UBC Theses and Dissertations
Exploring the use of two metacognitive strategies in developing motivation, language awareness and accuracy : an action research study Jordan, Ruth
Often advanced ESL students reach a point in their learning where they start to feel they are no longer making progress. In particular, certain grammatical features seem to become fossilized and these 'bad habits' are extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible, to break (Higgs & Clifford, 1982). As a result, students and teachers alike find themselves getting frustrated in this situation. This action research study was conducted over a six-month period by a teacher of advanced ESL adults attending classes at a privately-owned international language school. The purpose was to observe participants using two metacognitive learning strategies which were purported to help students improve their accuracy by developing their language awareness. In addition, the study explored whether the students' motivation was increased as a result of their learning to evaluate and monitor their own performance in the target language. The individuals who became members of the 'strategy user' group were asked to implement the following two strategies: First, they kept a daily language log and second, they participated in recorded group discussions which they later took home to listen to and assess the level of accuracy in their language production. This was done at monthly intervals and allowed them to reflect upon the amount of improvement that had taken place. In addition, another group of students, referred to as the 'non-strategy users', were also followed over the six month period of the study in order to make observations concerning their levels of accuracy and rate of improvement. The members of this second group were given no instruction in strategy use and had no special tasks to perform other than to complete the same pre- and post-writing tests, also at monthly intervals, that the members of the 'strategy user' group wrote. The findings are reported in four areas. The first deals with the perceptions of the students who used the two metacognitive strategies and of the teacher who observed her students while they were doing so. The student response to the language log was overwhelmingly positive although there was some disagreement over how frequently it should be used. The teacher's response was also positive despite the fact that a great deal of effort was required to get certain individuals to understand how the logs were to be used and for what purpose. The strategy of recording themselves on tape also got a positive response from the vast majority of participants even though some of them claimed they did not like hearing their voices on tape. The second area of findings includes any kind of observable evidence which might support the perceptions the students and teacher had concerning the benefits of the two strategies. There was some indication that using them had a positive influence on accuracy by heightening students' sensitivity to language form. Participants also reported an increase in their level of motivation. Perhaps, the most interesting finding here was the fact that students who already had a high degree of accuracy were able to perform the tasks successfully and according to instructions, whereas some individuals with lower levels of accuracy were not.
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