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English language is really considered as a significant language since it has been used for communicating worldwide. Therefore, learning English is very common in many countries and language learning styles are used by students in globalization. Language learning styles are the core factors that help decide how the students learn a foreign language. A foreign language is a language studied in an environment where it is not the major vehicle for every day communication and where input in the language is classified (Rebecca, 2003).
In an article by Mulalic et al. (2009), students learning styles have been unnoticed as an irrelevant module in the learning process. Apparently, once lecturers become aware that different students learn various styles, they try to accommodate those learning styles in the classroom. When looking into lecturers' teaching practices, it is possible to understand that the majority of the lecturers are not sensitive with their students learning styles. The problems occur when lecturers are not aware of the significance to create and explore learning styles.
According to Felder (1996), how much students learn in the class is determined partially by the students' ability and prior preparation, and the capability of their learning styles and the lecturer's teaching styles. More specifically, Godleski et al. (1984), the students tend to be bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the course, and may conclude that they are not good at the subject of the course and give it up.
In a research study by Izzo (1980), confirmed that the size of class is an important physical factor which influences the choice of method, decreases the amount of individual attention that the teacher gives to each student. However, she argued that small classes are preferable for language learning and correlated significantly with language achievement.
In the research article by Tan (2008), identified the main difficulties and problems of EFL learners in writing by analyzing the nature of their writing errors. The prominent causes of the errors were attributable to the limitation of vocabulary size, low grammar understanding and obstruction from first language. In the finding of the study, six effective instructional strategies were suggested so that teachers can adopt a more successful approach to improve students' writing proficiency such as learning words, teaching of fundamental sentence structure, showing reading method, correcting error and class meeting, understanding of first language interference, and writing incentive.
Since English language has been introduced in Cambodia, EFL students' learning styles have adapted to the language acquisition. In the past students were likely to get knowledge through listening to the teachers while teachers lacked specific training about teaching methodology. In the study by (Nguyen 2001), the learning style of Cambodian students is typically memorization at the expense of realistic purpose. Consequently, they would rather learn grammar and reading than on listening and speaking. Specifically, most Cambodian learners feel more comfortable and enjoyable with having things which are written on the whiteboard in order that they can write them down and study at home. Hopefully, students hope to get handouts of summaries or lecture outlines. Furthermore, some Cambodian learners reveal that they face a lot of pressures of how to adapt the new cultural environment and how to get on with their peers in class. Some feel lonely because the ways they dress or talk are so different.
As for the case of EFL Cambodian classrooms, Keuk (2009), found that most teachers use practical habitual teaching methods such as vocabulary translation from second language to first language. As a result, students are taught to remember chunks of English language with mainly focused on grammar and vocabulary.
1.2 Problem statement
Without recognizing proper learning styles, students seem not to achieve better results in their academic performance. Furthermore, students are less likely to improve their language acquisition very quickly, as they do not know the effective learning styles. In spite of the variety of academic courses which the EFL university students take in English, and the tough efforts universities and lecturers apply to develop students' language skills, the students' language performance, unfortunately, has been tedious. This could be recognized to the diverse learning styles and habits which are used by students in studying English, including preferring having things written on the whiteboard to listening to the lecturers' explanation, nervousness of speaking in classroom, preferring grammar translation form first language to second language while learning English language, and preferring working individually and personally to working in pairs or groups. Pedagogically, most of the lecturers practice traditional teaching method, grammar translation method form first language to second language while teaching English language. The final noticeable problem is that large classes pose some significant challenges in class room setting and reduced effectiveness of classroom management.
1.3 Objectives of the study
This study aims specifically to identify the learning styles of EFL private university students in Cambodia. More interestingly, this study intends to explore the reasons why Cambodian university students use different styles in their learning English as a foreign language.
1.4 Research questions
This research aims to investigate the effective factors in learning English as a foreign language. The following research questions can be formulated for the study below.
1. How do Cambodian university students describe their learning styles used in learning English as a Foreign Language?
2. Why do the students use different styles in their learning English?
1.5 Significance of the Study
As a part of educational development, this study is significant for four reasons. First, exploring students' learning styles in English in Cambodian higher education will help improve student's language acquisition. Second, the study will shed light on the effective learning styles of EFL successful Cambodian university students, which can be used as a model of learning English. Third, this research will help to contribute to the usefulness of appropriate vocabulary teaching and learning techniques in order to promote vocabulary acquisition, particularly in EFL Cambodian context. In addition, from a methodological perception, it is also hoped that the findings from this study will be useful for providing meaningful suggestions for overcoming the problems that may arise regarding the learning styles of students and how to accommodate various learners in EFL classroom.
