Luận văn Includes the rationale, scope, aims, significance, methods and organization of the study

Internationally, within the field of education over the last few decades a gradual but significant shift has taken place, resulting in less emphasis on teachers and teaching and greater stress on learners and learning. This change has been reflected in various ways in language education. Teaching English as a second or foreign language (TESL/TEFL) has also changed tremendously. Most significantly, the traditional teacher-centred approach has been replaced with the learner-centred one, which reflects a desire to explore ways of making teaching responsive to learner needs and interests and allowing learners to play a fuller

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale Internationally, within the field of education over the last few decades a gradual but significant shift has taken place, resulting in less emphasis on teachers and teaching and greater stress on learners and learning. This change has been reflected in various ways in language education. Teaching English as a second or foreign language (TESL/TEFL) has also changed tremendously. Most significantly, the traditional teacher-centred approach has been replaced with the learner-centred one, which reflects a desire to explore ways of making teaching responsive to learner needs and interests and allowing learners to play a fuller, more active and participatory role in the day-to-day teaching and learning processes. Inherent in this approach is a shift in the responsibilities of both teachers and students in the foreign language classroom. No longer does the teacher act as the centre of all instruction, controlling every aspect of the learning process. Learners themselves now, more than ever, are sharing the responsibility for successful language acquisition and, in doing so, are becoming less dependant on the language teacher for meeting their own individual language learning needs. By giving students more responsibility for their own language development, language programs are inviting learners to become more autonomous, to diagnose some of their own learning strengths and weaknesses and to sift-direct the process of language development. Then, for all L2 teachers who aim to develop their students' communicative competence and language learning, an understanding of language learning strategies is crucial. As Oxford (1990) puts it, language learning strategies"... are specially important for language learning because they are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communicative competence" (p.1). According to Nunan (1999), learner-centeredness does not mean that teachers should devaluating their own professional roles or handling their duties and responsibility to the learner. Learner-centered instruction "is a matter of educating learners so that they can gradually assume greater responsibility for their own learning" (Nunan, 1999: 12) and research suggests that training students to use language learning strategies can help them become better language learners. In the field of second language acquisition, focus has been shifted away from finding perfect teaching methodologies to investigating why some learners are very successful in their language learning while others are not although they have made as much effort learning the language. Several studies that have been carried out by Oxford (1990), O'Malley and Chamot (1990), Nunan (1991), Rubin and Thompson (1994) and Cohen (1998) have shown that one of the most important factors that distinguish successful learners from unsuccessful ones is their learning strategies. In other words, successful learners do use some effective learning strategies to deal with problems that emerge during their learning process while unsuccessful ones employ inappropriate or ineffective strategies resulting in their failure in their language learning. This finding has provoked interest among researchers and teachers in identifying learning strategies employed by good language learners with a view to training bad learners to use such effective learning strategies. In Vietnam, learning strategies have also become a topic of interest in recent years when the concepts of "self-learning" and "life-long learning" have been familiar to the ears of both Vietnamese teachers and learners. Several studies into this field have been conducted with different type of learners to find out particular strategies employed by effective and ineffective learners such as Huyen Tran study (2004) on vocabulary learning strategies used by students of English at Quy Nhon University or Mai Duong's (2005) on writing strategies employed by first-year students at Hanoi National University or Nguyen Thi Thu Ha's (2006) on reading strategies employed by second-year bridge and road students at the University of Transport and Communications or Mai Van Binh's (2007) on vocabulary learning strategies preferred by students at College of Finance and Business Administration. However, studies as such are still scarce, thus, more research should be done in order to clarify particular strategies used in different settings and by learners of different levels. At Tay Bac University (TBU), reading is regarded as an important skill to the students because these students need to read a lot of English books and documents to support their professional studies. However, apart from some students who are quite good at English reading, most students especially ethnic minority junior ones find reading difficult. They often complain that they have little understanding of the text they have read and hardly finish their reading exercises and exams successfully. Having taught English majored students at TBU for several years, I am aware of their problems and very much want to help them to improve their reading ability. Therefore, I intend to examine their reading strategies to find out the reading strategies used by students of lower reading ability. Based on the findings, I am going to make some implications to improve TBU students' reading proficiency. 1.2. Scope, aims and significance of the study 1.2.1. Scope of the study The present study investigates the reading strategies used by readers among ethnic minority junior first-year English-majored students at Tay Bac University (hereafter TBU). The study of learning strategies in other English skills would be beyond the scope. 1.2.2. Aims of the study The major purposes of this study are: (1) to identify the reading strategies utilized by readers among ethnic minority junior first-year English-majored students at Tay Bac University; (2) to inform the concerned teachers so that they can find ways to improve their students' reading proficiency. In order to achieve the above aims of the study, the following major research question will be addressed: - What are the reading strategies employed by readers among TBU ethnic minority junior first-year English-majored students? 