AUTONOMY STUDIES: THE USAGE OF LEARNING STRATEGIES IN OUR EFL CONTEXT Robson Martins de Araujo Junior English teacher graduated from UFES 2006-2009 Grad student in Distance Education at UFF, Niterói [email protected] / [email protected] X X I I AP I E S An n u a l M e e t i n g – V i t ó r i a / E S – S e p t e m b e r, 2 0 1 2 Advisor: Prof. Dr. Karla Ribeiro de Assis Cezarino Co-advisor: Prof. Dr. Karen L. Currie What is autonomy in language learning? “[…] autonomy is about people taking more control over their lives individually and collectively. Autonomy in learning is about people taking Contextualization more control over their learning in classrooms and outside them and autonomy in language learning is about people taking more control over the purposes for which they learn languages and the ways in which they learn them.” (BENSON, 2003, online) What are Learning Strategies? “the specific things that one does to learn”. (HINKEL, 2005, p.758) “learning strategies are special ways of processing information that enhance comprehension, learning, or retention of the information”. (O’MALLEY & CHAMOT 1996, p. 1) • What is the difference between an autonomous learner and a self-taught learner? - AUTONOMOUS learners “[...] understand the purpose Contextualization and process of learning and are able to choose from available tools and resources to create a productive learning environment” (THI CAM LE, 2005, p.6). But they are still dependent on teachers to receive instruction and contents. - SELF-TAUGHT learners are the ones who have learned things without any help from others, making use of their own techniques in order to learn by themselves. (HORNBY, 2005) This study aimed to answer the following questions: What are the learning strategies used by students, whether consciously or not, during their language learning process? Objectives Which are the most and least frequent strategies used? By answering these initial questions, this study hopes to make teachers and students aware that there are a variety of ways to deal with the process of learning a new language. Holec defines Autonomy as being “[…] the ability to take charge of Literature Review one’s learning […]” (1981, p. 5) “[…] autonomy is a process, not a product. One does not become autonomous; one only works towards autonomy”. (THANASOULAS, 2000, p. 2) Teachers can have a very important role in the development of their students’ autonomy, according to Thanasoulas:“[…] autonomous learning is by no means ‘teacherless’ learning” (2000, p.4). Thi Cam Le states that “the teacher plays an indispensable role by acting as a facilitator and modifying material for the students when necessary” (2005, p.6). “in order to help learners to assume greater control over their own learning it is important to help them to become aware of and identify the strategies that they already use or could potentially use”. (HOLMES and RAMOS, 1991, p. 198) “[...] appropriate strategies use is an important factor that differentiates more Literature Review and less effective language learners, and that useful strategies are both teachable and learnable”. (OXFORD, 1996, p.180) “The teachers promote autonomous behavior by suggesting extracurricular activities, focusing first on those that students already engage in. For example, the teacher may want to ask students to try such English learning activities as writing letters to pen pals; reading newspapers, magazines, or books; listening to the radio; watching movies; surfing the Internet; talking to foreigners; keeping a journal; practicing conversation with friends; studying in groups; and attending a self-study center”. (SPRATT et al., 2002 apud THI CAM LE, 2005, p. 6) • Quantitative approach; Methodology • Structured questionnaire – 5 Point Likert Scale; The Likert scale is an attitude scale, which measures the subjects’ attitudes towards the topic studied (MCNABB, 2004). • Mode – central tendency measure method; The mode “determines the typical or average value for any scale of measurement, including a nominal scale. […] In a frequency distribution, the mode is the score or category that has the greatest frequency” (GRAVETTER; WALLNAU, 2000, p. 93). • Questionnaire was revised and validated; • A pilot-test was made with 10 students; • All thirty-four deliberately. selected students participated General 1. Estudo inglês quando tenho tempo livre. 2. Tento pensar nas coisas que vejo em inglês. 3. Tento entrar em contato com a língua fora da sala de aula The strategies (música, TV, filmes, vídeo games, internet, etc.). 4. Vou ao centro de auto aprendizagem do curso de inglês. 5. Navego sites em inglês. 6. Utilizo sites que ensinam inglês. Listening 7. Tento ouvir o CD [áudio] antes de ler o texto [script] da atividade. 8. Assisto à programas de TV e filmes com o áudio em inglês. 9. Escuto músicas em inglês. 10. Tento compreender a letra da música enquanto escuto. The strategies 11. Procuro as letras das músicas para melhor entender e acompanhá-la. 12. Tento transcrever as atividades de listening (conversations, livros,etc.). 