Developing Learning Strategies

by Zhenya

LearningStrategiesImageThe Greek word strategia means ‘steps or actions generals take for the purpose of winning a war’

I ran this session (with variations) with teachers from Ukraine first, and then on an international International House Ukraine Workshop on Teaching Techniques and Approaches to experienced audience, including teacher trainers and Directors of Studies, and then on a course in Korea to very experienced teachers (teacher education consultants) I found a response from different types of audience somewhat similar, namely: yes, let’s incorporate more language learning strategies into our everyday classroom, it is very helpful and promotes student autonomy, etc. I am wondering though if these ideas go beyond a workshop session, and how many teachers consciously plan to invest time and effort into these ideas? Or is this just a nice ‘presentable’ topic that everyone likes?

My session materials consisted of the handout with questions (see below) and a chart based on Rebecca L. Oxford’s article designed for a classic jig-saw reading and group discussion.

Work in pairs and find out how similar or different you answers are:

  • When attending a teacher conference/workshop, do you usually take notes of any new teaching ideas?
  • Do you write with a pen or pencil? Do you use the same color or different ones?
  • What do you do with the notes after a workshop ends?
  • Do you keep a notebook / folder for new teaching ideas? How often do you re-read them?
  • How often do you return to the previous year workshop materials?
  • Have you ever kept a separate notebook for specific teaching terms?
  • Are you a computer person, or a paper and pencil person? Or both?

…………………………………………………………………………………

Work in new pairs and discuss the questions about questions above:

  • How are the questions above related to our topic Developing Learning Strategies?
  • Which of the questions above can be re-formulated so that your EFL students could answer them?
  • Have you ever discussed them with your students in class? After class? During the break?
  • If yes, who initiated the discussion?
  • If no, do you think it may be useful?

Small group discussion:

  • What types of Learning Styles do you know?
  • What type of Learning Style do you have? How did you find out?
  • How do you use this knowledge (for yourself / for your students)? How can you use this knowledge (for yourself / for your students)?
  • What is the difference between Learning Styles and Learning Strategies? Give examples.
  • How and When can the Learning Strategies be developed in the language classroom?

(option for those who finished earlier: Write your own question about Learning Styles and / or Learning Strategies)

The second part of the session was based on reading the pieces from the article and discussing the five types of strategies and their potential use in the classroom. I am putting them down below, but not going into details, as they come from the article.

  1. Meta cognitive Strategies (‘thinking about thinking’, awareness of your own cognitive process)
  2. Memory-Related Strategies
  3. Compensatory Strategies (helping us compensate for the difficulties we are having)
  4. Affective Strategies (resulting from or expressing the emotions / feelings)
  5. Social Strategies

DevelopingLearningStrategiesSummaryDevelopingLearningStrategiesSummary

I am wondering now if working with learning strategies and helping students develop them can speed the learning process up and equip them with tools to become independent learners (in general, not just language learners) If so then how can focusing on those strategies be a part of everyday lessons? I am also wondering if I am simply stating the obvious in this post, and repeating something that everyone knows? (well, in that case why are there so many people around me in Ukraine, for example, who don’t speak English, even though they study or studied it at school? Hm…)