Strategiesfor Second Language Learning



HowIndividual Learning Styles Affect Strategies for Second LanguageLearning

  • Background information

  • Learning Styles

  • Sensory Preferences

  • Visual

  • Auditory

  • Kinesthetic (movement-oriented)

  • Tactile (Touch-oriented)

  • Personality type

  • Extraverted vs. Introverted

  • Intuitive-Random vs. Sensing-Sequential

  • Thinking vs. Feeling

  • Closure-oriented/Judging vs. Open/Perceiving

  • Desired Degree of Generality

  • Biological Differences

  • Learning Strategies

  • Cognitive strategies

  • Meta-cognitive strategies

  • Memory-related strategies

  • Compensatory strategies

  • Affective strategies

  • Social strategies

  • Discussion and analysis

  • Summary

  • References

HowIndividual Learning Styles Affect Strategies for Second LanguageLearning


Themost important question that can be asked in relation to this topicis, ‘What are the important aspects that influence studentslearning? A study conducted by Professor Mamorella from theUniversity of Albany across a section of students revealed thatteachers play a significant role in facilitating students learning.However, student interest in learning is a significant factor thatinfluence student learning. Learning styles and strategies form thebasis of how well students learn foreign and second languages inSchools. Foreign or second language are language subjects thatlearners study for the purpose of facilitating their everydaycommunication in school and the general community second language isdifferent from native language in any given location. Foreignlanguage or second language learned in schools varies from onesociety to the other. For instance, “L2” (ESL or EFL) refer to aforeign or second language in American education while in some nativeEnglish speaking countries, second language may involve German,French or other language. Learning of Second language has been inseveral scholarly studies to assess the capacity of human learning atdifferent phases of growth and development. Regardless of the secondlanguage learned, empirical evidence indicates that learning secondlanguage is influenced by learning strategies and styles oflearners. Learning styles refers to the general approaches suchas auditory, visual, analytical or global used by students whenacquiring tenets of a new language or when learning other subjects.These approaches give the general pattern and direction of learningbehavior among students. However, in some aspects, learning styles isviewed as a biological and developmental set of characteristics thatmake learning a wonderful experience or terrible for others. In thiseasy, focus will be directed at learning styles such as personalitytypes, sensory preference, biological differences and degree ofgenerality as some of the learning styles that affect learningstrategies. Learning strategies are defined as particularactions, steps, behaviors or techniques employed by individualstudents such as self-encouragement or conversing with others toenhance language learning (Oxford, 1990). Learners may consciouslychoose strategies that fit their style of second language learning,and this becomes an important aspect of motivated, active, consciousand self-regulated learning. In this essay, special attention will befocused on various learning strategies such as affective, cognitive,memory-related, meta-cognitive and social strategies and how theyinfluence second language learning among students. Learningstrategies and styles for individual student are capable of workingtogether with particular instructional mode (Glenn, 2015). Theassumption is that if there is harmony between the student learningstyle and strategies and the instructional method and materials ofthe teacher, the learner is likely to fair well in learning thesecond language. However, if conflicts occur between the studentlearning style and strategies with those of the teacher methodologyand materials used while learning second language, then the studentmight perform dismally and experience anxiety or be less confident.In the event of such conflicts, serious breakdown of student-teacherinteraction may result leading to bungled learning (Glenn, 2015). Inaddition, such conflicts may lead to student rejecting teacher’steaching methodology or the subject matter. Therefore, in this essaywe argue that, individual learning styles and strategies affectlearning of second language and may consequently lead to a breakdownof student-teacher interaction or rejection of the subjectmatter.LearningStyles Thereare several learning styles dimensions that are essential for secondlanguage learning in school. In this part, four dimensions oflearning styles will be discussed and how they influence learning ofsecond language “L2”. These learning styles are personalitytypes, sensory preference, biological differences and level ofgenerality. Ideally, learning styles do not exist in dichotomy onecan neither say a given learning style is present in one individualwhile absent in others. Learning styles exists in multiple forms,continuum or in the form of intersecting continuum. For instance, oneindividual can be said to be more introverted than extrovert oranother can be more open than closure-oriented. Only a few people ifany have all or nothing in respect to learning style attributes(Oxford, 1990).SensoryPreference Thereare four categories of sense visual, auditory, tactile(touch-oriented) and the kinesthetic (movement-oriented). Sensorypreference in learning styles may refer to individual preference forperceptual or physical learning modes that individual students arecomfortable with. Some learners may prefer visual stimulation such asreading, watching videos or presentations to learn. This category oflearners may find lectures, oral instructions or conversationsconfusing if there is no visual backing. Auditory preferencelearners, on the other hand, may be