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A Comparative Study of the Language Learning Strategies Used by the Students of Formal and Non-Formal Systems of Education.

Byline: Aijaz Ahmed Gujjar, Bushra Naoreen Choudhry and Amtul Hafeez Choudhry

Abstract

Formal and Non-Formal education are completely different phenomenon. Whereas in the Formal settings the learner learns through face to face interaction with a teacher, in the Non-Formal system the learner has to learn independently of the classroom. The learner, in a Non-Formal education programme depends on the sent material and the workshops arranged by the institution. There is also the use of the information technology in Non-Formal education. Thus Non-Formal education throws new challenges and a wide array of opportunities to the students. This would be especially so as far as language learning in Non-Formal education is concerned; due to the fact that the learners have more chances to have experiment with their language. The present study attempts to compare the language learning strategies of formal and non-formal graduate students. It is descriptive in nature.

In order to get the desire end four hundred graduate students, two hundred each from Formal and Non-Formal systems of education were selected as sample and a fifty items questionnaire on (Likert Scale) was constructed and pilot tested , the reliability of the research tool was 0.990(Cornbach's Alpha). The questionnaire was divided into seven parameters (i.e) memory strategies, cognitive strategies, compensatory strategies, meta cognitive, affective strategies, social; strategies and over all strategies. The study reports that there is a statistically significant relationship between reported frequency of language learning strategy use and the system of education.

The students from non-formal system of education are significantly better on using the compensatory strategies and the students from formal system of education are significantly better on use of social strategies and on the remaining parameter (i.e) memory strategies, cognitive strategies, meta cognitive strategies, affective strategies and over all strategies no significant difference found between the students from both the systems. The Distance education students reported the use of more language learning strategies than their counterparts in the Formal settings.

Introduction

With the onset of the post-modern age, there has been a shift, in the educational theories and practices throughout the world, towards the learner centeredness. It was observed that successful learning depended, to a good extent, on catering to the needs and interests of the learners. For instance, Chickering and Gamson (1991, p.21) reported that "Faculty who show regard for their students' unique interests and talents are likely to facilitate student growth and development in every sphere--academic, social, personal, and vocational."

What are the language learning strategies (LLS)?

Different authors have come up with their definitions of LLS. However, "there is no consensus on what constitutes a learning strategy in second language learning or how these differ from other types of learner activities" (O'Malley et al, 1985). For Rubin, strategies are "the techniques or devices which a learner may use to acquire knowledge" (1975). In Weinstein and Mayer's terms, the LLS may be defined as "behaviours and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning" which are presumably "intended to influence the learner's encoding process" (1986). Cohen (1998) added the important ingredient of choice or consciousness in defining the strategies and thus asserted that "the element of consciousness is what distinguishes strategies from those processes that are not strategic".

A comprehensive definition is provided by Oxford (2001) who believes that the strategies are in fact'...operations employed by the learner to aid the acquisition, storage, retrieval and use of information; specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more efficient, and more transferable to new situations' Many of the researches on LLS suggest that the strategies which the good and successful language learners employ are different from those of the bad learners. In fact the good learners not only employ more strategies but also employ them in a more appropriate manner than the weaker ones (Chamot and Kupper 1989). There has also been a suggestion that there is a positive relationship between Language Learning Strategies and communicative competence (Stern, 1992; Lessard-Clouston, 1997 and Oxford, 1990).

There has also been an extensive discussion on the types of LLS that the learners employ for successful learning. O Malley et al, Wenden and Rubin, Stern and Oxford have classified LLS in many categories. However, most of these classifications have striking similarities. Some have categorized them into Learning, communication and Social strategies, others into the cognitive and meta cognitive and socioaffective strategies (O' Malley et al, 1985) and a few others have added the element of management, planning and interpersonal elements to the discussion (Stern, 1992).

The most comprehensive categorization has been done by Oxford (1990). She has classified the LLS into six broad categories and in each category she has outlined a number of sub-categories. Broadly speaking, these categories include Memory related, Cognitive, Compensatory, Meta-cognitive, Affective, and Social strategies.

Language Learning in Formal and Non-Formal Systems of Education

In conjunction with the changing roles of the teacher and the taught, there has been a concurrent realisation on the part of the educational institutions to "reach new audiences or to retain their market share. All this means that distance learning opportunities are becoming an increasingly visible part of educational provision" (White 2003). There are thousands of courses in language learning alone that are offered on the web (ibid). This change has been brought about by the use of distance education to complement the formal system of education (Brown and Constantin, 1992).

