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Language Learning Strategies: An Action Research Study from a Sociocultural Perspective of Practices in Secondary School English Classes in the Seychelles

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posted on 14.11.2021, 00:14 by Simeon, Jemma Christina

Research on language learning strategies (LLS) suggests that LLS are indispensable to helping second language learners learn English (Oxford, Crookall et al. 2008). However, most research studies to date have been experimental and have focused on listing certain aspects of learners' strategy use. By contrast, I have taken a sociocultural approach and carried out a collaborative Action Research project in which I have looked at learners' strategy use as "a cognitive choice and an emergent phenomenon" (Gao 2010, p.20). I have studied English language learning as embedded within social events and occurring as learners interact with people, objects and events in one secondary school in the Seychelles. I used an ethnographic approach which included classroom observation, interviews with teachers and journals, audio-recording and field notes.  Phase 1 of my study focused on current practices in three classes. In Phase 2, I analysed the data and reported back to the participating teachers. Common practices in the three classrooms were that the teachers taught students content knowledge only. For example, English lessons emphasized the development of English language literacy skills. In particular the teachers were concerned with getting students to understand ideas and facts about a topic being learnt such as writing a notice. They would also focus on linguistic topics such as grammar and vocabulary knowledge and writing mechanics in general. The teachers were seen as the main transmitters of knowledge while the students had very little voice in their learning, for example, choosing topics, purposes and audience. The students were given very few opportunities to talk among themselves about their work or strategies they used to solve their problems. Teacher talk consisted of giving instructions and asking students questions that tested their knowledge. There were few occasions where the teachers provided instruction that provoked new thinking and understanding about what was being taught.  The teachers felt that students depended too much on them for learning and wished to see their students becoming more independent learners, particularly in writing. Thus in Phase 3 of the research, the teachers and I focused on strategy instruction in the process approach to writing instruction with the aim of fostering dialogue among teachers and students about writing processes and problem-solving strategies. The analysis of findings of Phase 3 show that compared to Phase 1, the teachers minimised the practice of being merely transmitters of knowledge. Instead, they altered instruction and mediated learner writing strategies in a number of ways in a dialogic process through classroom instruction, use of collaborative writing tasks, questions and students' L1. However, while this was a step forward in making their students strategic, the teachers were yet to emphasise writing as a more holistic strategic activity which could have been accomplished by modelling their own thinking or self-talk or strategies related to planning, drafting, revising and editing of texts. Evidence also suggests that students used a number of strategies to mediate their own writing processes. These included using their film knowledge, humour, mother tongue, thinking aloud, teacher and peers to help them create text. There were also times when a few students drew on teaching techniques such as teacher-like scaffolding questions to mediate their own and their peers' learning.

History

Copyright Date

01/01/2014

Date of Award

01/01/2014

Publisher

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level

Doctoral

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis

Language

en_NZ

Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

Advisors

Vine, Elaine; Macalister, John