MARTHA NYIKOS Department o Language Education f School o Education f Indiana University Bloomington, IN 47405-1 006 E-mail: [email protected] indiana. edu and REBECCA OXFORD Department o Curriculum &? Instruction f College o Education f University o Alabama f Tuscaloosa, A L 35487-0231 E-mail: [email protected] bamanet. ua. edu I N THE LAST FEW YEARS RESEARCH literature on learning strategies has experienced tremendous growth. In 1990 alone, at least three books on this subject appeared (9; 26; 28).
Interest in learning strategies is due in large part to increased attention to the learner and to learner-centered instructional models of teaching (2; 37). These trends can be traced to the recognition that learning begins with the learner. The present study investigated the key types of foreign language learning strategies used by university students and adds statistical support to information-processing and socialinteraction models of learning. By approaching the learning process from cognitive, social and affective perspectives (among others), researchers are able to analyze learning in naturalistic and classroom environments.
Cognitively, learners are viewed as contributors to the process of understanding new information via prior knowledge, schemata, or scripts. The social side of learning is also recognized as a learning catalyst in and out of the classroom (44;41). Authentic communication is advocated as an avenue, not simply an outcome of language instruction. The affective side of learning is frequently addressed in studies on anxiety (19; 34) and in strategy manuals addressed to students (4; 38). Communication strategies The Modern Language Journal, 77, i (1993) 0026-7902/93/11-22 $1. 0/0 01993 The Modern Language Journal are formally studied in linguistic analyses of speech act categories (42). All these approaches recognize the centrality of learners’ contribution to language learning as a cognitive, social, and affective process. Learning strategy research expands the strategic competence component of Canale and Swain’s communicative competence model by demonstrating that strategic competence goes beyond mere compensation strategies. Strategic competence fosters competence in grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, and psycholinguistic areas.
Thus strategy research permeates all areas of learning, recognizing that learning is multidimensional. The present study confirms this multidimensionality through the statistical approach of factor analysis. In academic settings, learning strategies are technically defined as steps taken by learners to facilitate acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information (36). Teachers of a foreign or second language must understand the types of language learning strategies learners employ both inside and outside the classroom; information-processing theory can be a significant help in this regard.
Students’ beliefs about their own language learning are also crucial because these beliefs directly affect students’ motivation to learn a new language and their subsequent use of language learning strategies (25; 32). The literature on the social psychology of language learning is our best resource for information on beliefs and motivation in the development 12 of foreign or second language competence (see, e. g. , 14; 15; 17; 18). Thus informationprocessing and social psychological approaches were chosen as theoretical frameworks through which to interpret the present study.
The study: 1) uses factor analysis to categorize and describe language learning strategies in a sample of university students; 2) reports and interprets the frequency of strategy use in this sample from the perspectives of information-processing theory and social psychology; and 3) discusses specific classroom implications. These elements represent half of a major study of language learning strategies involving over 1200 university students. ‘ CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND The Modern Language Journal 77 (1993)
Some conditions of learning are external to the learner and can be termed situational variables. Such external conditions include type, rate, and quality of instruction, the appropriateness of materials to a given learning task, and the opportunity to practice-all critical factors that influence success in classroom-based learning (7). These variables, if favorable, are important in helping students to convert new information into active, retrievable language knowledge and communicative skills.
Yet the traditional concentration on these external forces has often taken attention away from the central role of the learner in the learning process. The interplay of situational variables and learner variables underscores the complexity of language learning. In order to process language information and make it more retrievable, learners must know how to access and use learning strategies, which include any steps taken by learners to make information intake and use more productive.
Learning strategies can help students transform comprehensible input (what the teacher provides) into comprehensible intake (what the student actually takes in and stores in a manner that allows for retrieval of the learned information in future situations). The strategies learners choose and apply to foreign or second language learning depends on the interaction of situational variables with a host of learner variables, such as age, sex, years of language learning, ethnicity, national origin, and general learning style.
These learner variables have been discussed elsewhere (see 3; 24; 25; 27; 28; 32; 33; 35). The cognitive and social sides of learning are broad perspectives addressed here through two theoretical models. From an informationprocessing perspective, strategies used by learners are of two broad types: cognitive process strategies, which are largely unconscious and automatic (though they were once conscious and can be consciously strengthened through strategy training), and metacognitive strategies, which allow conscious management and control over learning by students themselves (20; 40). As key aspects of the learning process, regardless of the setting, McLaughlin, Rossman and McLeod have identified the need for attentionenhancing and organizing strategies-which fall into the metacognitive category-and cite restrictions on short-term memory that make both cognitive and metacognitive strategies essential (20). From a social psychology perspective, motivation emerges as a key determinant of frequency and type of strategy use (32). Several decades of research in sociolinguistics has found motivation to be one of the most important affective variables in language learning (13; 14).