13. Gosto de ouvir / Fico curioso quando as pessoas conversam em inglês. Reading 14. Procuro ler (livros, revistas, artigos,etc.) em inglês. 15. Quando leio não me prendo a palavras que não sei, tento entender o texto como um todo. 16. Configuro a língua inglesa como padrão nos meus eletrônicos The strategies (computador, celular, MP3, jogos, etc.). 17. Assisto filmes com a legenda em inglês. Writing 18. Faço todos meus exercícios de inglês. 19. Escrevo em inglês com meus amigos no MSN/Orkut/E-mail, etc. 20. Mantenho um diário em inglês. 21.Tento escrever pequenos textos sobre diferentes tópicos em inglês. Speaking 22. Tento falar o máximo de inglês com amigos, professores, família, etc. The strategies 23. Falo sozinho em inglês. Pronunciation 34. Quando escuto algo em inglês presto atenção nos sons e entonações. 35. Tento imitar e pratico a pronúncia dos áudios que contém falantes da língua inglesa. 36. Tento cantar minhas músicas favoritas em inglês mesmo sem saber a letra. Grammar 24. Uso gramáticas de inglês para estudar estruturas. 25. Costumo fazer exercícios de gramática para praticar. 26. Reviso meus textos para procurar meus erros. The strategies 27. Anoto tópicos e estruturas gramaticais que tenho dificuldade para estudar depois. 28. Tento traduzir pequenos textos do inglês para o português. 29. Tento traduzir pequenos textos do português para o inglês. Vocabulary 28. Tento traduzir pequenos textos do inglês para o português. 29. Tento traduzir pequenos textos do português para o inglês. 30. Utilizo dicionários (português/inglês; inglês/inglês; The strategies inglês/português). 31. Procuro o significado de novas palavras e analiso seus possíveis usos. 32. Assisto filmes e anoto algum vocabulário que não entendo. 33. Procuro as letras das minhas músicas favoritas em inglês, pesquiso o significado. • The data collected from all questionnaire was tabulated; • The mode was applied in order to foreground the Data analysis most recurrent scores in each strategy; • The fifth point of the scale “E”, which stands for “I do it but not with the purpose of improving my English” did not receive enough answers to be highlighted by the mode, it was not used in the analysis; • The data was grouped into two categories: the most frequent (A-Frequently) and the least frequently (DNever) used strategies, which meant that only the strategies that were highlighted by the mode in these Data analysis points of the scale, were part of these categories; • According to tables 1 and 2, we can see that students have a slight preference of using listening and pronunciation strategies, rather than using the grammar and writing ones. • The data was grouped into two categories: the most frequent (A-Frequently) and the least frequently (DNever) used strategies, which meant that only the strategies that were highlighted by the mode in these Data analysis points of the scale, were part of these categories; • The strategies which were highlighted with gray shading are the ones which received answers from more than seventeen (50%) participants. In tables 1 and 2, we can see that students have a slight preference for using listening and pronunciation strategies, rather than using strategies related to grammar and writing. Table 1 Strategies which were frequently used by some students Data analysis # 9 13 3 10 15 8 36 34 28 11 33 35 27 Type Listening Listening General Listening Reading Listening Pronunciation Pronunciation Gram/Vocab Listening Vocabulary Pronunciation Grammar Description Escuto músicas em inglês. Gosto de ouvir / Fico curioso quando as pessoas conversam em inglês. Tento entrar em contato com a língua fora da sala de aula. Tento compreender a letra da música enquanto escuto. Quando leio não me prendo a palavras que não sei, tento entender o texto como um todo. Assisto à programas de TV e filmes com o áudio em inglês. Tento cantar minhas músicas favoritas em inglês mesmo sem saber a letra. Quando escuto algo em inglês presto atenção nos sons e entonações. Tento traduzir pequenos textos do inglês para o português. Procuro as letras das músicas para melhor entender e acompanhá-la. Procuro as letras das minhas músicas favoritas em inglês e pesquiso o significado. Tento imitar e praticar a pronúncia dos áudios que contém falantes da língua inglesa. Anoto tópicos e estruturas gramaticais que tenho dificuldade para estudar depois. Mode 26 23 22 20 19 17 17 16 15 14 14 11 10 Table 2 Strategies which were never used by some students # 20 4 16 24 32 21 6 19 25 7 23 Type Writing General Reading Grammar Vocabulary Writing General Writing Grammar Listening Speaking Description Mantenho um diário em inglês. Vou ao centro de auto aprendizagem do curso de inglês. Configuro a língua inglesa como padrão nos meus eletrônicos (celular, MP3, etc.) Uso gramáticas de inglês para estudar estruturas. Assisto filmes e anoto algum vocabulário que não