Garrison and Shale (1987) outline the gist of distance education in these terms:

a) Distance education implies that the majority of educational communication between teacher and student occurs none contiguously.

b) Distance education involves two-way communication between teacher and student for the purpose of facilitating and supporting the educational process.

c) Distance education uses technology to mediate the necessary two-way communication.

As against it, Eraut (2002) describes five features of the formal or traditional education system

a) a prescribed learning framework

b) an organised learning event or package

c) the presence of a designated teacher or trainer

d) the award of a qualification or credit

e) the external specification of outcomes. (Eraut's 2000)

Distance education is different from the formal system not only in terms of scope but also in its objectives and implementation. Whereas the Formal education takes place in the traditional classroom settings whereby the teacher and the taught meet in an organised manner, the Distance system survives the physical separation of the teachers and the students. Tutorials do take place but they are not as frequent as in the Formal system.

Though there has been a shift of focus from the teacher to the student in the Formal classroom, the teacher still occupies a key position in terms of decision making about the class organisation and lesson development. In a Distance Language learning programme the learner enjoys autonomy and independence sometimes denied even in the most liberal of the classrooms. This independence affords him opportunities to choose the learning environment and the time that he pleases to devote to his studies (Shelly, 2000).

Student, in the Formal setting, has the opportunity to interact with his peers and the teacher. This interaction is quite different in the Distance settings. As for Distance learning, interaction that was earlier on confined to post and broadcasting corporations, has now gained new momentum with the advent of teleconferencing powered by the fourth generation internet-based real-time technology and has thereby helped in fostering communication (Wang and Sun 2001). Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) has therefore come up as an essential ingredient of a Distance Language Learning Programme.

Purpose of the Study

To compare the language learning strategies as used by the graduate students of Formal and non-Formal systems of education in Pakistan

Research Question

Is there a statistically significant difference in the use of language learning strategies on different dimensions of the language learning strategy scale?

Research Methodology

As the study was descriptive in nature, it used the survey approach. 50-item version of the Strategy Inventory of Language Learning (SILL) for speakers of other languages learning English (Oxford, 1990) was used to collect data from the respondents.

Population and Sampling

All the Pakistani graduate students learning English constituted the population for the study. four hundred undergraduate students, two hundred each from The Islamia University Bahawalpur and the Allama Iqbal Open University, were considered as sample for the study.

Data Analysis

The data collected through questionnaire was coded and analyzed through SPSS XII in terms of mean scores and independent sample t- test.

Findings:

Data collected through the questionnaire was analyzed in terms of mean scores and independent sample t-test was applied. The findings drawn out from the data analysis are given below.

Table: 1 Showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the over all memory strategies of the language learning

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t-value###p-value

Formal System###200###13.1700###4.45869###.44587###1.884###.061

Non -Formal###200###11.6600###6.65790###.66579

Above table shows that there is no significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all memory strategies of language learning. So, it is concluded that the students from both the systems are using the same memory strategies in language learning.

Table: 2 Showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the cognitive strategies of the language learning

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t-value###p-value

Formal System###200###33.0700###14.58812###1.45881###.538###.591

Non Formal###200###31.9000###16.10289###1.61029

Above table shows that there is no significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all cognitive strategies of language learning. So, it is concluded that the students from both the systems are using the same cognitive strategies in language learning.

Table: 3 showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the compensatory strategies of the language learning

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t-value###p-value

Formal System###200###16.0700###6.82428###.68243###-2.811###.005

Non Formal###200###19.1500###8.56983###.85698

Above table shows that there is a significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all compensatory strategies of language learning. So, it is concluded that the students from non-formal system are using the better compensatory strategies in language learning.

Table: 4 showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the meta cognitive strategies of the language learning

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t-value###p-value

Formal System###200###31.5600###13.18885###1.31889###-.674###.501

Non Formal###200###32.7800###12.40852###1.24085

Above table shows that there is no significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all meta cognitive strategies of language learning. So, it is concluded that the students from both the systems are using the same meta cognitive strategies in language learning.

Table : 5 Showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the affective strategies of the language learning

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t -value###p-value

Formal System###200###16.6600###6.41214###.64121###1.637###.103

Non Formal###200###15.1500###6.63382###.66338

Above table shows that there is no significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all affective strategies of language learning. So, it is concluded that the students from both the systems are using the same affective strategies in language learning.

Table: 6 Showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the social strategies of the language learning

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t-value###p-value

Formal System###200###13.2800###6.41979###.64198###3.143###.002

Non Formal###200###10.5200###5.99070###.59907

Above table shows that there is a significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all social strategies of language learning. So, It is concluded that the students from formal system of education are using more social strategies in language learning.