Learners’ beliefs about their own language learning are also critical in determining types of strategies used (3; 17; 18; 28; 43). These beliefs have been linked to motivation (18; 32), general learning style (1I), and academic demands (3; 32). Language learners who believe teachers to be the authoritative source of knowledge are more prone to avoid the selfdirected strategies necessary to achieve language proficiency (28). Another learner belief that can restrict a learner’s range of strategies is that fluency can be reached solely through such traditional means as translation, grammar application, and rote memorization (17).
Reliance on a restricted range of traditional strategies is more likely to be found in classroom settings than in natural acquisition environments. The academic setting promotes an often voiced belief on the part of grade-oriented students that social interactive strategies, which are useful in developing communicative competence, do not sufficiently help students to master the type of material on which they are tested and on which their grades depend (25).
The narrow view that fluency in a new language can be attained in two years of non-intensive coursework is likely to lead learners to become discouraged (17). Moreover, many students believe that they lack the aptitude for language learning, leading many to drop out of language study altogether, whereas a greater awareness of learning strategies could compensate for this perceived deficit. These beliefs need to be identified in order to
Martha Nyikos and Rebecca Oxford change students’ misconceptions about language learning, and to help them to become more informed, self-directed, and successful language learners (16; 18; 28; 43). Another important learner variable that often hinders use of appropriate strategies is lack of strategy-related awareness. Typically, second and foreign language students are not fully aware of their own language learning strategies, and are even less aware of the wide range of alternative learning strategies used by highly successful language learners (24; 25; 28).
Successful application of learning strategies depends on awareness of 1) one’s current strategy use; 2) the wide range of alternative strategies that might be helpful; and 3) the circumstances under which a given strategy can most effectively be applied. Such awareness can be gained through strategy instruction. The greater the strategy awareness of learners, the more likely they will be to use task-appropriate learning strategies that help them overcome their general learning style limitations, and the more likely that these strategies will assist in processing, retrieving, and using new language information.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS 13 sity population, but are indicative of the large number of foreign language classes that chose to participate in the study. Of the sixty-two foreign language classes at the university, fifty-five (eighty-nine percent) were surveyed, with an average of twenty-three students per class. The majority of participants (seventy percent) were taking a foreign language to fulfill a requirement, and two-thirds (sixty-six percent) had never previously studied a foreign language.
Only a small percentage (four percent) had chosen foreign language as a major. Most (seventy-two percent) reported only low or moderate motivation to study a foreign language. Almost all were undergraduates, native speakers of English, and from seventeen to twenty-three years of age. Three-quarters were either first or second semester language students, while the rest were third or fourth semester language students or enrolled in advanced composition, literature, or conversation classes.
Instrumentation. A few language learning strategies are overt and observable (e. g. , cooperating with peers and taking notes), but most seem to be covert and unobservable (e. g. , creating mental images, rehearsing silently, planning for a language task, self-evaluating and analyzing expressions). Therefore, self-reports such as surveys, diaries, interviews, and thinkaloud protocols (23; 28) are often employed to measure more accurately the use of the unobservable strategies.
The primary instrument used in the current study is a self-report survey, the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL), a 121-item, Likert-scaled measure (29) designed to assess the frequency with which respondents use a variety of strategies for foreign or second language learning. The SILL‘S fivepoint scale ranges from “never or almost never” to “always or almost always. ” Items included in the SILL were drawn from systematic lists of language learning strategies (see 28; 30) and include: 1) cognitive strategies, such as analysis, practice, and other techniques for encoding information and etrieving it when needed; 2) compensation strategies for overcoming limitations in reception or production of the new language, such as guessing and using circumlocution; 3) metacognitive strategies, such as planning and self-evaluating, to help learners control the general learning process; 4) social strategies, such as asking questions and cooperating with speakers of the language and with peers; and 5) affective strategies for dealing with emotions and attitudes.
Several research questions are addressed in the present report. The more important of these are: 1) what groupings of strategies are formed through factor analysis? 2) which descriptors might best characterize these factors? and 3) how can these findings be explained? Ancillary research questions are: 4) how often are the strategies in each of these factor categories used by students learning languages under formal classroom conditions? and 5) how can these frequencies best be understood? METHODOLOGY Sample.
The study’s sample consisted of 1200 students from a major midwestern university which is typical of many large academic institutions with a mandatory language requirement. The students were enrolled in one of five different languages: French (440 students, or forty percent of the sample), Spanish (306 students, twenty percent), German (300 students, twenty-seven percent), Russian (twenty-three students, two percent), and Italian (twenty students, two percent). These percentages do not reflect the proportions of learners actually enrolled in each language in the general univer- 4 The SILL’S internal consistency reliability was measured using Cronbach‘s alpha at . 96 for the university sample (and . 95 for an earlier 483-person field test sample; see 29). Content validity is . 95 using classificatory agreement between two independent raters, who matched each of the SILL items with strategies in a comprehensive strategy typology. Construct validity is based on strong relationships between SILL factors and language proficiency, language motivation, linguistic training, and other variables (11; 32).
