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Same students, different strategies. A sociocultural perspective to studying language learning strategies in a second language setting

Gihan Sidky Al Azab, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study examines the effect of context on learning strategies used in a second language setting by intermediate students from various cultural, academic, and language backgrounds. It is based on the assumption that a more sociocultural-historical approach to the topic of learner strategies, rather than an exclusive focus on the psychological level will greatly increase our understanding of the nature of learner strategies. The classroom is looked at as a community of practice in which meanings are constructed as a result of the participants' negotiation. Adopting the tenets of ethnographic research, which include participant observation, field notes, audio-taping of classroom language practices, and interviews with the learners, teachers, and coordinator of the ESL program, language practices inside and outside the classroom community were examined and analyzed. All materials, field notes, and interviews were transcribed and analyzed using Gee's six building tasks, which allowed multiple levels of analysis. Data analysis indicated that language learning strategies were influenced by the interaction of the multiple Discourses on which learners and teachers drew with the Discourses prevalent in their new community of practice. The multiple Discourses on which learners drew included learners' prior language learning experiences in their home countries, which were shaped mainly by prevalent modern Discourses of schooling, and their socioculturally structured individual attributes. Teachers, on the other hand, drew on Discourses of constructivist, holistic approaches to language teaching and learning which is imparted by the philosophy of the institute that is embedded in Discourses of postmodernism. The interaction among all these elements, and learners and teachers' take on them created new meanings, which were the outcome of learners' resistance and/or negotiation. Hybrid strategies were the result of all these meanings getting together, which caused a blend of the old and the new. The study reveals that language learning strategies are not fixed throughout learners' lives. Thus, they are not the possession of certain learners. Rather learners' strategies do change, as is the case with these language learners, due to the change of the nature of the community of practice, which is embedded in larger ideologies.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Educational psychology|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Al Azab, Gihan Sidky, "Same students, different strategies. A sociocultural perspective to studying language learning strategies in a second language setting" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3068531.