Learning Context and Strategy Use

Jennifer Bown, Ohio State University

In the past three decades, researchers in the field of Second Language Acquisition have become increasingly interested in language learning strategies (LLS). Among the topics of investigation is the question of factors influencing learners’ choice of and use of strategies. Researchers have given attention to such factors as gender, age, learning style, as well as learning task. One area that has largely been ignored, however, is the role that the learning context (self-directed, classroom, study abroad, etc.) plays in the learners’ use of strategies. In an attempt to bridge this gap in the research, the proposed study will seek preliminary answers to the question: do students learning a language in a classroom environment employ different LLS than those in a less-structured, more self-directed environment?

The study will involve approximately four hundred students studying Russian, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese at a large mid-western university. This population will include two sets of students: those studying in regular language classes and those enrolled in a self-directed language program. The researcher will administer the Strategies Inventory for Language Learning (Oxford, 1990) and compare the results of the two groups. The hypothesis is that the self-directed learners will report greater use of such strategies as planning, evaluation and monitoring (so-called metacognitive strategies) than classroom learners. The findings of this study will contribute to our understanding of the factors influencing use of language learning strategies.