16 Definition of key terms
In an attempt to better understand this study, some key terms are defined as follows.
EFL students' learning styles mean techniques, behaviors, actions, habits and steps employed by learners learning English as a Foreign Language to improve and develop their different language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Moreover, the term learning style refers to the general approach preferred by the student when learning a subject, acquiring a language, or dealing with a difficult problem (Oxford 2001; Reid 1998)
1.7 Proposed Chapter
This paper will be chronologically composed of five main chapters. Chapter one is the introduction, consisting of background of the study, researcher problem, research objective, research question, significance of the study, and definition of key concepts. Chapter two is literature review, which discusses on the problems and solutions of the study. Chapter three is methodology, which consists of research design, participants, method, instruments, tools data collection, data analysis, ethnical consideration, strengths and limitation of research. Chapter four is discussion and findings of the study, analyzing the data collected from the interviews. Chapter five is conclusion and recommendation, summarizing the problems and findings of the study and suggesting some strategies to help improve the weaknesses. Moreover, these five chapters are followed systematically by references and appendices.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
2.1. Defining learning styles
In a study by Aqel & Mahmoud (2006) determined EFL students' learning styles which are used in An-Najah National University. Consequently, the result of the findings suggested a variety of teaching English styles, including changing students 'seats, producing effective activities, and using visual aids, which are suitable with learning styles used by students. Moreover, the researchers suggested computer as a necessary course in English Department and Department of Teaching Methods which give its successful task in making students rely on themselves to develop their language proficiency. Also, the researcher proposes that a study should be conducted at other universities to discover the use of learning styles of EFL students and the link between these styles and student's characteristics.
In the research study by Marin (2003), the focus of the investigation was on the language learning styles appearing that students face language difficulties with great achievement but with little efforts. However, other students faced these difficulties with a little success and satisfaction. Also, this article proved that each learner had his/her good way of learning through his/her culture, educational background and personality.
Heffernan (1999) as cited in Aqel (2006), determined that many studies on language learning styles applied and gained differently base on motivation and outcome, level of language , years of learning language, teaching methods, difficult content, and students' background and sex. He also added that successful language learners use various styles in learning language, and the teacher can help in increasing learning styles through teaching strategies that probably help weak students to choose the appropriate learning styles for dissimilar educational tasks.
2.2 Learning styles in classroom
The classroom still remains a good and comfortable place for students in learning their language. Specifically, students' learning styles have to be taken into account while teaching English. In a study by (Haynes, 2001), the language learners use certain styles, especially in their mother tongue while learning their language, and these styles are transferred when they learn a foreign language. Similarly, several studies (Oxford 1993; O'Malley and Chamot, 1990) showed that students of languages used various learning techniques such as memorization, repetition, and imitation, development of positive feeling to language and application of information.
In a research study by (Hayes, 1997; Strevens, 1978; Harmer, 1983), large English classes are often related to lack of control and concentration, disruption, classroom interaction, particularly lack in the ability to speak English fluently. Moreover, overcrowded class is one of the constraints on effective teaching and learning. Also, large classes reduce teacher's attention, produces real physical discomfort and distraction that negatively affect learner's attitudes towards their learning.
Bloom (1976), creating opportunities for small class group work which helps each other and proves to be a useful way to motivate students and correct errors. He also believed that the size of the group is one of the main elements which influences in language learning.
In dealing with the problems associated with large classes, Nnaji (1991) proposed tutorial classes as a solution to help reduce the menace of large classes. She accepted as the truth that tutorial classes should be used to shorten the shortcomings of large classes. According to her, tutorials are debate sessions where teachers and students talk to each other and express their views on topics they did not completely understand
The learning style of Cambodian students is typically memorization at the expense of realistic purpose. Consequently, they would rather learn grammar and reading than on listening and speaking. Specifically, most Cambodian learners feel more comfortable and enjoyable with having things which are written on the whiteboard in order that they can write them down and study at home. Hopefully, students hope to get handouts of summaries or lecture outlines. Furthermore, some Cambodian learners reveal that they face a lot of pressures of how to adapt the new cultural environment and how to get on with their peers in class. Some feel lonely because the ways they dress or talk are so different.(Nguyen 2001)
However, a number of personality characteristics have been associated with successful language learning. These include being willing to take risks (Ruben 1979 as cited in Willis 2001), having self-confident (Heyde as cited in Freeman and Long 1991), and being interested (Ellis and Sinclair as cited in Willis 2001)
2.3 Vocabulary learning
In learning a foreign language, vocabulary plays a vital role. It is one factor associating with the four skills such as speaking, listening, reading and writing. In a research article by Mohd et al. (2009), investigated the evaluation learning vocabulary strategies of undergraduate EFL learners and its relation to the learners' vocabulary size. There are five various categories of vocabulary learning strategies such as determination, memory, social, cognitive, and metacognitive. Consequently, the findings of this study led to some suggestions to improve students' vocabulary learning, developed their vocabulary size, and enhanced their English learning.