1.2.3. Significance of the study The study is the first one to be carried out in the field of reading strategies research at TBU. It helps give a detailed description of reading strategies used by readers among first-year English- majored students at junior grade at the university. More importantly, the findings of their reading strategies can help teachers to understand more about their students and they can serve as the foundation for some recommendations on how to improve the students' reading proficiency. They are also an important basic for reading strategy based instruction to be implemented in the future. 1.3. Method of the study In order to achieve the aims mentioned above, the present study utilized quantitative method including tests and survey questionnaires to collect data on the reading strategies employed by TBU students. First, the two reading comprehension tests were given to the subjects in order to identify their English reading proficiency levels. Then, the questionnaires were administered to find out their reading strategies. After the data is analyzed and discussed, some conclusions will be drawn, and some suggestions will be raised in the thesis. 1.4 Organization of the thesis The study is divided into five chapters Chapter 1 includes the rationale, scope, aims, significance, methods and organization of the study. Chapter 2 reviews the literature relevant to the topic of research and summarizes some selected studies on reading strategies, which serve as a theoretical and methodological foundation of the study. Chapter 3 presents the research methodology of the study. It provides information about the participants, the research method, the instrumentation, the data collection procedures and data analysis. Chapter 4, the main part of the study that reports, discusses the main findings according to the research question. Chapter 5 is the conclusion that summarizes the findings, presents the implications and limitations of the study and finally give some suggestions for further research. CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1. Introduction This chapter reviews theories related to learning strategies in general and reading strategies in particular. It also summarizes some studies on reading strategies that have been conducted so far. All of these serve as a basic for an investigation into reading strategies which is carried out and presented in the next chapter. 2.2. Language learning strategies 2.2.1. Learning strategies - The definitions Over the last two decades, the study of learning strategies has seen as "explosion of activity" (R. Ellis, 1994) with the contributions of such well-known researchers as Tarone (1981), Weinstein and Mayer (1986), Rubin (1987), O' Malley and Chamot (1990), Oxford (1990) and Cohen (1998). These studies have helped figure out a comprehensive overview of learning strategies. Although research on learning strategies is becoming increasingly popular, there have been some considerable differences in the definition of learning strategies in the literature. Taron (1981) claimed that "Learning strategies as attempts to develop linguistic and sociolinguistic competence in the target language". Learning strategies, according to Weinstein and Mayer (1986) (in O' Malley and Chamot 1990), have learning facilitation as a goal and are intentional on the part of the learner. The goal of strategy use is to "affect the learner's motivational or affective state, or the way in which the learner selects, acquires, organizes, or integrates new knowledge." (1986: 43). These definitions are too general in comparison to the complex nature of learning strategies. Oxford (1990) defined learning strategies as "specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situations" (1990: 5). This definition is judged to be quite comprehensive as it not only covers the cognitive but also the affective aspects of learning strategies (i.e. to increase enjoyment in learning). However, Oxford's definition is not sufficient in the sense that it regards learning strategies as "specific actions", i.e. learning strategies are behavioral, and therefore, they are mostly observable. However, many studies in this field have shown that learning strategies are difficult to observe as they are not only behavioral. In an attempt to define learning strategies in a more sensible manner, Weinstein and Mayer (in Ellis,1994: 531) claimed that learning strategies "are the behaviors and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning that are intended to influence the learner's encoding process". Thus, these two authors see learning strategies both behavioral and mental. Their view has been shared by most researchers in strategies studies. The definition that has been widely accepted to date was proposed by O' Malley and Chamot (1990). According to them, learning strategies are "the special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn or retain new information" (1990: 1). In spite of being quite short, their definition covers the most important aspects of learning strategies, that is learning strategies are both mental and behavioral (therefore both observable and unobservable), and learning strategies are individually characterized (i.e. every learner's strategies are different). Because of its comprehensive features, the present study utilized this definition as the key direction in its investigation. 2.2.2. Why studying learning strategies? When commenting on the role of learning strategies, Weinstein and Mayer (in O' Malley and Chamot 1990) say that learning facilitation is the goal of learning strategies, which are intentional on the part of the learner. The goal of learning strategy use is to "affect the learner's motivational or affective state, or the way in which the learner selects, acquires, organizes, or integrates new knowledge." (1986: 43). Oxford (1990), one of the leading teachers and researchers in language learning strategies field, also gives her own evaluation on learning strategies: "strategies are especially important for language learning because they are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communicative competence". (1990: 1) As a teacher of English, my strong belief is that " It takes better teachers to focus on the learner" (Peter Strevens, cited in Oxford, 1990: 193) and "We cannot teach another directly; we can only facilitate his learning (Carl Rogers, cited in Oxford, 1990: 193). The current approach that is encouraged to be taken to teach English in our country in general and in our own language setting in particular is communicative language teaching in which learners are central to the learning process. Helping learners to be independent during their learning process is a task of every teacher. To gain this aim, one of the suggestions is that learners should be equipped various strategies so that they control their own learning process confidently and independently. That is the reason why learning strategies are chosen as the topic of this thesis. 