The official website of educator & arts patron Jack C Richards

How can you define strategy instruction?

Question:

Submitted by Nadjet Khenioui from Algeria

How can you define strategy instruction? And in what ways is it beneficial for university students?

Dr Richards responds:

Language learning strategies can be defined as thoughts and actions, consciously selected by learners, to assist them in learning and using language in general, and in the completion of specific language tasks. However, learning strategies have a broader role in language learning and suggest an active role for learners in managing their own learning – one that may be used in conjunction with, or independently from, the method or approach the teacher is using.

The relevance of strategy theory to teaching is that some strategies are likely to be more effective than others, and by recognizing the differences between the strategies used by expert and novice language learners or between successful and less successful learners, the effectiveness of teaching and learning can be improved. Methods and approaches implicitly or explicitly require the use of specific learning strategies; however, the focus of much strategy research is on self-managed strategies that may be independent of those favored by a particular method. In order to give learners a better understanding of the nature of strategies and to help them develop effective strategy use, four issues need to be addressed:

1. Raising awareness of the strategies learners are already using

2. Presenting and modelling strategies so that learners become increasingly aware of their own thinking and learning processes

3. Providing multiple practice opportunities to help learners move toward autonomous use of the strategies through gradual withdrawal of teacher scaffolding, and

4. Getting learners to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used and any efforts that they have made to transfer these strategies to new tasks.

In teaching strategies both direct and indirect strategies are used. With a direct approach, strategy training is a feature of a normal language lesson and a training session includes five stages: preparation, presentation, practice, evaluation, and expansion.

The notion of strategies is relevant to learners at all levels.