Table : 7 Showing the mean difference between the students of formal and non-formal system on the over all###language learning strategies

Status of Student###N###Mean###Std. Deviation###Std. Error Mean###t-value###p-value

Formal System###200###128.0600###53.51537###5.35154###.392###.696

Non Formal###200###124.9700###57.92671###5.79267

Above table shows that there is no significant difference between the students from formal and non-formal systems of education on over all language learning strategies. So, it is concluded that the students from both the systems are using the same over all language learning strategies.

Discussion

* On different parameters of memory in learning strategies, it is evident by the results that students of formal system are significantly better in memorizing the lessons by reviewing them regularly and they are in habits of memorizing the words by their location as they are used on page, board or any sign board. They can save the picture of the words as it is on their mind screen. But on the other hand the students of non- formal system of education need flash cards to remember the words. They can use properly the cards as compared to the students of formal systems of education. But both the students are equal in acting out the words as they are used in any situation. Both are equal in saving the picture of that situation on their mind screens. As the results show that there is no difference between the both regarding this parameter of memory in learning strategies.

* On overall memory strategies of language learning, there is no significant difference between the students of both the systems. Both types of students are equal in using the same language learning strategies to learn or memorize the words or lessons (table. 1).

* Formal students learn English by writing words again and again. They watch English movies and shows to enhance their capability in language. They also use to use skim technique while learning English as compared to non- formal students who are not good in these techniques comparatively. Non-formal students learn language by using the technique of summarizing the given information. They do not try to translate English word to word. According to the results non- formal students are significantly better in these techniques as compared to formal students. On many other parameters of cognition in language learning strategies, both types of students use the same techniques. For example: they try to apply the words in different ways. They focus on sounds also. They happily practice English by writing the letters passages and reports. They understand the words by dividing them into parts and think that its more easy to understand the words as compared to memorize as a whole.

In above mentioned techniques there i no significant difference between both types of the students.

* Overall results show that there is no significant difference between the mean scores of the students on cognitive strategies of learning language. Both types of students do almost the same mental activity or their pattern of learning is almost same while learning English (table.2).

* Formal learners are significantly better than non- formal students in using the guess strategy. If they don't know the new word in English they do not bother about it they can guess of it. Non- formal students are significantly better than formal students in many compensatory strategies of learning English. During conversation if they don't know the meaning of any word they can understand by gestures. They can use new words in the place where they don't know the exact word to be used. They can try to guess the trend of the people while conversation. What would be used by the people next in English. If they don't know the word in English they can use the other word having same meaning in place of that word. These are some of the strategies in which the students of non- formal system are better than the students of formal system of education.

* Overall mean score shows that students of non- formal system are better in using the compensatory strategies while learning language as compared to formal system of education (table.3).

* There is a significant difference between the mean score of the students of formal and non- formal system of education on different parameters of Meta cognition strategies. Results show that formal learners pay more attention when some body is speaking English and they find enough time in their time table to study English. They seem to be more active in learning English as the results indicate that they look for the opportunities to read about English as compared to non- formal learners. Non- formal learners are also having some better strategies of Meta cognition than the formal learners. They try to find out the ways in which they can use their language properly as compared to formal learners. They also seem to be active to be a better learner in English. They seem to be more serious in learning than the formal students as they search for the people speaking English because they are having more clear goals for the improvement of their language skills as compared to formal students.

* Overall results show that the students of both the systems think about their progress in learning English. As they find any mistake in their language they try to improve their condition by using almost same strategies. So it can be said that both types of students are cautious about their language skills and practices (table. 4)

* As far affective strategies of learning language are concerned, formal students are significantly better in some of the affective strategies. They appreciate their selves when they see that they have done well in their learning. In this way they are self motivated for learning. But when they see that they are feeling difficulty in learning something and they are tensed and nervous on this situation then they try to discuss with other about their feelings or they note them down in a diary. These techniques are used by the formal learners in better way as compared to non- formal students. But students of non- formal system are significantly better on one parameter of affective strategies of learning language. They use the strategy of encouraging themselves properly as compared to formal students. They encourage them selves even when they think that they will make a mistake. They are not afraid of making mistakes and try to speak even.

If individual feel relaxation in any situation of learning, it means they can develop them selves and enhance their learning. Here the results show that learners from both the systems of education are equal in: when they are afraid of using English they make themselves satisfied in that situation and relax .

* Overall mean score on affective strategies of language learning shows that both types of students use same types of strategies while learning language. As there is no significant difference between the scores of the respondents (table.5).

