Learning strategies are the thoughts and actions we engage in, consciously or not, to learn new information. The goal of teaching-learning strategies is to help students to consciously control how they learn so that they can be efficient, motivated, and independent language learners (Chamot, Barnhardt, El-Dinary, & Robbins, 1999).
Learning strategies are defined as “specific actions, behaviors, steps, or techniques such as seeking out conversation partners, or giving oneself encouragement to tackle a difficult language task — used by students to enhance their learning” (Scarcella & Oxford, 1992, p.63). When the learner consciously chooses strategies that fit his or her learning style and the L2 task at hand, these strategies become a useful toolkit for active, conscious, and purposeful self-regulation of learning.
Learning strategies instruction intends to help all students become better language learners. When students begin to understand their own learning processes and can exert some control over these processes, they tend to take more responsibility for their own learning. This self-knowledge and skill in regulating one’s own learning is a characteristic of successful learners, including successful language learners. Research with both first and second language learners is revealing some of the ways of thinking that guide and assist an individual’s attempts to learn more effectively (Paris & Winograd, 1990).
Students who think and work strategically are more motivated to learn and have a higher sense of self-efficacy or confidence in their own learning ability. That is, strategic students, perceive themselves as more able to succeed academically than students who do not know how to use strategies effectively. Students who expect to be successful at a learning task generally are successful, and each successful learning experience increases motivation.
Language Learning in Higher Education
In university-level language learning involves higher, more demanding skills and tasks such as reading a novel, analyzing a poem or story, listening to lectures, or writing a research paper. Learning strategies can help students meet these demands.
In addition to this level also, the teachers expect students to work independently and be responsible for their own learning. Learners are therefore challenged to manage their language studies in a variety of ways. Strategic learning encourages students to take that responsibility and reflect on their own thinking process as well. For instance, learners who are aware of effective learning practices monitor their progress and evaluate their performance and achievement. Students who have a repertoire of strategies at their disposal can make sophisticated learning decisions.
Understanding the language learning process will encourage students’ acquisition and critical analysis of language learning issues. Learning strategies instruction allows teachers and students to talk about the learning process in the target language. The learners can take advantage of this information and practice sources. Teaching students learning strategies will help encourage them to access and use varying educational opportunities.
As teachers, we often focus more on how we teach than on how our students learn. Learning strategies instruction forces us to examine not just what we do to teach effectively, but what our students do to facilitate their own learning. When we think about curriculum, lesson design, or even how we respond to student questions, learning strategies instruction helps us focus on the how of learning rather than the what.
In a classroom that incorporates learning strategies instruction, the teacher and the students attend to the learning process and consider how to improve it. In a learner-centered classroom, both the teacher and the students must share the responsibility of learning. Both must believe that by focusing on learning strategies, learning will be enhanced. Learning strategies instruction requires a learner-centered approach to teaching.
Chamot, A . U., Barnhardt, S., El-Dinary, P., & Robbins, J. (1999). The learning strategies handbook. White Plains, NY: Addison-Wesley Longman.
carcella, R. & Oxford, R., 1992: The Tapestry of Language Learning: The Individual in the Communicative Classroom
Paris, S. G., & Winograd, P. (1990). How metacognition can promote academic learning and instruction. In B. F. Jones & L. Idol (Eds.), Dimensions of thinking and cognitive instruction. Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum