Interest in the characteristics of good learners led researchers to identify learning strategies. Learners are different because of their internal differences and the role played by the external factors. Among these differences are the strategies used by learners (Griffiths and Parr, 2001, p 249).
In some researches the terms strategies and skills are used synonymously “â€¦skills and strategies such as â€¦” (Drake, 2008, p 8), “â€¦skills/ strategiesâ€¦” (Lu, 2006, p ii). In other researches, skills are differentiated from strategies.
Skills are defined as “acquired abilities, proficiencies” (Harris and Hodges 1981, 298) and a “mode(s) or manner(s) in which language is used” (Richards et al. 1985, 160) and they are used to “perform well” (Hudson, 2007, p 78). In (Griffiths, 2004) strategies are defined as
â€ždevicesâ€Ÿ (Ellis 1986; Rubin 1975), â€žtechniquesâ€Ÿ (Rubin 1975), â€žoperations, stepsâ€Ÿ (O’Malley et al 1985), â€ždirectionsâ€Ÿ (Stern 1992) and are used to acquire (Rubin 1975) to facilitate, (O’Malley et al 1985), and to compensate (Ellis 1986). Strategies are also different from skills in that they are used consciously (Nuttall, 1996). Because they are tools, strategies are assumed to dominate over skills (O’Malley et al., 1985, p 557).
In this work, the term â€žstrategiesâ€Ÿ is used to refer to the systematic ways which are consciously used by the readers to guide and enhance their reading processes.
2.6.1 Classification of learning strategies
Researchers have tried to produce lists of learning strategies. Classification of learning strategies has primarily followed the theory of cognition, which is concerned with the way the brain works to process and call information back (Macaro, 2001).
Rubin (1975) defined learning strategies as “the techniques or devices which a learner may use to acquire knowledge”. She divided these “techniques or devices” into Direct Learning Strategies and Indirect Learning Strategies. Direct Strategies are directly related to the items or issues being learned. They are clarification/verification, monitoring, memorisation, guessing/inductive inferencing, deductive reasoning, and practice. Indirect Learning Strategies are concerned with learning environment adaptation: creating
opportunities for practice, and production tricks (Hismanoglu, 2000). Rubinâ€Ÿs (1975) classification reflects an interest in the relationship between the strategies used on one hand and learning processes and learning-environment adaptation on the other.
In a later study, Wenden and Rubin (1987) learning strategies were classified into cognitive strategies and self-management strategies (Gamage, 2003). While cognitive strategies are concerned with the procedure used by the learner to process the information received, self-management strategies involve controlling the learning process itself. Using the term â€žself-managementâ€Ÿ highlights the conscious use of the strategies.
Social and affective factors were introduced in the classification presented by O’Malley and Chamot (1990). They classified language-learning strategies into Cognitive strategies, Metacognitive strategies and Social/ Affective strategies (O’Malley and Chamot,
1990, pp 44, 45). Cognitive strategies are relevant to the learning activities used by the learners to process new information. Metacognitive strategies are the activities which reflect a learner’s knowledge and management of his/ her learning process. Finally, Social/Affective strategies account for the social and affective aspects related to learning such as interacting with other people or controlling oneâ€Ÿs own feelings while learning.
Oxford (1990) developed the so-called Strategy Inventory of Language Learning (SILL) which also apply to teaching. In this inventory, she divided strategies into main groups: Direct strategies and Indirect strategies. She divided these two major groups into six subgroups.
1) Direct Strategies:
Cognitive Strategies (practicing, receiving and sending messages, analysing and reasoning, and creating structure for input and output)
Metacognitive Strategies (centring learning, arranging and planning learning, and evaluating learning)
Memory Strategies (creating mental linkages, applying images and sounds, reviewing, and employing action)
2) Indirect Strategies:
Compensation Strategies (guessing intelligently, and overcoming limitations)
Social Strategies (asking questions, cooperating with others, and empathising with others)
Affective Strategies (lowering anxiety, encouraging oneâ€Ÿs self, and taking emotional
temperature) (Oxford, 1990, p 17)
This classification of strategies can be considered the most detailed one because of its
headings and subheadings.
2.7 Reading strategies
Reading strategies are defined as readersâ€Ÿ “conscious use” (Nuttall, 1996, p 40) of techniques, operations or steps a learner takes to “conceive a task, what textual cues they attend to, how they make sense of what they read, and what they do when they do not understand” (Block, 1986, p 465). Doing so, readers should be aware of the strategies used and how to control them when they read (Paris et al., 1986, pp 92- 108). L1 reading studies constituted the base of reading studies in general.and the results and procedures were extended to cover L2 studies. Grabe and Stoller (2002) point out that foreign language teachers should assist “students to transfer L1 reading strategies” and to gain “sufficient L2 proficiency” (pp 84, 85).
Studies of L1 reading strategies have usually concentrated on describing and listing the characteristics and strategies that distinguish good readers from poor readers and on the factors or reasons that may affect the reading process.