comfortable learning withoutvisual inputs through learning channels such as lectures,conversations oral instructions. The auditory preference learners maybecome motivated through classroom learning interactions such as roleplays but may have some difficulties with written texts. Kinestheticand Tactile learners prefer working in tangible subjects or subjectsthat involves lots of movements. As such, these students may beaffected by learning styles that require them to sit for long hourson their desks. In his study, Reid (1995) found significantdifferences in sensory preference when learning Second Language (ESL)in school. According to Reid study, learners from Asian culturessuch as the Japanese and the Koreans preferred visual learning whilestudying ESL. In the same study, Reid found that Hispanic learnerspreferred auditory learning styles to visual, and the Japanese werenon-auditory. However, Reid found that most students across diversecultures preferred auditory, kinesthetic and tactile learning styles(Reid, 1995).Personalitytypes Personalitytype is also known as the psychological type and encompasses theextroverted versus introverted, sense-sequential versusintuitive-random, feeling versus thinking, and open versusclosure-oriented. Oxford (1990) found a significant relationshipbetween personality type and proficiency in second language learning.In the extroverted versus introverted dichotomy, extrovert studentslike more interactions during learning while the introvert prefers tolearn by themselves. In this case, limits should be set for theextraverted in L2 class while applying a rotational method ordiscussions in L2 class to open up the introverts and have the samelearning level as extroverts. Intuitive-random learners thinkin futuristic and abstract form and like creating new theories aswell as having sudden insights. The intuitive-random students alsolike to have their learning. The sensing sequential learners, on theother hand, prefer theories and facts want to be guided by specificinstructions from teachers and are always looking for consistency. Assuch, the key to enhancing learning in intuitive-random versusSensing Sequential students is to offer them learning choices thatenrich their learning. In the category of thinking versus Feelingstudents, thinking students tend to incline towards the truth whilethe feeling students’ exhibits value to other people. As such,second language trainers need to help the thinking learners havecompassion while the feeling students need to tone down theirfeelings for others. Closure-oriented learners reachjudgment quickly, are serious hard workers and enjoy tasks withdeadlines. In some cases, this closure-orientation aspect impedeslearners’ fluency in L2 language (Ehrman &amp Oxford, 1989). Theopen learners, on the other hand, want to stay available for newperceptions and take L2 learning less seriously treating the subjectas a game to be enjoyed rather than a task to be completed. Openlearners develop fluency in L2 better than closure-orientedindividuals and teachers should balance this group of learners tohelp them benefit from each other.Levelof generality Learnerswho belong to this class may be classified under analytical versusholistic. Global or holistic learners are socially interactive andprefer communicative events as they enjoy conversations with otherswhile learning. However, while the holistic students may prefersocial and communicative events for learning, they may assume grammaror vocabularies aspects that essential in L2 language. The analyticalstudent in contrast concentrates on vocabularies and grammar andavoids general or free flowing conversations. These two categories ofstudents may be merged to learn from each other but with teacher`sinput.BiologicalDifferences Learningstyles for second language is also influenced by individual learners’factors. These biological differences are biorhythm, sustenance, andlocation. . Biorhythm refers to the time or period of the day when alearner is enthusiastic to learn. Sustenance refers to quest for foodor drink while learning language. Location has to do with theenvironment condition for learning language such as lighting, noise,temperature and seating comfort among others. These biologicalaspects are often overlooked and may influence how learners learnsecond languages. However, beyond learning styles learners need toextend their learning styles beyond their comfort zone as dictated bynatural preferences.LearningStrategies Oxford(1990) invented the widely accepted notion that learning styles andstrategies are the most important variables that influence learningand performance in second language. In a rejoinder Pressly &ampMcCormick (1995), argued that learners intentionally use learningstrategies to control the learning process. As such, languagelearning strategies adopted by learners should enhance recall,retention, storage and use of information. Therefore, the strategieschosen for learning should be appropriate and relevant to tasks,materials, goals and the need so f learners. Oxford (1990) wasof the opinion that, no strategy can be regarded as good or bad andnot until the context of its application is thoroughly assessed, anyselected strategy remains effective. The most important thing is thatany given strategy chosen by a learner and relates to the tasks oflearning second language as well as fitting with the learners style.The essence of learning strategy is to make second language learningeasier, faster, more enjoyable, more effective, self-directed andmore transferable to new situations (Oxford, 1990). Scholars are ofthe opinion that strategies help learners become more independent,lifelong learners and autonomous. However, students lackknowledge of the power of learning strategies and this influencetheir learning (Nyikos &amp Oxford, 1993). Thus, teachers have theprerogative role of assisting learners use array of appropriatelearning