Language Learning Strategy Instruction Education Essay

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Language learning strategies are the conscious thoughts and actions taken by learners to achieve a learning goal (Chamot, 2004). On the other hand, Language Learning Strategy Instruction (LLSI) or better known as learner training is a key way for teachers to help learners learn autonomously. It includes two important areas. They are raising learner awareness of how languages are learned and providing them with the skills they need to do it (Logan & Moore, 2004). This article provides an overview of language learning strategies instruction and discusses the definitions, importance, past and recent research, types of language learning strategies instructions, employing language learning strategies into their daily language classroom and models of language learning strategy instruction.

Keywords: language learning, definitions, importance, research. types, models

Introduction

Language learning strategies are employed by learners to complete listening, vocabulary, speaking, reading, and writing activities presented in language lessons. When a task has to be completed or a problem need to be solved, language learners will use metacognitive, cognitive or social/affective strategies that they possess to attend to the language learning activity (Oxford, 1990). While experienced language learners can approach language learning problems in a systematic way and are successful in selecting appropriate strategies to complete a language-learning task, novices may be less efficient at selecting and using strategies to task (O'Malley & Chamot, 1995). Irrespective of language learning experiences, both groups of learners will need instruction on 'how' to use strategies efficiently to develop their language learning and language performance (Wenden, 1987, O'Malley & Chamot, 1995, Cohen, 1998,). One way to guide learners towards the effective use of learning strategies is to incorporate Language Learning Strategy Instruction into daily language lessons (Kinoshita, 2003). This article addresses the following questions:

What are the definitions of language learning strategy instruction or LLSI?

What does past and present research say about language learning strategies instruction?

What are the types of language learning strategy instruction?

What are the models of LLSI?

How to integrate LLSI into a language classroom?

Definition of Language Learning Strategies Instruction

Language Learning Strategy Instruction (LLSI) is also known as strategy training, learner training, learning to learn training, learner methodology training and methodological initiation for learners (Oxford 1990). Language learning strategy instructions are the initiation, structuring and control of the singular individual steps as part of the whole language learning process. In other words, language learning strategies instruction is the operationalization and implementation of strategies to improve the progress in developing language skills (Green & Oxford 1995).

LLSI are also procedures that facilitate a learning task. Strategies are most often conscious and goal-driven, especially in the beginning stages of tackling an unfamiliar language task. Once a learning strategy becomes familiar through repeated use, it may be used with some automaticity, but most learners will, if required, be able to call the strategy to conscious awareness (Chamot 2005).

According to some scholars, LLSI is a key way for teachers to help learners learn autonomously. It includes two important areas. These are raising learner awareness of how languages are learned and providing them with the skills they need to do it (Logan & Moore 2003). Tudor (1996) describes LLSI as the process by which learners are helped to deepen their understanding of the nature of language learning and to acquire the knowledge and skills they need in order to pursue their learning goals in an informal and self-directed manner.

The Importance of LLSI

Research shows that learners who receive LLSI or strategy training generally learn better than those who do not, and that certain techniques for such training are more beneficial than others (Oxford 1990).

Lee (1995) in her study pointed out that second language learner can become more autonomous in the language learning process. The results not only showed that students gained better final exam grades than mid term exam grades but also confirmed the previous studies by O'Malley et al (1985b). Her findings also revealed that language learning strategies instruction for second language learner is an efficient means for helping college students at the beginning level.

With strategy training, students can learn how to study a second language, improve their learning and language skills, monitor and evaluate their performance, and become more aware of what helps them learn the language they are studying (Cohen 2000).

By examining the strategies used by second language learners during the language learning process, we gain insights into the metacognitive, cognitive, social, and affective processes involved in language learning. Besides, less successful language learners can be taught new strategies, thus helping them become better language learners (Grenfell & Harris, 1999).

Research on Learning Strategies Instructions

Research on language learning strategy instruction has been interested in verifying the effectiveness of particular strategy training. Researchers have experimented with instructing language learners to use selected learning strategies as a way to improve language performance (Kinoshita, 2003). Cohen and Aphek (1980) trained learners of Hebrew on how to recall new words by using 'paired associations' and found that learners perform better in recalling tasks when they form associations (Ellis, 2002).

In a study by Weinstein (1978), students in the ninth grade were trained to use a variety of strategies and apply them to reading comprehension and memory tasks. The positive results showed that students trained in elaboration strategies significantly outperformed the students who received no training (O'Malley & Chamot, 1995).

