Language Learning Strategies. The Process of Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner in a Foreign Language Class

Seminar Paper, 2019

7 Pages, Grade: 2


The process of becoming a self-regulated learner in a foreign language class by supportive language learning strategies

“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man's future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual's total development lags behind?”

This well-known quote from Maria Montessori conveys that education needs to be more than a transmission of knowledge. Maria Montessori was one of the first pedagogues who emphasized independence, a degree of student autonomy and learning strategies that highlight learning through action rather than lecture. Children have been seen as naturally eager for knowledge, i.e. children are capable to initiate learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. Based on pedagogical observations, it was discovered that children who were free to choose and act without restrictions within an environment prepared according to Montessori’s model would act spontaneously for optimal development (Montessori, 1936). Unfortunately, it is frequently observable that modern phenomena such as portable phones, computers and television are a constant distraction, even for young children, and consequently tend to impede the students learning of self-regulation (Zimmermann, 2002). For this reason, it will be the present seminar paper’s main concern to outline strategies which teachers could use in order to support students in becoming self-regulated by using language learning strategies.

In the 19th century, learning was considered to be formal discipline. “A student´s failure to learn was widely attributed to personal limitations in intelligence or diligence” (Zimmermann, 2002, p. 65). The concept of self-regulation at that time was limited to acquire proper diction and handwriting. Diverse reformers like Maria Montessori or John Dewey proposed several ways to adapt the curriculum to the students´ individual differences such as grouping students homogeneously according to age or ability and established perceptual-motor learning tasks and broadening course work to train practical skills (Zimmermann, 2002).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new approach on students’ individual differences occurred. Researches divided this approach into two aspects, metacognition and social cognition. On the one hand, metacognition can be defined as awareness of and knowledge about one´s own thinking. On the other hand, social cognition can be characterized as social influence on children´s development of self-regulation, and the effects which teacher modelling and instruction might have on students’ goal setting and self-monitoring (Schunk, 1989; Zimmermann, 1989). During several researches students were asked to set specific goals for themselves and to self-record their effectiveness in achieving these goals. Students who set particular types of goals for themselves showed superior achievement and perceptions of personal efficacy. In these researches, it can be observed that these effects imply that students’ metacognitive awareness of special aspects of their functioning can advance their self-control. However, if a learner lacks fundamental skills, self-awareness may become insufficient. On the other hand, it can produce a readiness that is essential for personal change (Zimmermann, 2001). Therefore, the teacher’s goal should be to support and enable their students to become self-aware of their abilities and become self-regulated learners (Zimmermann, 2002).

Due to the self-regulation process, learners are able to transform their mental abilities to academic skills (Zimmermann, 2002). “Learning itself can be considered as an activity that students do for themselves in a proactive way rather than as a covert event that happens to them in reaction to teaching” (Zimmermann, 2002, p.65). Hence, students are proactive because they are aware of their strengths and limitations. These learners are able to monitor their behaviour in terms of their goals and self-reflect on their increasing capabilities. These strategies enhance the students’ self-satisfaction and motivation to continue to improve their methods of learning. In other words, students take ownership of their own learning and do not depend on teachers to provide them with information and constant guidance. Additionally, willpower and learning skills are required to become a proactive and independent learner (Zimmermann, 2002).

Zimmermann developed key processes that help students to become self-regulated learners. The scientist introduced a structure of self-regulatory process in terms of three cyclical phases, for example, forethought phase, performance phase and self-reflection phase. The forethought phase indicates processes and beliefs that occur before efforts to learn. The phase is separated into two parts, task analysis and self-motivation. Task analysis contains goal setting and strategic planning. During this task, students set specific goals for themselves, such as memorizing a word list for a spelling test and plan to use spelling strategies, for example, segmenting words into syllables. Self-motivation refers to the students’ beliefs about learning and the beliefs about having the personal capability to learn and outcome expectations about personal consequences of learning (Bandura, 1997).

Performance phase indicates processes that occur during learning efforts and are designed to improve action and self-monitoring. This phase is divided into two parts, self-control and self-observation. Self-control means the development of explicit methods or strategies that were selected during the forethought phase. These methods can be the use of imagery, self-instruction, and task strategies. For example, in learning the Spanish word pan for bread, an English-speaking girl could form an image of a bread pan or self-instruct using the phrase “bread pan”. Self-observation refers to self-recording personal events or self-experimentation to find out the cause of these events. For example, students were asked to self-record their time to make them aware of how much time they spend studying. An example of self-monitoring can be to note down the frequency of failing to capitalize words when writing an essay (Zimmermann, 2002).

Self-reflection processes occur after learning efforts and are designed to optimize a person’s reaction to his or her outcomes. Self-reflection is divided into self-judgment and self-reaction. S elf-judgment relates to comparisons of self-observed performances against some standard, such as one’s prior performance or another person’s performance. Self-reaction refers to feelings of self-satisfaction and positive effect regarding one’s performance. Undoubtedly, increases in self-satisfaction enhance motivation, whereas decline in self-satisfaction undermine further efforts to learn (Schunk, 2001). If the learning strategy fails, the learner needs to correct his strategy (Zimmermann, 2002).