Social desirability response bias, which might have represented an intervening variable, was checked both qualitatively and quantitatively in several studies, including the present one (see also 29; 32); students did not show evidence of answering in a socially desirable fashion to please the investigators. Another instrument used in this investigation was a background questionnaire, which includes items on motivation, language use, previous language learning, university major, and self-ratings of language proficiency. Data Collection Procedures.
Teachers and teaching assistants were asked to contribute regular class time to administer the survey. Every effort was made to treat the survey as a normal classroom activity. Teachers and teaching assistants announced that the survey would serve a dual function: on the one hand, students would help in an information-gathering task relevant to language instruction and learning; on the other hand, the survey would serve learners’ needs by suggesting new strategies and strategy uses, while also providing helpful feedback to learners about their own strategies.
Data Analysis Procedures. Factor analysis, the main statistical procedure used in the study, involves gathering data on a group of individuals and (through intercorrelations among variables) identifying the main underlying factors that explain the greatest amount of the reported covariation among the individuals’ responses. Factor analysis is a technique that statistically links related elements (in this case, learning strategy items) that vary in synchrony with each other, thereby forming a cluster of items bound together by one common underlying factor.
Five such underlying factors were found in this study, the first of which explains the largest amount of covariation, the second the next largest amount, and so on. By using numerical values, factor analysis provides new information helpful in formulating psychological and educational constructs in a relatively objective manner. In addition, average frequency The Modern Language Journal 77 (1993) values of strategy use were calculated independently for each item on the SILL.
The frequency information for each strategy item was listed according to the factor to which the strategy was most closely allied in the factor analysis. RESULTS Factor analytic results are presented below, coupled with data on frequency of strategy use. Each factor is described with reference to its respective strategy grouping. Specific variables functioning in the classroom setting are analyzed as sources of strategy choice.
The factor analysis resulted in five factors that are particularly salient to classroom-based foreign language learning in a university setting: Factor One, formal, rule-related processing strategies; Factor Two, functional practice (authentic language use) strategies; Factor Three, resourceful, independent strategies; Factor Four, standard academic study strategies; and Factor Five, conversational input elicitation strategies. The five factors are summarized in Tables I through V.
Each of these tables presents the number and name of the factor, the number and general content of every strategy item that loads moderately to highly (. 30 or above) on that factor, the specific loading of each of the strategy items, and the average frequency of use of the item in terms of its mean (1 = lowest to 5 = highest) and rank of frequency of use (low, medium, or high). Factor One, formal, rule-related processing strategies, is characterized by highly cognitive strategies.
These information-processing strategies are internal to the learner and result in few obseruable behaviors (such as grouping by attribute, finding L1-L2 contrasts, and looking for language patterns). Factor One involves the use of analytic, bottom-up skills and (to a lesser extent) synthesizing skills, and can be viewed as comprising two modes of conscious information-processing: a cross-language mode and an intralanguage mode, as defined below.
These two modes do not seem to be sequentially or hierarchically ordered but instead appear to work in tandem, with constant movement back and forth between the modes, marked by simultaneous use of several ~trategies. ~ The first mode, cross-language, is marked by conscious, systematic attention to contrast and analogy between the first or native language code (Ll) and the second or target language code (L2).
The learner makes constant comparisons between the well-known (Ll) and the less Martha Nyikos and Rebecca Oxford TABLE I Factor One: Formal, Rule-Related Practice Strategies Loadin g 64 63 62 61 60 59 58 55 55 51 47 45 45 45 43 43 42 39 39 38 37 36 33 32 32 31 30 high; m = medium Item # 58 76 108 81 109 100 111 38 93 116 61 43 8 117 22 66 55 71 83 14 69 82 107 62 88 112 68 Content Finds L1-L2 contrasts Uses L1 structural knowledge Looks for exceptions Guesses meanings from situation
Generatedrevises rules Looks for language patterns Infers by analogy Looks for cognates Notes L1 interference Finds cognates Uses all information while reading Uses deductive reasoning Applies rules Applies rules Makes links with old information Notices text layout Analyzes words Monitors writing Speaks mentally first Analyzes errors Makes mental summaries Groups by attribute Reads story repeatedly Concentrates on speaker Visualizes spelling Uses references Makes unusual memory links Average 3. 9 3. 5 3. 2 3. 6 3. 1 3. 2 3. 7 4. 0 3. 1 3. 5 4. 1 3. 6 3. 5 2. 9 3. 5 3. 6 3. 1 3. 3. 6 3. 4 3. 1 3. 2 3. 4 3. 7 3. 3 4. 0 3. 1 15 Frequency H H m H m m H H m H M 0 D E 1 M 0 D E 2 H H H m H H m m H m m m m H m H m H = known (L2). Strategies in this first mode include paying attention to native language interference, guessing meanings based on the native language, locating cognates, and linking the first language (functioning here as background knowledge) with the new information embodied in the target language code. The second mode, intralanguage, focuses on analysis within the target language itself (L2), without special reference to the native language (LI).
