Learning Styles & Strategies/Oxford, GALA 2003.
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4LANGUAGELEARNINGSTYLESANDSTRATEGIES:ANOVERVIEWRebeccaL. Oxford,Ph.D.ABSTRACTThe paper presents various researches performed by the author from various parts of world on thevarious factors that affect the language learning styles like the general approaches towards learning anylanguage and learning strategies where the specific behavior or thoughts of the learners are utilized forenhancing the language learning. The ability of the student towards learning in the particularinstructional framework is seen to be influenced by these factors.INTRODUCTIONThe critical factors that are seen to determine how and how well the students are able tolearn the foreign or the second language influence the languagelearningstylesand strategies.When a language is the primarysource of communication and an abundant input is seen toexist in that particular language, a second language is used in that particular setting. Whereas,the settings where input in a certain language is restricted and not used as a primary means ofconveying our thoughts, a foreign language is used. Therefore, the study uses the term “L2” inorder to refer to the foreign or the second language. The readers of the study would useEnglish as their foreign or second language (EFL or ESL) and almost every chapter present inthis study was conducted either in EFL or ESL settings.Some of the studies used while conducting this paper was seen to include the native Englishspeakers who learnt Japanese, German, French and other foreign language. All the styles andstrategies that have been mentioned in the study can be used irrespective of the first language.The general approaches like the auditory or visual, global or analytic etc. that can be used by
4the student in order to acquire a new language or any other subjects are termed as the learningstyles. Cornett (1983, p. 9) has defined these styles as the overall patterns which provide ageneral direction towards the learning behavior. Similarly,Dunn&Griggs (1988,p. 3, hassuggested that learning style can be termed as the biologically and developmentally imposed setof characteristics which are helpful in making the method of teaching a wonderful experience formany whereas also accounts for making it terrible for others. The paper will review variousaspects related to the learning styles like desired degree of generality, sensory preferences,biological differences and personality styles.Whereas the specific behaviour, actions, techniques or steps like giving oneself an encouragementfor tackling any difficult task related to language which is used by the students for enhancing theirown learning is termed as the language strategies(Scarcella&Oxford, 1992, p.63). Thestrategies must be fit into the learning styles of the learners and chosen consciously by them.Whereas for the L2 task, these strategies would be considered as a useful toolkit for conscious,active and purposeful self-regulation of learning. There are six categories of the learningstrategies ranging fromcognitive, memory-related, metacognitive,affective,compensatory,andsocial. All these strategies are discussed thoroughly in the paper. As this particular sectionprovides thorough help to the instructional methodology book therefore is highlights the learningstrategies and styles of the students and how it can perform functions with the given instructionalmethodology. This paper emphasizes on the learning styles and strategies of the students whocan work with the instructional methodology and even contradict toemphasizethat learningstylesand strategies ofindividual studentscan work togetherwith – orconflict with – agiveninstructional methodology.In case a harmony was found between the students in terms of theirpreferences and learning styles and the instructional methodology and material is combinedIfthereis harmonybetween(a)the student(in terms ofstyleand strategypreferences)and(b)thecombination ofinstructional material and its methodology, this will assist in helping the
4students to perform well and to experience lower level of anxiety. In case of any discrepanciesor clashes between (a) and (b), then the students are seen to perform with a poor outcome andexperience lower level of confidence with high stress and anxiety. This might be harmful forthe relationship between teacher and students leading to increased conflicts. The students mightbe give an outright rejection towards the methodology of the teacher and the subject matter.The next part of the study will discuss various other learning styles.Learning StylesThere are 9 major style dimensions provided by Ehrman and Oxford (1990) which are relevant tothe L2 learning. However, various other learning styles aspects are also seen to be highlyinfluential. The chapter presented will discuss four primary learning styles which will strongly beassociated with the L2 learning namely, personality types, sensory preferences, desired degree ofgenerality, and biological differences.According to various studies, the learning styles will not be dichotomous in nature (black orwhite, present or absent). These learning styles are operated on the continuum or intersecting andmultiple continua. This can be explained by giving an example of an individual who is moreextraverted as compared to introverted, or equally visual and auditory and/or more closure-oriented than open, but might have lesser tactile and kinesthetic involvement. (Prabhu, N. S.,1987).Sensory PreferencesThe sensory preferences encompasses four main arenas namely, auditory, visual, kinesthetic(movement-oriented), and tactile (touch-oriented). These preferences are referred to as theperceptual, physical learning channels and create a comfortable environment for the students. Thevisual students would enjoy the process of reading and can obtain a large amount of informationon visual simulation. It has been identified that the learning procedure without any oral direction