As it can be seen in Zimmermann’s three cyclical phases, students who set specific proximal goals are more likely to self-observe their performance in these areas, more likely to attain these goals, and will show higher levels of self-efficacy than students who do not set goals (Bandura & Schunk, 1981).

In the field of foreign language learning teaching, self-regulation has gained more attention in the last few decades. Researchers demonstrated self-regulated learning efficacy at improving foreign language learning (Andrade & Bunker, 2009). Language acquisition requires a considerable investment of time due to the dynamic nature of the language itself. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain high levels of motivation and persistence, which can be learned by Zimmermann’s three cyclical processes. Furthermore, language learners need to receive the opportunity to practice inside and outside the classroom. In order to become self-regulated and learn how to make their own learning decision, learners need assistance in planning, goal setting, monitoring, evaluation and persistence throughout the learning process (Oxford, 1990) These strategies facilitate language learning only by using them regularly (Andrade & Bunker, 2009) by leading to deeper learning and higher performance in language skills such as speaking, reading comprehension, writing and vocabulary (Oxford 2014).

Researchers in language learning strategies discovered a positive relationship between the use of strategies and student language learning outcome .For example, students who used the self-regulated learning (SRL) strategy of goal setting and planning were mostly higher achievers in language learning than learners who did not use the SRL strategy of goal setting and planning (Chen, 2011)

Although SRL is responsible for language learning efficiency, it can be stated that teachers’ who are active involved in the guidance of the learning process of self-regulation is essential for learners’ (Oxford 1990). In order to get to know the learner’s use of SRL in English language classes, a semi-structured interview was conducted with language teachers. The interview aimed to identify the teacher’s level of awareness of SRL as a concept and as a language teaching tool. The interview questions were open-ended and directed towards (1) teachers´ description of a successful language learner, (2) their suggestion for assisting students with desired qualities and skills, (3) determining whether teachers are familiar with SRL strategies and (4) ascertaining whether teachers integrate SRL into their classroom instruction (Stern, 1995). The analysis of the interview showed that the majority of teachers described a successful language learner as someone who can study independently (94, 1%), regularly (88, 2%) and consciously (86,2%). However, when it comes to the suggestion for achieving these outcomes, most of the participants mentioned the regular attendance in class (80,3%), note-taking during lessons (56, 8%) and regular revision of lesson notes (50,9%). Most of the teachers mentioned skills that leaners need but, only a few teachers (7,8%) mentioned integration of SRL strategies into classroom instruction, while even fewer still (3,9%) said they promoted SRL to students. Unfortunately, tasks or activities promoting goal setting, study planning, time management, outcome monitoring, or learning evaluation were not among the arising topics. The interview indicated that a significant number of teachers were familiar with SRL (74,5%) but had not considered allocating time for it in class (92,1%). The participants stated that the official syllabus allowed almost no time for teaching additional strategies (Stern, 1995).

Furthermore, learning strategies which support learners in becoming self-regulated and teachers in promoting self-regulation in a language learning class were developed by learning strategy researchers. Those researchers used specific assessment techniques for successful language learning. These techniques included observational methods, interviews and group discussions, think-aloud procedures, language learning diaries, dialogue journals, open-ended surveys and structured strategy surveys (Oxford, 1996). The most widely used foreign language learning strategy questionnaire is the English as a second language (ESL) – English as a foreign language (EFL) version of the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL), developed by Rebecca Oxford. Rebecca Oxford points out that self-regulation can support learners to manage and to control their own language learning (Oxford, 2014). The SILL broadly conceptualizes language learning including social/affective, cognitive and metacognitive strategies (Oxford, 1990). In learning a foreign language cognitive strategy contains clarification and verification, guessing and inductive, memorization and monitoring. Metacognitive strategies refer to planning, monitoring and evaluating one’s learning activities. Social strategies refer to communication with target language speakers (Rubin, 1987). The SILL packages consist of a scoring worksheet and summary profile. The learners are able to score their own responses. Afterwards, the students use a summary profile distributed by the teacher to discuss their results. Oxford encourages the use of strategy assessment in the classroom to help students recognize the power of learning strategies and to help teachers identify which strategies are successful for language learning (Oxford, 1996).

Finally, it can be stated that self-regulation contributes significantly to a students’ learning success, as studies have shown, especially in learning a foreign language. It is vital that teachers present certain learning strategies to the students and practise these activities together in class. The acquisition of specific learning strategies requires time, but once acquired, these strategies contribute significantly to the learning success of the individual student.


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Language Learning Strategies. The Process of Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner in a Foreign Language Class
University of Applied Sciences Burgenland
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ISBN (eBook)
language, learning, strategies, process, becoming, self-regulated, learner, foreign, class
Quote paper
Elisabeth Grasi (Author), 2019, Language Learning Strategies. The Process of Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner in a Foreign Language Class, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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