entendo. Tento escrever pequenos textos sobre diferentes tópicos em inglês. Utilizo sites que ensinam inglês. Escrevo em inglês com meus amigos no MSN / Orkut / E-mail, etc. Costumo fazer exercícios de gramática para praticar. Tento ouvir o áudio (CD) antes de ler o texto da atividade. Falo sozinho em inglês. Mode 33 25 18 17 16 15 14 14 12 11 11 • All the 36 listed strategies were said to be used by the 34 participants; Final considerations • However, are students aware of the fact that they are using strategies that could be used as strong supportive tools throughout their learning process? • The questionnaire used in this study could be a great instrument to help teachers identify the strategies used by their students in order to reinforce the ones that students already know and teach the strategies that they are not acquainted with yet. • The researched school has an Independent study Lab available for all students and free of any charge, but even so, 73.5% of the students do not go there. • Once this study has shown what the most and least used strategies are, teachers could start developing more activities related to these practices in order to explore, increase, and reinforce students’ ways Final considerations of studying. • Teachers should explore songs as being valuable teaching tools since students showed they have been in touch with the audio and the lyrics very frequently. • Teachers can also improve students’ autonomy by teaching or at least mentioning the existence and purposes of the least used strategies, in order to facilitate the students’ learning process. • There are several simple actions that are regarded as being powerful strategies to support a language learning process that still have not been used by students. • Finally, I dare to say that the autonomous practice is undoubtedly one, if not, the strongest ally that we, teachers and students, have to transform the process of learning foreign languages into something Final considerations much more enjoyable and easy to experience, rather than something that demands big efforts to be accomplished. • This is not an impossible proposal to be put into practice. Both students and teachers, whether experienced or not, are fully capable to engage into this search and further development of autonomy in themselves. • As Thanasoulas (2005, p. 2) have stated, “it is a process, not a product”; thus what is left for us is to follow Holec’s (1981, p. 5) claim and “take charge of our own learning” and immerge into this extremely positive teaching/learning possibility. “Teachers open the doors. Students enter by themselves.” Final considerations Chinese proverb If you liked this presentation and the ideas brought to our teaching reflective process, please get in touch. Let me know what you think about it! Your feedback is really important! [email protected] / [email protected] I’m looking forward to publishing this research, if you by any chances, have suggestions of good journals or academic magazines, please mail me!! THANK YOU! BENSON, P. Autonomy in Language Learning. University of Hong Kong. Available at: <http://ec.hku.hk/autonomy/what.html> Last updated in August 2003. Last access on 04 Oct. 2009. GRAVETTER, F. J.; WALLNAU, L. B. Essentials of Statistics for the Behavioral Science - 6th ed. California: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007 HINKEL, E. Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. Routledge, 2005 HOLEC, H. Autonomy in Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: OUP, 1981 HOLMES, J. L. & RAMOS, R. Talking about learning: establishing a framework for discussing and changing learning processes. In JAMES, C. & GARRET, P. Language awareness in classroom – University of References California: Longman,1991 HORNBY, A. S. Oxford advanced learner's dictionary of current English. 7th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2005 McNABB, D. Research Methods for Political Science: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods. M.E. Sharpe, 2004 O’MALLEY,M.; CHAMOT, A. Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge University Press, 1996 ______________________ et al. Learning Strategy Applications with Students of English as a Second Language. TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 583-584, September 1985. OXFORD, R. Language Learning Strategies Around the World: Cross-cultural Perspectives. University of Hawaii Press, 1996 THANASOULAS, D. What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It Be Fostered? In ‘The Internet TESL Journal’, Vol. VI, No. 11, November 2000 – available at <http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html> Last access on 11 Oct. 2009. THI CAM LE, N. From Passive Participant to Active Thinker A Learner-Centered Approach to Materials Development. In “Forum English Teaching Online”, Vol. 43, Number 3, 2005. Available at: < http://exchanges.state.gov/englishteaching/forum/archives/docs/05-43-3-b.pdf> Last access on 09 Oct. 2009.