strategies to make second language learning more effective.Several strategies have been researched and found to have significantinfluence on second language learning. These strategies arecognitive, meta-cognitive, memory-related, affective, social, andcompensatory strategies.Cognitivestrategies Cognitivestrategies help learners control language content and materialthrough reasoning, analysis, outlining and summarizing information ina form that can be understood. In a series of studies conducted overtime, cognitive strategies have been found to significantly improvelearners L2 proficiency in three EFL settings (Korea, Turkey andTaiwan) (Kato, 1996 Oxford and Ehrman,1995 Oxford, Judd, andGiesen,1998 and Park,1994).Meta-cognitivestrategies Thisinvolves identifying individuals learning style preference for L2tasks through activities such as planning, organizing and gatheringrelevant materials, information and space of L2 studies. Purpura(1999) did an extensive study on meta-cognitive strategies and foundsignificant and positive evidence that indeed meta-cognitivestrategies influence the cognitive strategies in task completionwhile learning L2. Kato (1996), Oxford &amp Ehrman, (1995) and Park,(1994) also found significant evidence that meta-cognitive strategiesare effective determiners of L2 proficiency.Memory-relatedstrategies Memoryrelated strategies help learners retrieve, arrange and organizeinformation in orderly string such as acronyms, retrieval of soundssuch as rhyming and formation of mental images derived from themeaning of words. However, memory-related strategies do not lead tounderstanding but have been found effective in memorizing importantaspects of L2 especially where learners are expected to memorizelarge numbers of characters (Kato, 1996). Studies have shown that,memory-related strategies do not lead to lead to L2 proficiencyespecially on matters of grammar and vocabulary (Purpura,1997).Compensatorystrategies Compensatorystrategy involves guessing or making meaning from read and listenedwords, gestures or pause words. These strategies help learners makeup the meaning or fill up missing knowledge. Some scholars differ onthe essence of compensatory strategies in learning and argue thatcertain compensatory strategies are limited to particular forms oflanguage learning such as speaking or writing (Cohen, 1999). However,Oxford (1990) and little (1999), argue that, any form of acompensatory strategy is useful in language learning. Oxford andEhrman (1995) demonstrated through studies that, compensatorystrategies lead to L2 proficiency for native English speakerslearning foreign language.Affectivestrategies Affectivestrategies refer to one’s moods and anxiety level, feelings,rewarding self and being positive have been found to have significantinfluence in learning second language. However, as students progresstowards L2 proficiency, affective strategies may no longer beeffective as before as learners learn to use most of their cognitive,social and meta-cognitive strategies (Oxford &amp Ehrman,1996).SocialStrategies Socialstrategies encompasses such aspects as asking questions to verify andclarify certain issues, requesting for assistance while doinglanguage tasks or talking to native speakers among others have beenfound to significantly improve foreign language proficiency (Oxford &ampEhrman 1996).Discussionand Analysis Thediscussion above informs that strategy use is related to stylepreference and the eventual proficiency in second language learning.However, teachers have an essential role in facilitating learners‘stretch’ their preferred learning styles in relation to learningstrategies. It is evident that learning strategies are consciouslyused by learners to control their learning. More studies reveal thatlearners who apply effective learning strategies derive positivelanguage learning outcomes, become independent and effective learners(Cohen, 1999 Oxford, 1990, and little, 1999). However, themost prevalent aspect between the learning style and strategieseffectiveness lies in teachers’ ability to facilitate thedevelopment of strategies that lead to enhanced learning. Dyer, asquoted by Felder (1995), argued that the choice of preferred learningstrategy by learners should match instructional method to yieldpositive results. As such, by the application of right techniquesthat match learners’ style of understanding, teachers can improvestudents’ performance in second language. In this right, it isimperative that teachers assess the learning styles of their studentsto enlighten them on strategies and styles that lead to improvedlearning. In addition, by realizing that learning styles andstrategies vary from one student to the other, teachers can includemore classroom activities to enhance overall class learning.Educators can also assume that, the different learning styles amonglearners can be adjusted unconscious learning styles could bechanged to conscious learning. Researchers argue that teachers shouldact as guidance to students in identifying the learning style orstrategy that suits them. Teachers as well as students stand tobenefit more by understanding the different levels of studentlearning styles and strategies. In particular, the more teachersbecome knowledgeable about learners style preference, the moreefficient they become in orienting the second language teachinginstructions to suit learners. Without adequate knowledge of studentslearning styles and strategies, teachers would fail in providingsystematic teaching instructions for L2 learning (Siadaty &ampTaghiyareh, 2007). The underlying argument is that, no singlelearning strategy and style of learning is same among students, andthus it is foolhardy for teachers to use same L2 teachingmethodology. Instead, deeper knowledge of student learning style andstrategies would guide teachers in designing adaptive pedagogies thatbenefit all learners of L2 (Glenn, 2015).