As for the case of EFL Cambodian classrooms, Keuk (2009), found that most teachers use practical habitual teaching methods such as vocabulary translation from second language to first language. Therefore, students are taught to memorize chunks of English language with principally focused on grammar and vocabulary.
Maghsodi et al. (2010), reading should be encouraged either inside or outside class because it is the most important tool which helps provide learners with the vocabulary acquisition. It is believed that the more learners are exposed to new words, they more they are likely to remember them.
In the study by Minji (2008), explored which vocabulary instruction is more helpful for learning English vocabulary. Consequently, each instructional approach is required to examine, review, and integrate to determine the usefulness as a whole. In the light of the major findings of this study is that vocabulary instruction is effective overall for EFL learners even though there are some instructional approaches which are not related to effective learning. According to National Reading Panel (2000), helped determine the effective implications of vocabulary instruction for first language learners, including teaching vocabulary both directly and indirectly, the importance of repetition and multiple exposures to vocabulary items, restructuring vocabulary tasks, and entailing active engagement in learning tasks for vocabulary.
2.4 Grammar learning
Grammar is viewed as an essential element for communication to take place because it identifies how language is used. According to Larsen et al. (1997), the misunderstanding of the role of grammar is recognized to the fact that it is always considered to be governed by many fixed rules.
As for the case of Mat et al. (2010), proving the various between the methodological expectations and the learners in contrast to the real teaching methodology followed by their instructors. More significantly, this research article focuses on the five aspects medium of instruction, including grammar instruction, instructors as model, the usefulness of drilling, mimicry and memorization, and the use of educational tools which is pertained to the foreign language methodology. In the finding of the study, a serious divergence between students' outlook and their real classroom in terms of how grammar is instructed. Also, grammar rules should be explained and should not be trained and taught explicitly.
2.5 Reading styles
Reading involves a variety of factors which may have an impact on learners' reading ability. Weaver (1988) defined reading as the process of constructing meaning through the energetic interaction among the reader's existing knowledge, the information recommended by the written language, and the situation in reading context.
In a study by (Miller &Yochum, 1991; Donnell& Wood, 1999), maintained that the reading difficulties students face may be related to inaccurate knowledge of the reading process, lack interest and motivation, fluency, concept density, organization, and difficult vocabulary.
Comprehension or reading strategies show how readers conceive of a task, how they make sense of what they read, and what they do when they do not understand. In short, such strategies are processes used by the learner to enhance reading comprehension and overcome comprehension failures (Singhal, 2001).
In a second language study, Hosenfeld (1977) used a think-aloud procedure to identify relations between certain types of reading strategies and successful or unsuccessful second language reading. The successful reader, for instance, kept the meaning of the passage in mind while reading and skipped less important words but the unsuccessful reader lost the meaning of the sentences when decoded and seldom skipped unimportant words.
2.6 Speaking styles
Speaking is a key for communicating worldwide. It is the productive skill in language learning, which places a great demand on students' logical and critical thinking. In the article by Widiati (2006), discussed problems in the teaching of EFL speaking, activities normally practiced, materials commonly used in EFL speaking classes, and assessment of oral English proficiency. Based on the finding, Indonesian learners frequently have not achieved a good level of ora1 English proficiency. For example, Mukminatien (1999) showed that students of English department have a lot of mistakes while speaking. The mistakes consist of pronunciation, grammatical accuracy, vocabulary, fluency, and interactive communication. Likewise, Ihsan (1999) found in his study that students are likely to make errors, including the misuse of parts of speech, syntactical construction, lexical choice, and voice.
Ihsan et al. (1999 as cited in Eyiyuliwati 1997), showed that students had difficulties in using grammar and in applying new vocabulary items in speaking class.
