REBECCA OXFORD Department o Curriculum &? Instruction f College o Education f University o Alabama f Tuscaloosa, A L 35487-0231 E-mail: email@example.com
I N THE LAST FEW YEARS RESEARCH literature on learning strategies has experienced tremendous growth. In 1990 alone, at least three books on this subject appeared (9; 26; 28). Interest in learning strategies is due in large part to increased attention to the learner and to learner-centered instructional models of teaching (2; 37). These trends can be traced to the recognition that learning begins with the learner. The present study investigated the key types of foreign language learning strategies used by university students and adds statistical support to information-processing and socialinteraction models of learning. By approaching the learning process from cognitive, social and affective perspectives (among others), researchers are able to analyze learning in naturalistic and classroom environments. Cognitively, learners are viewed as contributors to the process of understanding new information via prior knowledge, schemata, or scripts. The social side of learning is also recognized as a learning catalyst in and out of the classroom (44;41). Authentic communication is advocated as an avenue, not simply an outcome of language instruction. The affective side of learning is frequently addressed in studies on anxiety (19; 34) and in strategy manuals addressed
to students (4; 38). Communication strategies
The Modern Language Journal, 77, i (1993) 0026-7902/93/11-22 $1.50/0 01993 The Modern Language Journal
are formally studied in linguistic analyses of speech act categories (42).All these approaches recognize the centrality of learners’ contribution to language learning as a cognitive, social, and affective process. Learning strategy research expands the strategic competence component of Canale and Swain’s communicative competence model by demonstrating that strategic competence goes beyond mere compensation strategies. Strategic competence fosters competence in grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, and psycholinguistic areas. Thus strategy research permeates all areas of learning, recognizing that learning is multidimensional. The present study confirms this multidimensionality through the statistical approach of factor analysis. In academic settings, learning strategies are technically defined as steps taken by learners to facilitate acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information (36). Teachers of a foreign or second language must understand the types of language learning strategies learners employ both inside and outside the classroom; information-processing theory can be a significant help in this regard. Students’ beliefs about their own language learning are also crucial because these beliefs directly affect students’ motivation to learn a new language and their subsequent use of language learning strategies (25; 32). The literature on the social psychology of language learning is our best resource for information on beliefs and motivation in the development
of foreign or second language competence (see, e.g., 14; 15; 17; 18). Thus informationprocessing and social psychological approaches were chosen as theoretical frameworks through which to interpret the present study. The study: 1) uses factor analysis to categorize and describe language learning strategies in a sample of university students; 2) reports and interprets the frequency of strategy use in this sample from the perspectives of information-processing theory and social psychology; and 3) discusses specific classroom implications. These elements represent half of a major study of language learning strategies involving over 1200 university students.' CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND
The Modern Language Journal 77 (1993)...