Strategies associated with this mode include decomposing words or sets of words (analyzing words, grouping by attribute), analyzing larger chunks (studying text layout, monitoring writing), and assimilating target language data (reading all information, making mental summaries, using rules). In sum, Factor One is associated with manipulation and analysis of code-level information, involving cross-language comparisons, decomposition of target language input, and restructuring of target language data. These primarily cognitive and, to a lesser degree, metacognitive operations are also associated with the assimila- ion of new information into one’s own mental framework or schemata. In this sense, the factor analytic clustering of these cognitive and metacognitive strategies lends statistical support to the information-processing model, which posits a number of such activities (see 6; 20). No communicative interaction among students is included in Factor One; instead, both strategy modes pinpointed in this factor involve active hypothesis-testing, analysis, and synthesis based on tangible language codes, to the exclusion of social variables.
As Table I indicates, the strategies included in Factor One fall into the medium to high frequency range, with most of them being high. This means that respondents reported using formal rule-related processing strategies the most frequently among all the categories. Factor Two, functional practice (authentic language use) strategies, might be considered to be diametrically opposed to Factor One in terms of the social engagement dimension. Factor Two is characterized by active social use of a new language in realistic communicative situa- 16 TABLE I1 Factor Two: Functional Practice Strategies
The Modern Language Journal 77 (1993) Loading Item # Content Average 1. 8 1. 8 1. 5 2. 3 2. 3 2. 1 2. 0 2. 1 1. 5 2. 5 2. 4 2. 5 2. 0 2. 5 2. 1 1. 3 2. 4 3. 2 Frequency 75 74 73 71 68 65 65 59 55 50 49 47 47 37 36 35 34 32 m = medium: 1 = low 28 11 16 40 1 37 10 104 46 17 80 119 12 120 47 51 103 70 Reads in L2 Seeks L2 speakers Attends L2 events Finds many ways to use L2 Talks to self in L2 Writes notes in L2 Goes to L2 movies Initiates L2 conversations Sings in L2 Encourages own speaking Uses idiomslpatterns Studies culture of language Uses filler words
Teaches peers Reviews with others Plays L2 games Uses new words immediately Imitates L2 speakers 1 1 m 1 m 1 m 1 1 1 m tions, the vast majority of which occur outside the classroom. Clearly, the extent to which functional practice strategies are used in the classroom depends on a teacher’s encouragement of communicative behavior, and more importantly on how interactive participation is calculated into students’ final grades. Factor Two subsumes strategies such as actively seeking extracurricular situations in which the target language is used to communicate (e. . , attending foreign language films, initiating conversations with native speakers, reading in the target language, attending events in the target language, imitating native speakers, talking to oneself in the new language, and finding opportunities to use the language). In the classroom, Factor Two strategies include communicating with fellow learners, playing games involving the target language, and reviewing language materials with peers. Functional practice strategies are important in developing and continuing learning, as demonstrated by research (3).
Though such research strongly supports the importance of these strategies, students in the present sample rarely used them; in contrast, exceptionally low frequencies for functional practice strategies were reported, as indicated in Table 11. Factor Three, resourceful, independent strategies, includes strategies involving manipulation of larger phrase- and sentence-level chunks of information than were prominent in Factor One (where the focus was on breaking down information into smaller units).
Factor Three strategies specifically include those that learners can use on their own, independently of a partner or class. Factor Three encompasses some of the most obviously metacognitive strategies (i. e. , strategies involving decisions about how and when to learn and about self-evaluation of learning progress), such as daily or weekly planning, designing one’s OWR learning exercises, self-testing, and self-rewarding when language performance is positive. These techniques allow learners to exert conscious control over learning events in a manner suited to self-perceived learning needs.
Other Factor Three strategies also explicitly suggest actions based on needs: for example, using memory-building strategies, elaborating sentences, outlining main ideas, tape recording, writing summaries, and highlighting while reading. Although Factor Three involves a high degree of self-direction, no attempt at social engagement exists in this factor. These strategies are independent, resourceful activities-ones most teachers might expect students to use as basic study techniques outside the classroom. Yet Table 1 1 demonstrates that 1 these strategies received rather low levels of’ use by respondents.