When the ability to speak English is a very difficult task regarding to the nature of what is included in speaking. Not all of the students in an EFL speaking class have the bravery to speak. Many of the students feel nervous in a speaking class and some are likely to keep silent. In the research by Padmadewi (1998) proved that students attending a speaking class often felt anxious because of demands from the speaking tasks requiring them to do presentation individually and spontaneously within limitation of time. While Tutyandari (2005), stated that students keep quiet due to the lack of self-reliance, prior, knowledge about topics, and poor relationship between teacher and learner. In order to deal with students' limited knowledge, she recommended speaking teachers make active the students' prior knowledge by asking questions relating to topics under debate. Also, she suggested that students' self-esteem can be improved and their nervousness reduced by asking them to work in small groups.
To achieve a higher quality of the teaching of EFL speaking and to improve the speaking skill of Indonesian EFL learners, Mukminatien (1999), suggested teachers give their learners more adequate input for acquisition in the classroom and push them to use English either in or outside the classroom. More specifically, Citraniugtyas (2005) stated that a silent speaking class can be made more active by assigning tasks which develop students' critical thinking skills.
Purjayanti (2003) found presentation to be helpful to encourage students to communicate ideas in their fields of study. She added that through presentation and its preparation students were able not only to practice speaking, but also to search for materials and deliver them in a planned way.
Small group discussion is an additional activity that can be conducted in EFL speaking classroom. Its aim is to facilitate learners to be participated actively in a discussion concerning with students' limited number. In a study of Murdibjono (2001) demonstrated that discussing in small groups is an effective activity so that students have more time to practice speaking with their classmates.
2.7 Listening styles
Listening is a critical element in the competent language performance of EFL university students. Therefore, listening comprehension is an important sill, as well as prerequisite for oral proficiency. In the study of Goh (1997), difficulties to listening compression can be divided into person knowledge and task knowledge. The obstacles of person knowledge are: the limitation of vocabulary, idiomatic expression, kinds of input with new structure, fast speech. While the task knowledge related to new vocabulary, various local accents, speech rate, the interest and purpose of listening, existing knowledge and experience, physical factors, and the length of sentence structure. However, he suggested two strategies for helping learners become better listener. The first is direct strategy; it aims at increasing perceptions. Learners L2 can improve the listening by practicing perceptions sound, content, pronunciation of new words, words, and intonation features. The second is the indirect strategy; its aim is to improve knowledge about speakers, tasks, and strategy.
According Hann (2000), the use of ineffective learning strategies of learners may affect their listening comprehension and learners' experience. Various kinds of listening comprehension may cause some problems due to the inadequacy of the message from factors relating to the speakers' speech, and to the learner proficiency in listening comprehension. Furthermore, it was found that EFL learners are poorly equipped with effective listening strategies, skills, activities.
To help better improve the listening comprehension, in a study by Wen-sheng (2007), conducted in China, listening is very crucial input, but many of the students in Chaozhou Normal College, Hanshan Normal University, and Chaozhou Guangdong were upset with listening. In the finding of the study, there were a lot of significant listening techniques which were neglected by teachers. However, a researcher suggests that more listening strategies should be taught in classes and teaching plan is given.
2.8 Writing styles
In the article by Hafida (2010), conducted in Tlemsen, Algeria, analyze both the university requirements for the English academic degree in Algeria, and students' needs so as to improve a pedagogical framework that would respond both exigencies. As a result of the investigation, the researcher suggested the implementation of a strategy such as based writing curriculum for EFL university students that would develop their strategic competence and consolidate their linguistic knowledge.
Since the Chinese students' poor communicative ability in oral and written English, there is a concern in English teaching and learning in China. In the article by Yan (2006) explored a successful method so as to develop students' speaking ability. As a result of the finding, Scenario-based Learning, two reflective models are introduced to improve the oral and writing in English. Scenario-Based Learning (SBL) is a structured method for figuring out some issues impacting the lives of specific individuals or groups of individuals. Also, It confronts students with an important context based on real life situation which requires them to take part in an imagined series of events.