Wenden (1987) describes that providing students with a checklist of criteria to self-evaluate their oral production resulted in successful use of self-evaluation as a learning strategy. The consensus of these investigations and others (Bialystok 1983; Gagne 1985; Sano 1999; Dadour 1996) tell us that language learning strategies are 'teachable' and training language learners to use selected learning strategies can lead to positive effects on task performance in the language learning process.

Research on strategy instruction has also investigated the instructional sequences used by language instructors to implement strategy instruction into foreign language lessons. One of the research interests of Chamot et al. (1988) was to discover how three regular classroom teachers integrated strategy instruction into their Spanish and Russian foreign language class activities. The results showed that although each participating instructor had an individual way of providing learning strategy instruction (O'Malley & Chamot, 1995), all three instructors opted for direct instruction (informing students of the purpose and value of strategies) and followed a structured sequence of introducing, practicing, reinforcing and evaluating strategy use each language activity (Kinoshita, 2003).

Research by Robbins (1996) and Grunewald (1999) provides insights into instructional sequences and teaching approaches. Robbins (1996) renders a qualitative description of the instructional sequence used to implement strategy instruction at two universities in Kyoto, Japan. As a framework for strategy instruction, he used the Problem-Solving Process Model. Students were instructed to use the model to plan, monitor, use and evaluate strategies as they attended to language learning tasks. The instructional sequence for each lesson are modeling, explaining, encouraging, and prompting the use of strategies.

Grunewald's action research (1999) shows evidence of how strategies instruction can been integrated into foreign language lessons. Grunewald developed an optional supplementary system of useful language learning techniques or strategies. Supplementary learning strategies were identified for each language skill presented in the course book and direct instruction of these language strategies were integrated into the weekly language lessons. The teaching approach used for strategies instruction includes awareness raising, explicit naming of strategies, practice and self-evaluation and monitoring

Types of Language Learning Strategies Instruction

Language learning strategies instructions can be taught in at least three different ways namely awareness training, one time strategy training and long term strategy training (Oxford, 1990).

Awareness training

Awareness training is also known as conscious raising or familiarization training. In this situation, participants become aware of the language learning strategies and the way these strategies can help them accomplish various tasks. This training should be fun and motivating so that participants can expand their knowledge of strategies. Participants can be teachers, students or anyone else interested in language learning processes (Oxford 1990).

One time strategy training

One time strategy training involves learning and practicing one or more strategies with actual learning tasks. This kind of training normally gives the learners information on the value of the strategy, when it can be used, how to use it and how to evaluate the success of the language strategy. This training is suitable for learners who have a need for a particular and targeted strategy that can be taught in one or a few sessions. In general, this strategy is not as valuable as long-term training (Oxford 1990).

Long term strategy training

Long term strategy training involves learning and practicing strategies with actual language tasks. Students learn the significance of a particular strategy, when and how to use it, how to monitor and evaluate their own performance. Long term training is more prolonged and covers a greater number of strategies. This strategy is most likely to more effective than one time training (Oxford 1990).

LLSI Models

Research on the learning strategies that second language students generate and strategies that can be taught is of great significance in understanding the operation of cognitive processes during second language acquisition (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990).

Instructional models and materials are helpful in illustrating the ways in which research findings can be converted into practical classroom activities.

LLSI Model by O'Malley and Chamot

O'Malley and Chamot (1990) model is based on cognitive theory. The Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) is designed to develop the academic language skills of limited English proficient students in upper elementary and secondary schools.

The theoretical model on which CALLA is based, suggests that language is a complex cognitive skill. It requires extensive practice and feedback in order to operate at an autonomous level.

The CALLA lesson plan framework incorporates learning strategy instruction, content area topics, and language development activities. Learning strategy instruction is both direct and embedded. In CALLA, new learning strategies are introduced and familiar ones are practiced (O'Malley & Chamot 1990).

CALLA lessons include both teacher directed and learner centered activities. They specify three types of objectives, namely, content objectives, language objectives, and learning strategy objectives.

Each CALLA lesson is divided into five phases: preparation, presentation, practice, and evaluation and expansion activities (refer to Figure 1.1). Theses phases are often recursive and the teacher may wish to go back to earlier phases in order to clarify or provide additional instruction.