Factor Four is broadly designated as standard academic study strategies. This factor is characterized by self-motivated effort and preparation, and by a considerable amount of time on task. Martha Nyikos and Rebecca Oxford TABLE 111 Factor Three: Resourceful, Independent Strategies Loading Item # Content Lists related words Uses mechanical tricks Makes up exercises Draws pictures Summarizes L2 information Outlines main ideas Checks notes with peers Uses tape recorder Uses record book Acts out word Lists new nformation Makes up sentences Focus on specifics Highlights while reading Plans daily or weekly Elaborates sentences Tests self Gives self reward Drills words Practices grammar Takes notes in L2 Average 1. 6 1. 7 1. 6 1. 4 2. 5 2. 5 1. 5 1. 3 1. 3 1. 5 2. 6 1. 7 2. 5 2. 9 1. 7 2. 4 2. 0 1. 8 2. 7 2. 6 2. 8 17 Frequency 1 1 1 1 m m 1 63 87 51 86 48 52 47 50 47 114 46 113 45 79 44 45 42 99 39 75 39 4 38 42 37 77 37 13 35 6 33 101 33 2 32 92 31 102 30 30 30 29 m = medium; 1 = low 1 1 1 m 1 m m 1 1 1 1 m m m
TABLE IV Factor Four: Standard Academic Strategies Loading Item # Content Is prepared for class Average 3. 5 2. 9 2. 9 3. 2 3. 9 3. 6 2. 6 2. 9 3. 9 3. 7 3. 1 Frequency H m m m H H m m H H m 65 36 59 121 57 33 56 18 51 35 47 5 42 24 40 106 37 3 33 39 29 34 H = hieh: m = medium Works as hard as possible Uses time well Studies even when there is no pressure Continues even if lesson is hard Is not easily distracted Organizes in order to learn better Previews lesson Answers questions mentally Avoids rote memorization Skims passage before reading
Clustered in this factor are items such as studying hard even when not under pressure, avoiding distraction, working as hard as possible, coming to class prepared, organizing one’s studying, avoiding rote memorization, using time effectively, and continuing even when a lesson is difficult. Many of these are metacognitive strategies which reflect conscious time management and the focusing of energy and attention during learning. As Table IV shows, respondents reported using Factor Four strategies at a medium usage level.
Factor Five, conversational input elicitation strategies, is evidenced in the use of active, learner-initiated communicative strategies to gain additional information. Strategies such as requesting slower speech, asking for pronunciation correction, and noticing body language illustrate attempts by learners to gather information conveyed orally or in nonverbal ways during conversations. These strategies all occur in the context of communication and are therefore necessarily social in nature. For some students, use of these strategies signifies a special 18 TABLE V Factor Five: Conversational Input Elicitation Strategies
The Modern Language Journal 77 (1993) Loading Item # Content Average 3. 6 3. 5 3. 6 3. 3 3. 1 3. 9 2. 5 2. 6 2. 6 3. 2 2. 9 Frequency H H H m m H m m m m m 54 60 46 32 46 54 43 53 36 21 34 31 34 59 33 189 29 98 29 65 27 72 H = high; m = medium Requests slower speech Uses communication tricks Uses synonyms Asks for help Notices body language Uses background knowledge in conversation Requests pronunciation correction Practices orally with peers Notes reaction of others Reverts to L1 sometimes Guesses what speaker will say next kind of strategic competence, in which communicative control is maintained through circumlocution.
Factor Five strategies were reported at medium to high frequency use, as seen in Table V. To summarize, Factor One represents internal and solitary activities aimed at comprehension and cognitive control over linguistic information. Factor Four is also internal but represents decisions to exert control and organization over learning events, rather than over the intake of specific language data. Factor Three involves various types of independent practice at a phrase or sentence level but does not reflect the strong cognitive control or control over learning circumstances shown in Factors One and Four.
Factors Two and Five share social and communicative aspects. However, the strategies under Factor Two involve mainly out-of-class opportunities, which must be sought out by learners, whereas those in Factor Five are as easily accessed within the classroom as outside it and require less opportunity-creating initiati~e. ~ DISCUSSION This discussion focuses on the present findings (of factors and frequencies) in light of the literature on information-processing theory and the social psychology of language learning.
The study’s frequency results reflect the generally limited extent to which classroom-based language learners in this sample used learning strategies of various kinds. As anticipated, the university students chose to employ certain strategies (e. g. , formal, rule-related processing strategies from Factor One and standard academic study strategies from Factor Four) aimed at obtaining good grades, rather than strategies designed to develop skills for authentic and communicative language use.
While these two goals-good grades and development of communication skills-are not necessarily incompatible, the predominant practices of university language testing may appear to make them so. The results are discussed below in light of reported frequency of strategy use and beliefs about language learning held by university students, teachers, and teaching assistants. Factor One, formal, rule-related processing strategies, reflects a natural tendency to incorporate and assimilate unfamiliar linguistic information into established cognitive, information-processing frameworks or schemata (6; 20).
Factor One, though involving synthesis, more strongly emphasizes analysis, that is, decomposing information into parts and restructuring this information in new, personally meaningful ways. These tendencies are reflected in modes one and two of Factor One, discussed above and shown in Table I. Frequency counts suggest an almost universal tendency, if not a need, on the part of classroombased learners to break down new information and reconstruct the resulting bits of analyzed data into more readily comprehensible units.
This finding, based on strategies that form Factor One, lends statistical support to information-processing systems such as McLaughlin et al. ’s (20) model of second language learning, which views complex verbal skill acquisition as consisting of non-hierarchical, interdependent subtasks. Nevertheless, McLeod and McLaughlin assert that subtasks are completed on a “time-sharing basis,” whereby learners focus attention on one task or another at a given time, switching between them until some Martha Nyikos and Rebecca Oxford measure of restructuring and automaticity is reached.