* Formal learners are significantly better than non-formal learners on some parameters of social strategies of language learning. They do not feel shy to ask others to say it again or revise it slowly. Even when they feel any difficulty or speak wrong they can take help from others by saying them to correct their language. They also use a very good strategy of learning English doing practice with others. They do practice and improve their English and remove their mistakes while speaking in a group. Non- formal students are significantly better than formal students in inquiring about the culture of the English speakers. In this way learners can have good knowledge of any language. But both types of the students are in search of English speakers and try to get help from them. According to the results both types of the students are same in having the interest of looking for the English speakers.

* Regarding social strategies of learning language, overall results show that there is a significant difference between the both. It seems that formal students are more confident in using social strategies. And they are more social in learning language. They can seek any type of help from their social circle as compared to non- formal students (table.6).

* There are different types of strategies which are used by the students to learn English as a second language. Here overall results on language learning strategies show that both types of the students of formal and non- formal, use same types of language learning strategies because there is no significant difference between the mean score of the respondents. Both types of the students have same patterns of language learning (table.7).

Conclusion

* Students save the picture of any situation regarding learning English on their mind screen.

* Both types of the students use same strategies to memorize words/ lessons of English.

* Formal students focus more on English movies/discussions/ show of English speakers to enhance their capability of speaking English.

* Non-formal students learn language by using the technique of summarizing the given information. They do not focus on word to word translation.

* Both types of students have intention to learn English. They practice it by writing letters/passages/reports.

* Non- formal students are better in using compensatory strategies as compared to formal students. When they feel any difficulty in using words. They try to use the new words in place of those where they don't know the exact word.

* Both types of students are cautious about their language skills and practices. They try to find out the opportunities to eliminate their weakness.

* Students do not bother about their mistakes while speaking/writing. They get relaxed and try to motivate themselves for improvement.

* Formal students are more confident in using social strategies. And they are more social in learning language. They can seek any type of help from their social circle as compared to non- formal students.

Recommendations

* Students should not focus on memorizing word to word. They should understand the meanings of the word to apply it in different situations.

* Non- formal students have more time for study than formal students. They should watch English movies/ shows and discussions on media.

* Formal students seem to memorize the lessons. It is better if they try to summarize them in their own words. In this way learning will be more effective.

* Students should try to use alternative word in place of that where they don't know the exact word to be used. In this way they can save their time while writing and even speaking. For the purpose they need to do practice.

* Non- formal students should try to increase their social circle like formal students. Group interaction is a best strategy to learn a language. In this way they can remove the mistakes of each other in their group.

* Second language always needs practice. Both types of students should do practice of their writing and speaking to improve their skills.

References

* Brown, R. S. and Constantin, D. (1992). Distance education at TV Ontario:

An analysis of English and French registrants in non-formal courses. Journal of Distance Education/ Revue de l'enseignement a distance (1992). Retrieved March 19, 2008 from http://cade.athabascau.ca/vol7.2/11_brown_and_constantin_120.html

* Cohen, A. D. (1998). Strategies in learning and using a second language. NY: Addison Wesley Longman Limited.

* Garrison, D. and Shale, D. (1987). Mapping the boundaries of distance education: Problems in defining the field. The American Journal of Distance Education (1), 4-13.

* Lessard-Clouston, M. (1997). "Language Learning Strategies: An Overview for L2 Teachers" The Internet TESL Journal. 3 (12) Retrieved April 21, 2007 from http://iteslj.org/Articles/Lessard-Clouston-Strategy.html

* O'Malley, J. M., Chamot, A. U., Stewner-Manzanares, G., Russo, R., and Kupper, L. (1985). Learning strategy applications with students of English as a second language. ESOL Quarterly, 19, 557-584.

* Oxford, R. L. (2001). Language Learning Strategies. In Carter, R. and Nunan, D., editors, The Cambridge Guide to Speakers of Other Languages, Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 166-72.

* Oxford, R. (1990). "Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know." Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

* Rubin, J. (1975). What the "good language learner" can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9, 41-51.

* Shelley, M A (2000). Distance education in M S Byram (Ed) 2000. Encyclopaedia of Language Teaching and Learning. London: Routledge.

* Stern, H.H. (1992). Issues and Options in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

* Vann, R., and Abraham, R. (1990). Strategies of unsuccessful language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 24(2), 177-198.

* Wang, Y., and Sun, C. (2001). Internet-based real time language education: Towards a fourth generation Distance education. CALICO Journal, 18 (3), 539-561.

* Weinstein, C., and Mayer, R. (1986). The teaching of learning strategies. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching, 3rd Edition (pp. 315-327). New York: Macmillan.

* White, C 2003. Language learning in Distance Education. Cambridge:
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Author:Gujjar, Aijaz Ahmed; Choudhry, Bushra Naoreen; Choudhry, Amtul Hafeez
Publication:International Journal of Arts and Humanities
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 31, 2010
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