4or conversation might become highly confusing and give zero result for these students. Whereasthe auditory students are seen to find learning comfortable even without the visual input. Thesekind of students are able to enjoy and even profit from the unembellished conversation, lecturesand oral directions. These students enjoy the classroom interactions and similar activities alongwith engaging in the role-play. Whereas, a large amount of movement and enjoyment with thecollage, tangible objects and flashcard is seen with the kinesthetic and tactile students. Thesestudents are seen to take considerable amount of breaks and move from one place to another andcannot sit at their desk for a long period of time.It was demonstrated by Reid (1987) that all the ESL students have varying degree of sensorypreferences, and some people from particular culture are seen to favour various modalitiestowards the learning procedure. This can be explained by giving the example of students comingfrom Asian culture and were seen to be highly visual and amongst them the Koreans were themost visual of all. Various studies like Reid explained that Hispanic learners are highly auditoryin nature and it was also observed by Reid that Japanese are highly non-auditory in nature. TheESL students coming from various cultures were observed to be highly tactile and kinesthetic intheir sensory preferences (Reid, 1995).Personality TypesPersonality style is another style which consists of four important strands namely; intuitive-random vs. sensing-sequential; thinking vs. feeling; extraverted vs. introverted; and closure-oriented/judging vs. open/perceiving. The personality type is also known as psychological type isbasically a construct on the basis of work presented by psychologist Carl Jung. A considerablerelationship was found between the L2 proficiency and personality type in the native-English-speaking learners of foreign languages (Ehrman, 1989; Oxford, 1990).
5Extraverted vs. Introverted.The extraverts are seen to gain their energy from the external world and interact with the peopleon daily basis. These people tend to have many friends whereas the introverts are seen to derivetheir energy from internal world, love seeking solitude and have fewer friends. Only a teachercan make these two work together. In the L2 classroom, the teachers can keep the enthusiasm ofextraverts to a manageable level by enforcing the time limits. The introverts are provided withthe opportunity of participating with the extraverts when the person in charge is rotated shiftwise.Intuitive-Random vs. Sensing-SequentialThe intuitive-random students are seen to think in a futuristic, abstract, large scale and non-sequential manner. These kind of people believe in creating new possibilities and theories whichhave sudden insights and even prefer guiding people about their learning. Contrastingly, thesensing-sequential learners are seen to be highly grounded and even like facts instead of focusingon theories, they always look for consistency and want specific instructions and guidance fromthe teacher. In order to teacher both the sensing-sequential and intuitive-random learners is toprovide them with plethora of choices and offer them variety. This can be done by having anorganized structure for the sensing-sequential learners and providing enrichment activities andmultiple options for the intuitive-random students.Closure-oriented/Judging vs. Open/PerceivingThe closure-oriented students are seen to reach towards the judgment and completion as soon aspossible and want to clarify doubts as soon as possible. These types of learners are believed to behighly serious and hardworking and like to be given work with strict deadlines and writteninformation. But according to the Ehrman & Oxford (1989), their desire towards the closure isseen to be hampered by the development of their fluency. Whereas in terms of the perceiving and
5open learners, they are open towards the ideas of new perceptions. These learners are seen to takethe L2 learning less seriously and take all their work tasks as game that has to be enjoyed insteadof considering as the set of tasks. These learners are seen to dislike their deadlines and alwayslook towards having a good time. These type of learners are seem to soak up the informationprovided to then by osmosis instead of working towards hard efforts.While developing the fluency, the open learners are seen to perform better as compared to theclosure-oriented learners (Ehrman & Oxford, 1989) however, these students are always at thedisadvantage when taught in the traditional classroom setting. In the L2 classroom, a goodbalance must be required for the closure-oriented and open learners. The closure oriented arehighly task-driven in nature whereas the latter one know how to have fun. As these learners canbenefit from each other when collaborated together, the skilled L2 teachers must createcooperative groups.Thinking vs. FeelingThe thinking learners are highly rigid and are constantly oriented to the stark truth even whentheir decision is seen to hurt the feelings of others. These people are viewed as highly competentand do not even offer any kind of praise easily. These type of learners also seen detachedsometimes. Contrastingly, the other ones, the feelings learners are seen to value other individualin the best way possible. These type of learners are empathetic and compassionate towards thewords and behavior of people and also say things to which are required to smooth over variousother difficult situations. These people want to be respected for the contributions made by themand are often seen to wear their heart on their sleeves. These types of people must be paired upwith the thinking learners so as to lower down their emotional expression while performing theirtasks and the thinking learners might learn to show their feelings.