Summary Learningstyles and strategies are important aspects that influence effectivesecond language learning among students. There are varying learningstyles and strategies adopted by learners. Learning strategies refersto set of individual behaviors, actions or natural predispositionthat influences one`s learning consciously orunconsciously. Different students apply different learningstyles when learning. These strategies are cognitive, metacognitive,memory-related, affective, social, and compensatory strategies.Learners intentionally use learning strategies in controlling thelearning process. Learning styles refers to the general approachessuch as auditory, visual, analytical or global used by students whenacquiring tenets of the new language or when learning other subjects.Learning styles are viewed as a biological and developmental set ofcharacteristics that make learning a wonderful experience or terriblefor others. Several studies affirm that, individual learningstyles influence learning strategies in L2. However, beyond learningstyles learners need to extend their learning styles beyond theircomfort zone as dictated by natural preferences. Scholars argue that,effective performance ion L2 is achieved when learners are assistedto select the best learning style that fits learning strategies andthe instruction method of teachers. While some students find it easyto apply effective learning styles and strategies, other students maybe incapacitated in selected the best learning strategy. It isimperative that teachers assess the learning styles of their studentsto enlighten them on strategies and styles that lead to improvedlearning. Without adequate knowledge of students learning styles andstrategies, teachers would fail in providing systematic teachinginstructions for L2 learning. Therefore, teachers should serve theimportant role of helping all learners identify, adapt and stick tolearning styles and strategies that lead to optimal L2 performance.


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