Exploring Indonesian learners' beliefs about language learning strategies through reflection

2017-03-02T01:32:38Z (GMT) by Pratolo, Bambang Widi
This study investigated to what extent learners’ beliefs about language learning strategies (LLS) are subject to change as they are taken through a process of reflection. Three research questions were addressed: the profile of language learning strategies of the students, the nature of strategy use and belief about LLS and how the change of belief about LLS occurred. The study employed a minor quantitative measurement and qualitative analysis of the data. Findings at the beginning of the study are compared with the findings at the end of the study after the reflection procedure was implemented. The reflection was meant to provide time for the students to contemplate, and critically evaluate, their strategy use with regard to their English learning process. Twelve students participated in this study. Three types of data collection techniques were utilized to gather the data: survey, interview, and reflective journal writing. The Strategy Inventory of Language Learning (SILL), developed by Oxford (1990) was used to collect data about the students’ current learning strategies. In-depth interviews about their learning experiences with reference to their language learning approaches were also employed not only to compare with the survey results but also to enrich the data needed for deep analysis. The last instrument was the reflective learning journal. Journals were assigned to all the students in all macro-skill subjects to explore their experiences regarding their language learning journey by documenting their success and failure stories. All these data were triangulated for verification and analysed accordingly to respond to the research questions. The findings indicate that before reflection in general the students were moderate users of the English learning strategies as formulated in the SILL. In terms of categories, metacognitive categories were the most frequently used strategies suggesting that, as adult language learners, the students were familiar with the strategies of planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning. However, they did not exploit their emotion sufficiently to facilitate their learning, as indicated by their affective strategies being the least frequently used categories. After the intervention of reflection, the frequency use of the strategies increased across categories the with the metacognitive strategy category remaining the most frequently used. Also there was a shift in the least frequently used categories from affective strategies to memory strategies. This finding weakened the popular claim that memory strategies were the most popular strategies` among Asian EFL learners. This finding also serves as evidence that reflection is among the determinants of the improved frequency use of learning strategies. This study shows that all of the students preferred collaborative learning especially in verbal skills, suggesting that this finding corroborates Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development and social learning. The fact that the students had different levels of English proficiency allowed them to learn from one another through their social interaction in which some students became the learners, and some others became the “More Knowledgeable Others”, that is, other than the teachers. This finding was confirmed with data collected from the SILL survey which found a high level of frequency in the use of social strategy categories. Linguistic and non-linguistic problems were also identified, as encountered by the students. The problem of limited vocabularies and limited knowledge of grammar impeded them from active participation in verbal and written practices as these weaknesses made them feel anxious and afraid of making mistakes. Lack of self-confidence and lack of motivation as a result of low English competence were reported. These factors prevented them from active involvement in learning activities as they caused them to feel shy and lazy. With regard to the learners’ beliefs, it was found that the students held strong beliefs about the importance of language practice, the use of learning strategies, the significance of vocabulary and grammar, and error-correction. All of them believe that practice in language learning is a must suggesting that without language practice learning would not happen. Most of the students also believe in the effectiveness of their use of learning strategies based on their learning experience. Students also claimed that vocabulary and grammar are fundamental in English language learning suggesting that they would give top priority to learning these components. Finally, they had a strong conviction that making errors is normal in language learning and that it is part of the learning process. Therefore, they were happy for any corrections if they made mistakes. In connection with belief change, this study found factors affecting belief change also included: self-esteem, self-confidence, motivation, mindset and conception of language and language learning. In conclusion, this study has implications for EFL pedagogical practices and for further studies in the field of learners’ beliefs.