In the study by Osman (2010), investigates the difficulties faced by beginner academic writers and proposes recommendations to help these writers to be better collaborative writers. In the finding of the study, beginner writers have difficulties during their collaborative writing, including inability to work with their partners, poor language proficiency, poor research skills, having limited time to discuss, lacking ideas, facing stress during collaborative writing, ; therefore, it is suggested that the university and the lecturers should provide them with the opportunities of (1) providing intensive reading program ; (2)teaching interpersonal skills; (3) teaching time management; (4) providing pre-collaborative writing sessions; (5) providing pre-collaborative writing sessions ;(6) and providing teacher/ peer assistance
According to Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) as cited in Rouiller (2005), writing generally suffers from lack of interaction that stimulates oral production in conversation. However, to ensure successful learning, Lam & Wong (2000) as cited in Lourdunathan & Menon (2005), believe that learners should demonstrate appropriate cooperative behavior and peer support. It is necessary because some students have difficulties in organizing their ideas and are weak in English language as well. This can hinder them from participating in their collaborative work.
Since the intent of this study significantly focuses on a private university in Cambodia, the researcher will use a qualitative approach. The researcher will explore the learning styles of EFL Cambodian university students. The case study method tends to systematically investigate an event or a set of related events with the specific aims of describing and explaining this phenomenon. (Berg, 2009)
This is a case study which explores the learning styles of Cambodian university students. The participants of this study will be selected from a private university in Phnom Penh. The sample will consist of 6 students, who are studying English Literature in that university. Also, the researcher will choose both female and male students. Before conducting interviews, the researcher will make an appointment and notify the reasons of visit to the Rector of University.
With the purpose of getting trustworthy information, unstructured interview, informal conversation and participant observation will be used in order to obtain reliable data. Interviews will be tape-recorded and open-ended questions (see below appendix for details). In addition to the above interviews, class observation will be useful tool to obtain data. The observation checklist will basically focus on students learning styles both in classroom and outside classroom.
3.4 Data Collection
Since the qualitative data collection procedure requires the research to immerse completely in the nature setting, the researcher will carry out unstructured interview after observation and taking notes. The interviews will consist of open-ended questions and tape-recording (see Appendix below) for the details. Prior to carrying out the interviews, the researcher will ask permission from university rector and students. The researcher expects each interview will take around 50 minutes and occur in the university or outside the university. The options for selecting site for interview will be provided for the participants because it helps reduce the participants' difficulties. Moreover, the study objective will be verbally informed to participants before conducting interviews. With permission from participants, the researcher will use tape-recording to record the whole interviews. The researcher might ask different participants to answer the questions based on their preference. The researcher will personally observe English students using participant observation techniques. The observation will basically focus on students learning styles in classroom. The students will be asked to provide their responses about the learning styles of EFL Cambodian university students based on their ideas. The observational protocol will include the descriptive activities in the setting and reflective ideas from the researcher. Besides these observations, informal conversation will be made with participants in order to obtain deeply their perceptions about language learning styles. The researcher may take a few brief notes in the field setting but take notes of teaching techniques and behaviors after observation.
3.5 Data Analysis
The researcher will organize and prepare the data for analysis as soon as the data has been collected from the participants. Then the researcher will spend lots of time reading all data and listening to tape recording in order to delete the irrelevant information. Next, the researcher will code the text to categorize the data. Moreover, relationship of data will be identified to interpret the meaning of data collected. Finally, in order to ensure the reliability and validity of data, the researcher will try to reread the data and ask researcher team to check the information. Moreover, matrixes and graphs will be specifically presented. Therefore, they will visualize the difficulties of Cambodian EFL students' learning styles
3.6 Ethical Consideration
To successfully conduct this study, the researcher will take into consideration about some safeguards. First, the consent form will be given to the participants to sign if they really agree to join in the study. Second, the purpose of this study will be clearly informed to participants in order to build mutual understanding and rapport. Third, the researcher will profoundly tell the participants that their participation will be voluntary and stopping from interviews will be the participants' choice. Finally, the researcher will keep data collected in secret place which no one besides researcher will have access to get it. Furthermore, I will bring together the names of participants but keep them confidential. Personal identifiers will be released to the public in a way that protects the identification of participants.
3.7 Limitation of Research
This study is guided with the following limitations, which affect the generality of the finding. First, the study only focuses on university English students in Department of English. Second, the study may be limited in its analysis or generality as it will be conducted in one Cambodian private university, in which 6students will be selected. Third, since this study will mainly explore only important learning styles, some points might be ignored. However, the purpose of this study is not to provide the broad generalization but to explore the learning styles of Cambodian university students in a private university in Phnom Penh. Therefore, the above-mentioned compounding circumstances might limit understanding and evaluation; however, these are generally overwhelmed and controlled by the research design.