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Learner Strategies

Barbara Fujiwara

This section contains a list of strategies reported by my students in their Listening Diaries. I have taken the strategies principally from Ms. Niyabe's diary but have quoted those reported by other students as well. The strategies are organized according to Chamot's framework of learning strategies as it seems to be the most comprehensive; the students' reports of their strategies are preceded by her terms and definitions (Chamot 1987, 77-78). Chamot's framework was based on a review of the literature and her own study of ESL students learning the four Skills, so in some cases her terms and definitions do not exactly match the strategies of my EFL Students who were mainly concentrating on the skill of listening. My modifications of her definitions and additions to her framework are noted by asterisks.

A. Metacognitive Strategies

Advance Organizers: Making a general but. comprehensive preview of the organizing concept or principle in an anticipated learning activity.

Directed Attention: Deciding in advance to attend in general to a learning task and to ignore irrelevant distractors.<

Selective Attention: Deciding In advance to attend to specific aspects of language input or situational details that will cue the retention of language input.

Self-management: Understanding the conditions that help one learn and arranging for the presence of those conditions.

Advance Preparation: Planning for and rehearsing linguistic components necessary to carry out an upcoming language task.

Self-monitoring: Correcting one's speech for accuracy in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, or for appropriateness related to the setting or to the people who are present.
**RealIzing one's particular areas of weakness

Delayed Production: Consciously deciding to postpone speaking to learn initially through listening comprehension.

This strategy, though not consciously chosen, was used by Ms. Shibata in the case study reported above.

Self-evaluation: Checking the outcomes of one's own language learning against an internal measure of completeness and accuracy.

B. Cognitive Strategies

Repetition: Imitating a language model, including overt practice and silent rehearsal.

Resourcing: Defining or expanding a definition of a word or concept through use of target language reference materials.

Directed Physical Response: Relating new information to physical actions, as with directives.

Translation: Using the first language as a base for understanding and/or producing the second language.

Grouping: Reordering or reclassifying and perhaps labelling the material to be learned based on common attributes.

Note-taking: Writing down the main idea, important points, outline or summary of information presented orally or in writing.

Deduction: Consciously applying rules to produce or understand the second language.

Imagery: Relating new information to visual concepts in memory via familiar, easily retrievable visualizations, phrases or locations.

Auditory Representation: Retention of the sound or similar sound for a word, phrase, or longer language sequence.

Key Word: Remembering a new word in the second language by 1) identifying a familiar word in the first language that sounds like or otherwise resembles the new word, and 2) generating easily recalled images of some relationship between the new word and the familiar word.

Contextualization: Placing a word or phrase in a meaningful language sequence.

Elaboration: Relating new information to other concepts in memory.

Transfer: Using previously acquired linguistic and/or conceptual knowledge to facilitate a new language learning task.

Inferencing: Using available information to guess meanings of new items, predict outcomes or fill in missing information.

C. Social-affective Strategies

Cooperation: Working with one or more peers to obtain feedback, pool information, or model a language activity.

Question for Clarification: Asking a teacher or other native speaker for repetition, paraphrasing, explanation and/or examples.

Although the Chamot (1987) framework is very useful for organizing individual strategies, it does not give a complete picture of the learning process of the good learner. This process is characterized by a continual, dynamic interplay of the various strategies, what Stern, in his summary of the pioneering research done at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, describes as é“experimentation and planning with the object of developing the new language into an ordered system and of revising this system progressively (Stern 1975, 313)." One typical sequence would be self-monitoring and then selective attention to the perceived areas of weakness. The following series of entries from Ms. Miyabe's Listening Diary illustrates this interplay of strategies as she works to improve her understanding of the news.

Other good learners listen with no particular goal in mind but are alert to the new, demonstrating another characteristic of the good learner, a "critical sensitivity to language use (Stern 1975, 315)." What seems to underlie the choice of one or more strategies is the general tendency of the good learner to work on the area of challenge between the known and unknown, between what they can do and what they can't do yet.

In general, the good learners use a wide variety of materials and strategies. They are able to analyze what they are learning, how they are learning it, and what they need to learn. They can assess their own areas of strength and weakness and the progress they have made. They find ways to handLe the difficulties they encounter. They show creativity in designing tasks and diligence in carrying them out.

The strategies of these students are useful models for other students because they were developed by learners of similar background and interests. The materials they have chosen are easily accessible and likely to be popular. The language features they have chosen to examine and their methods of examination are appropriate for learners in the Japanese EFL environment.