Preparation

Expansion Activities

Evaluation

Presentation

Practice

Figure 1.1 LLSI Model by O'Malley and Chamot (1999)

Preparation

In the preparation phase, the teacher finds out , through brainstorming, what students already know about the concepts in the subject area to be presented and practiced, what gaps need to be addressed and how students have been taught to approach a particular type of learning activity. The lesson's objectives are explained to students and new vocabulary is developed. The learning strategies most commonly taught in this phase are elaboration, advance organization and selective attention (O'Malley & Chamot 1990).

Presentation

In the presentation phase, new information is presented and explained to students in English that is supported by contextual clues such as demonstration and visuals. Teachers make sure that students comprehend the new information so that they will be able to practice it meaningfully in the next phase of the lesson.

Some of the learning strategies taught and practiced in this phase are selective attention while listening or reading, self monitoring, inferencing, elaboration, note taking, imagery and questioning for clarifications (O'Malley & Chamot 1990).

Practice

The practice phase of the lesson is learner centered. Students engage in hands on activities to practice the new information they were exposed to in the presentation phase. The teacher acts as a facilitator in helping students assimilate the new information and use it in different ways.

Cooperative leaning in heterogeneous teams is particularly effective during the practice phase, as students can work together in small groups to clarify their understanding of the information previously presented.

The learning strategies in this phase are self monitoring, organizational planning, resourcing, grouping, summarizing, deduction, imagery, auditory representation, elaboration, inferencing, cooperation and questioning for clarification (O'Malley & Chamot 1990).

Evaluation

In this phase, students check the level of their performance so that they can gain an understanding of what they have learned and any areas they need to review. Evaluation activities can be individual, cooperative or teacher directed. Learning strategies practiced in the evaluation phase are: self evaluation, elaboration, questioning for clarification, cooperation and self talk (O'Malley & Chamot 1990.

Expansion activities

In the expansion phase, students are given a variety of opportunities to think about the new concepts and skills they have learned, integrate them into their existing knowledge frameworks, make real world applications and continue to develop academic language. This phase also provide the opportunity to exercise higher order thinking skills such as inferring new application of a concept, analyzing the components of a learning activity, drawing parallels with other concepts, and evaluating the importance of a concept or a new skill.

LLSI Model by Oxford

Oxford's eight-step model (refer to Table 1.1) for strategy training focuses on the teaching of learning strategies. It is especially useful for long term strategy training. It can also be adapted for one-time training by selecting specific units. The first five are planning and preparation steps, while the last three involve conducting, evaluating and revising the training.

Table 1.1: Strategy Model by Oxford (1990)

Determine the learner's needs and the time available

Select strategies well

Consider integration of strategy training

Consider motivated issues

Prepare materials and activities

Conduct "completely informed training"

Evaluate the strategy training

Revise the strategy training

Step 1: Determine the Learners' Needs and the Time Available

The initial step in a training program is to consider the needs of the learners and determine the amount of time needed for the activity. Consider first who the learners are and what they need. Are they children, adolescents, college students, graduate students or adults in continuing education? What are their strength and weaknesses? What learning strategies have they been using? Is there a gap between the strategies they have been using and those learners think they have to learn?

Consider also how much time learners and learners students have available for strategy training and when learners might do it. Are learners pressed for time or can learners work strategy training in with no trouble?

Step 2: Select Strategies Well

First, select strategies which are related to the needs and characteristics of learners. Note especially whether there are strong cultural biases in favor or against a particular strategy. If strong biases exist, choose strategies that do not completely contradict what the learners are already doing.

Second, chose more than one kind of strategy to teach. Decide the kinds of compatible, mutually supporting strategies that are important for students.

Third, choose strategies that are generally useful for most learners and transferable to a variety of language situations and tasks.

Fourth, choose strategies that are easy to learn and valuable to the learner. In other words, do not include all easy strategies or all difficult strategies (Oxford 1990).

Step 3: Consider Integration of Strategy Training

It is most helpful to integrate strategy training with the tasks, objectives, and materials used in the regular language training program. Attempts to provide detached, content independent strategy training have been moderately successful. Learners sometimes rebel against strategy training that is not sufficiently linked to their own language training.

When strategy training is integrated with language learning, learners understand better how the strategies can be used in significant, meaningful context. Meaningfulness makes it easier to remember the strategies. However, it is also necessary to show learners how to transfer the strategies to new tasks, outside of the immediate ones.

Step 4: Consider Motivational Issues

Consider the kind of motivation teachers will build into a training program. Decide whether to give grades or partial course credit for attainment of new strategy. If learners have gone through a strategy assessment phase, their interest in strategies is likely to be heightened.