Olshavsky (1976/1977) studied the effect of reading material and interest in reading strategy use for 24 tenth grade students while they were trying to comprehend a short story. The results revealed that both good readers and poor readers used the same strategies; however, readers with high interest in the material used strategies more frequently than did readers with low interest. In relation to the material, readers used more strategies when engaged in abstract material. Thus, it can be concluded that the kind of material and reader’s interest affect the number of the strategies used.
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Hosenfeld (1977) compared the strategies used by good readers and poor readers. The subjects were 40 students out of the 210 students who administered MLA-Cooperative Test of Reading Proficiency in Western New York. Twenty of the subjects scored high (32-45), and the other twenty scored low (13-19). The researcher concluded that good readers are characterised by keeping the meaning of the passage in mind as they read, reading in broad phrases, skipping words that are considered unimportant and unknown, looking up words, correctly, in the glossary as a last resort, and having a positive self-image as a reader. This study reveals that good readers are strategic and make use of their working memory. Some studies investigated certain strategies rather than describing the general characteristics of the reader. Kavale and Schreiner (1979) compared the way reasoning strategies were used by
eight average and eight above-average readers who were selected from sixth grade population in a suburban public elementary school based on their scores in the Comprehension section of the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test. Although the two levels used similar strategies, above- average readers used strategies more efficiently and successfully. Moreover, they realised that the above-average readers used strategies flexibly and sought alternatives when they needed to. In this study, it seems that the difference between the readers is not the number or kind of strategies used rather it is a matter of efficiency and flexibility. Studies also investigated the use of a group of strategies to achieve one purpose.
Afflerbach (1990) investigated the strategies used to construct the main idea of difficult texts, and the contribution of prior knowledge to strategy use. The participants were eight (four anthropology doctoral students, four chemistry doctoral students) who had relatively high background knowledge in their own field, and relatively low knowledge in the other field. The two texts used in this study were from two different knowledge domains: anthropology and chemistry. In this study, the topic sentences were removed from the texts. He noticed that four strategies were used: Draft-and-Revision, Topic/ Comment, Initial Hypothesis, and Listing. In Draft-and-Revision, the reader jots down an idea, judges it, then when it proves to be wrong, it is revised. The second strategy is Topic/ Comment, in which the reader highlights a topic and comments on it. The third is generating an Initial Hypothesis based on the title, the first sentence, or skimming the text; then testing the accuracy of the hypothesis and modifying it. The final strategy is Listing where the related words, concepts, or ideas are grouped together. It was also noticed that familiarity with the text generated its automatic processing (Afflerbach, 1990, p 33). This may suggest a relationship between automaticity and prior knowledge. The strategies used can also be affected by level of difficulty. Kletzien (1991) compared the strategies used by good readers and poor readers as they were presented with texts that varied in difficulty. The 48 participants in this study were
10th and 11th grade students at a suburban high school in the U.S. Twenty four of these subjects were good comprehenders while the others were poor comprehenders. She observed that both groups used the same type and number of strategies when the text introduced suited groupâ€Ÿs level. However, poor readers used fewer strategies than the good readers as the texts became more difficult. Macaro (2001) also reported that good readers “do not get anxious when they do not understand” (Macaro, 2001, pp 86, 88).
Kozminsky and Kozminsky (2001) explored the relationship between general
knowledge and skills in applying reading strategies on one hand and reading comprehension on the other. The participants were 205 ninth-graders in two comprehensive high schools in a city in southern Israel. Thirty four subjects were expected to successfully complete the full high school programme and full course of the national matriculation examinations, 128 were expected to get the diploma and take a few of the national matriculation examinations, 21 students were expected to complete the high school programme and obtain a diploma, and finally 22 were expected to complete twelve years of schooling to obtain a diploma. In this study, the researchers concluded that general knowledge and the ability to apply reading strategies contribute to reading comprehension. However, this contribution varied because of the differences in the educational level of the students (academic, semi-academic, vocational, and learning disabilities).
Through think-aloud protocol and interviews, Lau (2006) highlighted the difference in the reading strategies used by four good and four poor Chinese readers. These subjects were in eighth grade in Hong Kong. The researcher realised that good readers are characterised by their knowledge of vocabulary and strategies, their abundant use of the strategies, and their memory capacity whereas poor readers lack these characteristics. L2 reading proficiency can also affect metacognitive strategies. Koli
-Vehovec and BajÅ¡anski (2007) explored comprehension monitoring of bilingual (Croatian native speaking) students at different levels of perceived proficiency in Italian. They noted that proficient students in a second language showed greater mastery of monitoring skills than the less proficient students, and that monitoring contributed to reading comprehension in higher elementary school.
These studies show that good readers are characterised by their knowledge of vocabulary and their working memory capacity. These characteristics helped them use reading strategies more efficiently and flexibly than poor readers. Lack of these abilities and prior knowledge about the reading material, and textsâ€Ÿ levels of difficulty affected poor readersâ€Ÿ achievement negatively.
The strategies mentioned in the above studies can be grouped into three categories: tools used in the reading process, manipulation of reading material and planning and monitoring of reading process. The following table summarises that.
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