful language learners are people who use variety of learning strategies to reach their goal or target while the unsuccessful language learners use a few learning strategies compared to the successful one. According to Tarone (1981), learning strategies have learning as a goal, and communication strategies are directed toward maintaining communication (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990). However, recently research on Language Learning Strategies (LLS) has come out with conflicting findings regarding a good language learner. A study done by Vann and Abraham (1990) showed that unsuccessful language learners were also active strategy-user, but failed to use the strategies appropriately due to inadequate knowledge of certain strategies (Rosna et at., 1994).
In a study done by Oxford (1989a), she suggested that strategies that being applied by a good language learner can be divided into six broad categories: metacognitive, affective, social, memory, cognitive and compensatory. A good language learner use all these in their own learning process.
Factors Affecting Language Learning Strategies (LLS)
According to Oxford (1989), a number of researchers have examined the variables or factors that affect the choice of language learning strategies (Rosna et al., 1994). The factors which can contribute to the choice of language learning strategies are: age, gender, affective variables (such as attitudes, motivation level/intensity), language learning goal, motivational orientation, personality characteristics, and general personality type, learning style, aptitude, career orientation, national origin, language teaching methods, tasks requirements, language being learned, duration and degree of awareness. Based on Bialystok's study (1982) the type of strategy used by the learner depends on the type of knowledge required for a given task. O'Malley and Chamot (1990) indicated that, at all level of study, the demands of the tasks heavily influenced the strategies selected.
Researches have suggested that male and female use different strategies in learning a second language. Erhman and Oxford (1989) have discovered in their study that female adult language learners used greater four out of six categories of language learning strategies : general study strategies, functional practice (authentic language use) strategies, strategies for searching and communicating meaning, and self-management strategies (Rosna et al., 1994). Chang (2003) investigated the use of LLS by a group of high school students in Taiwan who were learning English. The study found that females significantly surpassed males in the use of LLS as a whole. The results also showed that females significantly used cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, and social strategies more frequently than males (Kamarul Shukri et al., 2009).
The aim of this study is to examine the relationship of gender on ESL learners' Language Learning Strategies (LLS). For this purpose, a quantitative research will be conducted to obtain the data regarding the relationship of gender on ESL learners' Language Learning Strategies (LLS). This study will employ the survey methods with questionnaire namely Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) as the instrument.
A total of 30 second year undergraduates from B.A English programme, age raging from 22 to 25 years old will be selected randomly to participate in this study. The sample will be consisted of equal number of male and female respondents.
The instrument that will be used in this study is questionnaire named the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) that can be adapted from Oxford SILL version 7.0 which is according to Oxford (1989) is designed for speakers of ESL/EFL. SILL is the most widely-used and influential tool for the assessment of the Language Learning Strategies (LLS) use. This 50-item questionnaire will ask the respondents to report their frequency of use the Language Learning Strategies (LLS) in a multiple-choice fashion using a five-point scale (Likert-scale) of never or almost true of me, usually not true of me, somewhat true of me, usually true of me, always or almost always true of me. The 50-item question will be divided into six sections, namely group [A]: remembering more effectively, [B]: using all mental processes, [C]: compensating for missing knowledge, [D]: organizing and evaluating learning, [E]: managing emotions, and [F]: learning with others. Apart from SILL, a background questionnaire will be included to get information regarding gender, age, race, programme of study and also native language of the respondents.
Data Collection Procedures
The questionnaires will be administered in one day. The questionnaires will be distributed to the B.A English students during class with the permission from the lecturer. Respondents will be instructed to fill out the questionnaire within the specified amount of time. The respondents will be asked to complete the questionnaire within 30 minutes. The reason of doing so is to standardize the amount of time spends by the respondents to fill out the questionnaire. All the respondents will receive the same instructions to fill out the questionnaire in order to minimize confusion.
In order to understand the data, descriptive statistics such as frequencies and percentage of the Language Learning Strategies (LLS) will be used. The data obtain from the questionnaires will be analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) programme student version 11.0.