This model of information processing posits that simultaneity of task completion can only be achieved once learners are able to free processing energy (and concomitant attention needed for novel tasks) from other cognitive activities. Such a construct of limited processing energy is akin to Miller’s restriction of the number of information chunks that can be held at any one time in short-term memory. Notably, both the results presented here, and the information-processing theory of knowledge representation described by McLeod and McLaughlin, or by Scoval, underscore the importance of explicit attention in the assimilation of language. Explicit attention is also reflected in some in Factor Four strategies). Paralleling traditional academic testing practices, Factor One strongly stresses data-based, non-interactive, rule-oriented learning. Because testing practices focus on this kind of learning, many students believe that using ruleoriented strategies is “the single right way” to learn (see 1l), despite communicative activities that might be offered in the classroom. The acquisition-oriented characteristics of Factor Two, functional practice (authentic language use) strategies, differ fundamentally from the rule-governed approaches embodied in Factor One.
Factor Two involves strategies for gaining and expressing meaning through verbal codes in social situations, where the difficulty level of vocabulary and syntax is not controlled. These strategies reflect a holistic approach, in which attention to discrete items is avoided in preference to communication of meaning. Given the above differences in approach between Factors One and Two, it is not surprising that respondents more frequently reported strategy use associated with Factor One rather than Factor Two. Indeed, an overwhelming number of strategies associated with Factor Two were rarely used by respondents (e. . , seeking out target language speakers, attending foreign language events, and finding ways to use a new language). The marked preference for the use of Factor One strategies by participants may be explained by the differences between two goals: grade achievement and the desire to communicate. The goal of most university students is to achieve high grades, no matter what the stated or unstated goals of a class syIlabus might be. The grade-getting goal falls within the category of instrumental motivation for language learn- 19 ng, as opposed to the more integrative (and more long-range, global, and in many ways socially rewarding) motivation to achieve the competence or proficiency needed to interact with native speakers of a target language (14; 15). Most students in the current study exhibited systematic techniques, such as formal, rule-related processing strategies and standard academic study approaches, which support grade-getting rather than communicative competence. Such choices mirror the results obtained by Reiss in a university-based study.
Reiss found a strong emphasis on strategies aimed at mastery of form and rules rather than at communicating meaning. Why were these results obtained? Some teachers attempt to approximate socially interactive situations through role-play, simulations, games, and other problem-solving and decision-making activities (10; 39), but even if such communicative approaches are used, evaluation and grading procedures do not usually have a communicative orientation. Academic requirements dictate that learning must be measurable, and test scores are thus viewed as the main gauge of success.
Evaluation and grading procedures focus on verb endings, prepositions, and other discrete-point “testables” and therefore lead students to forsake gaining real communication skills. If actual communication is evaluated infrequently in the classroom, then it is not surprising that students rarely choose to use the Factor Two strategies. Use of these strategies would be far greater if communicative skills were consistently tested and graded, rather than merely encouraged. The respondents made scant use of strategies associated with Factor Three.
This factor represents active, although solitary, engagement in the learning process whereby students manipulate large chunks of information on their own. Such strategies include self-testing and drills, making up new sentences, and tape recording. Students could be urged to use these techniques through classroom assignments as an aid in mastering material. We speculate that the overwhelmingly low use of Factor Three strategies hinges on two negative beliefs. The first is that it is not worthwhile to invest oneself significantly in the learning process when the rewards are not obvious.
For students in our sample, a high degree of personal self-investment may not have been viewed as essential for success in earning good grades in a required foreign language course. Self-investment and the concomitant use of in- 20 novative strategies need to be tangibly fostered, rewarded, and valued if they are to be adopted by most learners. The second negative belief related to the low use of Factor Three strategies is that many of these techniques are viewed as mere gimmickry and therefore cannot be legitimately used by serious students (8; 39).
Several Factor Three strategies are memory techniques, including color-coding, drawing pictures of new words to encode them visually, and acting out words. In many classrooms such techniques are given only marginal attention or are actively discouraged by teachers and students alike as substandard substitutes to “pure learning,” as several respondents stated. These strategies are potentially helpful because they make learning concrete and link new information with information already stored in memory; but in academic settings that encourage abstract thinking hey are seen as unworthy of serious attention. A similarly negative attitude was shown toward playing foreign language games and singing songs (see Factor Two). Factor Four encompasses an array of standard but highly self-motivated study strategies which are generalizable to learning any subject, not just languages. These strategies, which include coming to class prepared and working as hard as possible, were highly favored by respondents. Such techniques provide focus and keep learners on task.
Many of these strategies are metacognitive in nature, and support organization and planning for general learning that goes beyond language. High use of Factor Four strategies probably reflects individual personality traits or generalized learning style characteristics. For instance, learners whose personalities or styles lean toward organization and closure would be likely to report using Factor Four strategies (see also 11; 28). Factor Five, conversational input elicitation, involves active elicitation and anticipation of target language speech in attempting to understand and be understood in communicative situations.