If a teacher explains how using a good strategy can make language learning easier, students will be more interested in participating strategy training. Another way to increase motivation is to let learners have some say in selecting the language activities or tasks they will use, or let them choose strategies they will learn.

Language teachers need to be sensitive to learners' original strategy preferences and the motivation that propels these preferences. This means that teachers should phase in very new strategies gently and gradually, without whisking away students' 'security blankets'.

Step 5: Prepare Materials and Activities

The materials that can be used for strategy training are handouts or handbook. Learners can also develop a strategy handbook themselves. They can contribute to it incrementally, as they learn new strategies that prove successful to them.

Step 6: Conduct "Completely Informed Training"

Make a special point to inform the learners as completely as possible about why the strategies are important and how they can be used in new situations. Learners need to be given explicit opportunity to evaluate the success of their new strategies and exploring the reasons why theses strategies might have helped.

Research shows that strategy training which fully informs the learners, by indicating why the strategy is useful and how it can be transferred to different tasks, is more successful than training that does not. Most learners perform best with completely informed training (Brown et al., 1980a).

In the very rare instances, when informed training proves impossible, more subtle training techniques might be necessary. For example, when learners are through cultural influences, new strategies need to be camouflaged or introduced very gradually, paired with strategies the learners already know and prefer.

Step 7: Evaluate the Strategy Training

Learners' own comments about their strategy use are part of the training itself. These self assessments provide practice with the strategies of self monitoring and self evaluating, during and after the training, own observations are useful for evaluating the success of strategy training. Possible criteria for evaluating training are task improvement, general skill improvement, maintenance of the new strategy, transfer of strategy to other relevant tasks and improvement in learner's attitude.

Step 8: Revise the Strategy Training

The evaluation phase (Step 7) will suggest possible revisions. This leads right back to Step 1, a reconsideration of the characteristics and needs of the learners in light of the cycle of strategy training that has just occurred.

How to Integrate LLSI into Language Classroom?

LLSI may be integrated by teachers into their daily language classroom. LLSI is needed to enhance listening, speaking, reading, or writing course in language learning and teaching.

There are three steps in implementing LLSI in the classroom according to Clouston (1997).

Step 1 : Study your teaching context

Step 2: Focus on LLS in your teaching

Step 3: Reflect and encourage learner reflection

Step 1: Study Your Teaching Context

By observing students' behaviour in class, teachers will be able to see what LLS they are using. Talking to students informally before or after class, or more formally interviewing select students about these topics can also provide a lot of information about one's students, their goals, motivations, and LLS, and their understanding of the particular course being taught. Teachers should study their own teaching methods and overall classroom style. One way to do so is to look at their lesson plans and identify if they have incorporated various ways that students can learn the language (Cloustan 1997).

Step 2: Focus on LLS in Your Teaching

Focus on specific LLS in your regular teaching that are relevant to your learners, your materials, and your own teaching style. LLS may be used in learning to write or in writing, and filling in the gaps with other LLS for writing that are neglected in the text but would be especially relevant for your learners. Provide students with opportunities to use and develop their LLS and to encourage more independent language learning both in class and in out-of-class activities for your course (Gardner and Miller 1996).

Step 3: Reflect and Encourage Learner Reflection

In implementing LLSI, purposeful teacher reflection and encouraging learner reflection form a necessary third step. On a basic level, it is useful for teachers to reflect on their own positive and negative experiences in language learning. After each class, one might reflect on the effectiveness of the lesson and the role of LLSI within it. In addition to the teacher's own reflections, it is essential to encourage learner reflection, both during and after the LLSI in the class (Cloustan 1997).

Conclusion

When including strategies based instruction in a second language curriculum, it is important to choose an instructional model that introduces the strategies to the students and raises awareness of their learning preferences; teaches them to identify, practice, evaluate, and transfer strategies to new learning situations; and promotes learner autonomy to enable students to continue their learning after they leave the language classroom (Cohen, 2003).

It is important that learning strategies research continue, both in these and other directions, for only through a better understanding of the learning and teaching process can more language learners achieve the level of success that currently characterizes only a small proportion of all students studying a second or foreign language around the world. Language learning strategy instruction can contribute to the development of learner mastery and autonomy and increased teacher expertise, but additional research in specific language learning contexts is essential to realizing its potential to enhance second language acquisition and instruction.

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