2.2.3. Classification of learning strategies Much of the earlier research (Rubin 1975 and 1981; Stern 1975; Naiman et al 1978) focused on compiling inventories of the learning strategies that learners were observed to use or reported to use. Rubin (1981) proposed a classification scheme that subsumes learning strategies under two primary groupings and a number of subgroups. Rubin's first primary category, consisting of strategies that directly affect learning, includes clarification/verification, monitoring, memorization, guessing/inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning and practice. The second category, consisting of strategies that contribute indirectly to learning, includes creating practice opportunities and using production tricks such as communication strategies. An alternative classification scheme proposed by Naiman et al (1978) contains five broad categories of learning strategies and a number of secondary categories. The primary classification includes an active task approach, realization of language as a means of communication and interaction, management of affective demands and monitoring of second language performance. Subsequent descriptive studies have endeavored to identify broad classes of learning strategies, under which a large number of more specific strategies can be grouped. The works by Wenden (1983), Oxford (1990), O'Malley et at (1985a and 1985b), O'Malley and Chamot (1990) have made an important contribution to our knowledge of learning strategies. Wenden's (1983) research examined the strategies that adult foreign language learners use in order to direct their own learning. She identifies three general categories of self-directing strategies: (1) knowing about language (relating to what language and language learning involves), (2) planning (relating to what and how of language learning), and (3) self-evaluation (relating to progress in learning and learner's response to the language experience). Wenden's framework devised as a basic for learner training. R. Oxford (1990) built on the earlier classifications with the aim of subsuming within her taxonomy virtually every strategy previously mentioned in the literature. Oxford (1990) draws a general distinction between direct and indirect strategies. The former consists of memory, cognitive and compensation strategies while the later includes metacognitive, affective and social strategies. However, Oxford's classification of learning strategies is somewhat complicated and confusing as she treats compensation strategies as a direct type of learning strategies and memory strategies as separate ones from cognitive strategies. Perhaps, the framework that has been most useful and generally accepted is O'Malley and Chamot (1990)'s. In O'Malley and Chamot 's framework, three major types of strategies are distinguished in accordance with the information processing model, on which their research is based. Metacognitive strategies are "higher order executive skills that may entail planning for, monitoring or evaluating the success of learning activity" (O'Malley and Chamot: 44). Cognitive strategies "operate directly on incoming information, manipulating it in ways that enhance learning" O'Malley and Chamot, 1990: 44). The last subtypes of these strategies presented in Table 2.1 were identified by O'Malley and Chamot on the basis of their several descriptive studies on learning strategies used by second language learners. Learning strategy Definition A. Metacognitive strategies Planning Advance organizers Previewing the main ideas and concepts of the material to be learned, often by skimming the text for the organization principle. Directed attention Deciding in advance to attend in general to a learning task and to ignore irrelevant distracters. Functional planning Planning for and rehearsing linguistic components necessary to carry out an outcoming task. Selective attention Deciding in advance to attend to specific aspects of input, often by scanning for key words, concepts and/or linguistic markers Self-management Understanding the conditions that help one learn and arranging for the presence of those conditions. Monitoring Self-monitoring Checking one's comprehension during listening or reading or checking the accuracy and/or appropriateness of one's oral or written production while it is taking place. Evaluation Self-evaluation Checking the outcomes of one's own language against a standard after it has been completed. B. Cognitive strategies Resourcing Using target language reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or textbooks. Repetition Imitating the language model, including overt practice and silent rehearsal. Grouping Classifying words, terminology or concepts according to their attributes or meanings. Deduction Applying rules to understand or produce the second language or making up rules based on language analysis. Imagery Using visual images (either mental or actual) to understand or remember new information. Auditory representation Planning back in one's mind the sound of a word, phrase or longer language sequence. Key word method Remembering a new word in the second language by: (1) identifying a familiar word in the first language that sounds like or otherwise resembles the new word, and (2) generating easily recalled images of some relationship with the first language homonym and the new word in the second language. Elaboration relating new information to prior knowledge, relating different parts or new information to each other, or making meaningful personal associations with the new information. Transfer Using previous linguistic knowledge or prior skills to assist comprehension or production. Differencing Using available information to guess the meanings of new items, predict outcomes or fill in missing information. Note taking Writing down key words or concepts in abbreviated verbal, graphic or numerical form while listening or reading. Recombination Constructing a meaningful sentence or larger language sequence by combining known elements in a new way. Translation Using the first language as a base for understanding and/or producing the second language. C. Social(affective) strategies Question for clarification Eliciting from a teacher or peer additional explanation, rephrasing, examples or verification. Cooperation Working together with one or more peers to solve a problem, pool information, ch