The emphasis here is on information gathering, as demonstrated by several of the strategies, such as requests for slower speech and willingness to ask for help in obtaining input, Although Factor Five has some similarities to Factor Two in terms of communicative and social aspects, its active elicitation of foreign language input within the classroom is not commensurate with Factor Two’s strategies, which entail active participation in naturalistic, extracurricular language environments. However, The Modern Language Journal 77 (1993) lassroom learners who tend to use Factor Five strategies are more likely than others to favor socially oriented, communicative approaches over purely text-based, rule-oriented approaches to classroom language learning. CLASSROOM IMPLICATIONS Two implications of the present study for language pedagogy and learning are: 1) that rewards and beliefs are important variables in the classroom; and 2) that instruction in the use of appropriate strategies is needed for the language learning process to be effective. Based specifically on our requency data, a continuing need exists to provide students with explicit instruction in skill- and task-specific strategy use (see 7; 24; 28; 40). For such instruction to succeed, students also need a rationale and guidelines for strategy use. Modeling appropriate strategies while presenting particular language points is perhaps the best approach to strategy instruction (8; 23; 3 1). This is termed “integrated” strategy training, in which explicit instruction on the use of strategies is consistently woven into regular classroom language activities (see 23 and 3 1 for systematic application models).
Such integration reduces ambiguity about how and when to apply new strategies. When language content is integrated with strategies for making incoming material comprehensible, memorable, and retrievable, students report that they better understand “how to learn. ” CONCLUSION The language learning strategies students select are notjust a question of individual preference or learning style characteristics. The results of the university study described above suggest that the ways learners choose to learn are related, at least in part, to the internal cognitive requirements of information processing.
Choice of strategies also depends on existing reward systems which are context-specific to classrooms/teachers, and on students’ own beliefs about language learning. Though beliefs may be hard to change, classroom activities and grading systems stressing communication can go a long way toward altering the beliefs and behaviors that traditionally retard language learners’ progress. In addition, the modeling of strategies by teachers, accompanied by opportunities to practice applying strategies while
Martha Nyikos and Rebecca Oxford building toward communicative use, help students gain greater awareness of their personal learning needs and can help alter misconceptions that keep learners at low proficiency lev- 21 els. As beliefs change, new strategies emerge, and students become more self-confident and more motivated to learn to use a language for its intended purpose: communication. 2 0 t h e r strategy types exist (see 28). However, cognitive and metacognitive strategies are those most often cited in strategy research and are most closely associated with information-processing models. The simultaneity of processing found in Factor One can also be linked to recent connectionist models, which posit parallel processing of information rather than a sequential, hierarchical, stepwise approach (see TESOL Quarterly 24 [Winter 19901 for a special issue devoted to the topic). 4Comparison to the factor structures found by Bacon and Finneman in a study with first-year Spanish students show some similarity to the factors found in the present study with a broader population of students of five languages. Such parallels are not within the scope of the present paper. tion, and Network Gaming. Communication and Simulation: From Two Fieldc to One Theme. Ed. David Crookall ; Danny Saunders. Clevedon, ENG: Multilingual Matters, 1989: 91-106. 11. Ehrman, Madeline ; Rebecca Oxford. “Effects of Sex Differences, Career Choice, and Psychological Type on Adult Language Learning Strategies. ” Modern Language Journal 73 (1989): 1-13. 12. Ellis, Rod. Instructed Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990. 13. Gardner, R. C. “Second-Language Learning in Adults: Correlates of Proficiency. ” Applied Language Learning 2, i (1991): 1-27. 14. – Social Psychology and Second Language .
Learning: The Role of Attitudes and Motivution. London, Ontario: Arnold, 1985. 15. – ; Wallace E. Lambert. “Motivational Variables in Second Language Acquisition. ” Canadian Journal o Psychology 13 (1959): f 266-72. 16. Holec, Henri. Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon, 1981. 17. Horwitz, Elaine. “The Beliefs about Language Learning of Beginning University Foreign Language Students. ” Modern Language Journal 72 (1988): 282-94. 18. -“Using Beliefs about Language Learning . and Teaching in the Foreign Language Methods Course. ” Foreign Language Annals 18 (1985): 333-40. 19.
Language Anxiety: From Theoly and Research to Classroom Implications. Ed. Elaine Horwitz ; Dolly Young. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991. 20. McLaughlin, Barry, Tammi Rossman ; Beverly McLeod. “Second Language Learning: An In- NOTES The other half of this study identified key demographic self-report variables that affect strategy choice in statistically significant ways (32). This portion of the study substantially extends the previous report. Here we report the actual frequencies of strategy use and analyze the five major clusters of strategies determined through factor analytic means.
The study reported earlier (32) relied on the factor scores reported here for the analysis of variance (ANOVA). The factor analysis applied Promax rotation with the eigenvalue set at 1 and the maximum allowable factors set at 10. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Bacon, Susan M. ; Michael D. Finneman. “A Study of the Attitudes, Motives, and Strategies of University Foreign Language Students and Their Disposition to Authentic Oral and Written Input. ” Modern LanguageJournal 74 (1990): 459-82. 2. Bayer, Ann Shea. Collaborative-Apprenticeship Learning: Language and Thinking Across the Curriculum, K-12.
Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1990. 3. Bialystok, Ellen. “The Role of Conscious Strategies in Second Language Proficiency. ”Modern Language Journal 65 (1981): 24-35. 4. Brown, H. Douglas. A Practical Guide to Language Learning: A Fifteen-Week Program of Strategies for Success. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989. 5. Canale, Michael ; Merrill Swain. “Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. ” Applied Linguistics 1 (1980): 1-47. 6. Carrell, Patricia. “Evidence of a Formal Schema in Second Language Comprehension. ” Language Learning 34 (1984): 87-112. 7.
Carroll John B. “A Model of School Learning. ” Teachers College Record 64 (1963): 723-33. 8. Chamot, Anna U. ;Lisa Kupper. “Learning Strategies in Foreign Instruction. ” Foreign Language Annals 22 (1989): 13-24. 9. Cohen, Andrew D. Language Learning: Insights for Learners, Teachers, and Researchers. New York: Newbury House, 1990. 10. Crookall, David, Rebecca Oxford, Danny Saunders ; Roberta Lavine. “Our Multicultural Global Village: Foreign Languages, Simula- 22 formation-Processing Perspective. ” Language Learning 33 (1983): 135-58. McLeod, Beverly ; Barry McLaughlin. “Restructuring or Automaticity?
Reading in a Second Language. ” Language Learning 36 (1986): 109-23. Miller, George A. “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits On Our Capacity For Processing Information. ” Psychological Review 63 (1956): 81-90. Nyikos, Martha. “Prioritizing Student Learning: A Guide for Teachers. ” Focw on the Foreign Language Learner: Priorities and Strategies. Ed. Lorraine Strasheim. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook, 1991: 25-39. – “The Effect of Color and Imagery as . Mnemonic Strategies on Learning and Retention of Lexical Items in German. ” Diss. , Purdue Univ. , 1987. “Student-Generated Study Techniques: . A Systems Analysis. ” Paper, Southwest Conference on Language Teaching, Phoenix, 1986. O’Malley,J. Michael ; Anna U. Chamot. Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990. – Anna Uhl Chamot, Gloria Stewner, Manzanares, R. Russo ; Lisa Kiipper. “Learning Strategy Applications with Students of English as a Second Language. ” TESOL Quarterly 19 (1985): 557-84. Oxford, Rebecca. Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. New York: Newbury House, 1990. -“Development and Psychometric Testing . f the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning. ” ARI Technical Report 728. Alexandria, VA: US Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1986. -A New Taxonomy of Second Language Learn. ing. Washington: CAL, 1985. -David Crookall, Andrew Cohen, Roberta , Lavine, Martha Nyikos ; Will Sutter. “Strategy Training for Language Learners: Six Situational Case Studies and a Training Model. ” Foreign Language Annals 23 (1990): 197-216. -; Martha Nyikos. “Variables Affecting The M o d e r n Language Journal 77 (1993) Choice of Language Learning Strategies by University Students. Modern Language Journal 73 (1989): 291-300. – Martha Nyikos ; Madeline Ehrman. , “Vive la Difference? Reflections on Sex Differences in the Use of Language Learning Strategies. ” Foreign Language Annals 21 (1988): 321-29. Phillips, Elaine M. “The Effects of Language Anxiety on Students’ Oral Test Performance and Attitudes. ” Modern Language Journal 76 (1992): 14-26. Reiss, Mary-Ann. “The Good Language Learner: Another Look. ” Canadian Modern Language Review 41 (1985): 511-23. Rigney, Joseph W. “Learning Strategies: A Theoretical Perspective. ” Learning Strategies. Ed. Harold F. ONeil, Jr.
New York: Academic, 1978: 165-205. Rubin, Joan. “Learner Strategies: Theoretical Assumptions, Research, History, and Typology. “ Learning Strategies in Language Learning. Ed. Anita Wenden ;Joan Rubin. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 1987: 15-30. – Irene Thompson, How to Be a More Suc; cessful Language Learner. Boston: Heinle, 1982. Saunders, Danny ; David Crookall. “Playing with a Second Language. ” SimulationlGamesfor Learning 15 (1985): 166-72. Scoval, Thomas. “A New Model of Acquisition: A Place for Attention. ” Paper, TESOL Annual Meeting, San Antonio, 9 March 1989. Sharan, Shlomo. Cooperative Learning in Small Groups: Recent Methods and Effects on Achievement, Attitudes, and Ethnic Relations. ” Review of Educational Research 50 (1980): 241-7 1. Spolsky, Bernard. Conditions for Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989. Wenden, Anita L. “Conceptual Background and Utility. ” Learner Strategies in Language Learning. Ed. Anita Wenden ;Joan Rubin. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1987: 3-13. Vygotsky, Lev S. Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962. 21. 33. 22. 34. 23. 35. 24. 36. 25. 37. 26. 38. 39. 27. 40. 28. 41. 29. 42. 43. 30. 31. 44. 32.