Anik Zahra

Guru Bahasa Inggris di MTsN 5 Jombang. Email: anik.zahra@yahoo.com...

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ENGLISH LEARNING STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY THE EIGHTH GRADES STUDENTS (A Case Study in MTsN 5 Jombang)

By: Ni’matuz Zahroh

Email: anik.zahra@yahoo.com

Abstract: English learning strategy is specific thought, action, behavior, step, or technique that students use to improve their progress in developing English skills. This study investigates language learning strategies employed by the eighth grade of students of MTsN 5 Jombang in learning English and to find out the most dominant learning strategy employed by the best students of the eighth grades in learning English. Data were obtained from five students of eighth grades who are regarded as the best in English subject. The subjects were taken from five different classes, namely VIII-A, VIII-B, VIII-C, VIII-D, and VIII-E. The category of the best student was based on the document which was given by the English teacher. Further, individual interview was conducted to investigate the learning strategies used by each subject of this research. The results of the study revealed that English learning strategies employed by the best students of eighth grade of MTsN 5 Jombang were various. It was found that five kinds of learning strategies as proposed by Oxford (1990) were applied by the best students of eighth grades. Those are cognitive, metacognitive, compensation, social, and affective. Furthermore, the study also found that the subjects of this study preferred to combine some strategies as mentioned above, it is called elective strategy. The reason was that the students might not be confident if they apply only one strategy. In so doing, they try to utilize several strategies based on situation and condition they face.

INTRODUCTION

Every learner has different characteristics such as different motivation, attitudes, behavior, achievement, and even different strategies in learning language. Those characteristics are part side of factors that may influence the learners’ success in acquiring a language. Learner characteristics, according to Ellis (1994: 99) play a dominant role in determining and predicting second language learning speed or success.

Learning a second language, however, is long and complex undertaking. Many variables are involved in the acquisition process (Brown, 2000). Total commitment, total involvement, total physical, intellectual, and emotional responses are the variable which is needed related to successfully send and receive messages in a second language. In other word, learning a second/ foreign language is not an easy step that can be managed in a short time. A learner needs some strategies in learning a second/ foreign language. Thus, the appropriate learning strategies are needed to improve the learner’s comprehension, learning, or retention of information. However, some students who employed particular of learning strategies are success, some not. Therefore, choosing learning strategies is very important to determine how and how well the students learn a second or foreign language (Oxford, 2006).

Based on the discussion above, the researcher is interested in studying on learning English strategies employed by the best students in eighth grade of MTsN 5 Jombang. Therefore, this study will attempt to 1) investigate the English learning strategies employed by the best students in eighth grades, 2) find out the most dominant English learning strategies employed by the best students of eighth grades. Then, the result of this study will be expected to provide information of English learning strategies usually employed by the best students, and thus, it is expected to enable the researcher to share a contribution to English teacher and the students in particular.

Language Learning Strategies

A number definition of language learning strategies has been proposed in second language acquisition theory. The first definition of language learning strategies refers to behavior, step or technique that learner use to improve their progress in developing language skill (Oxford, 1992 cited in Hismanoglu, 2000, Cohen in Dakun, 2006), the second definition given to language learning strategies is mental steps that learners used to learn a new language and to regulate their efforts to do so (Wenden, 1991:18), and the last definition of language learning strategy refers to thoughts and behaviors that learner engage during the learning which are intended to help them become better, independent, and confident learner (Chamot, 1999:2, Weinstein and Mayer, 1986 as cited in Ellis, 1994).

From this definition, it can be said that, in learning second/ foreign language, the language learners use some techniques, step, and behaviors and thought to improve their own second/foreign language skills and to develop their language ability.

Furthermore, Oxford (1990: 9) sees the aims of language learning strategies is being oriented toward the development of communicative competence. Development of communicative competence requires realistic interaction among learners using meaningful contextualized language. Therefore, learning strategies help learners participate actively in communication. Such strategies operate in both general and specific ways to encourage the development of communicative competence.

The Classification of Language Learning Strategies

Oxford (1990:9) divides language learning strategies into two main classes, direct and indirect strategies. The definition of the two main categories is discussed below.

Direct strategies

Oxford (1990) classifies the direct strategy into 3 (three) groups:

Memory strategy

Memory strategy is one of direct strategies that directly involve the target language. It is used to storage of information. Memory strategies are sometimes called mnemonic; it refers to language strategies for learning words memory which can be facilitated by means of entering information into long term memory and bringing back information when needed for some activities. Memory strategies reflect simple principle, such as arranging thing in order, making association, and reviewing (Oxford, 1990).

Cognitive Strategies

Cognitive strategies are the mental strategies which are used to make sense of students’ learning. This strategy is typically found to be the most popular strategies to language learners. Wenden (1991: 19) reveals that cognitive strategies are mental steps or operations that learners use to both linguistic and sociolinguistic content. So, cognitive strategies are more limited specific learning tasks and involve more direct manipulation of the learning material itself.

Compensation strategies

Compensation strategies help the learner to overcome knowledge gaps to continue the communication. Compensation strategies are intended to make up for an inadequate repertoire of grammar. Compensation strategies adjusting or approximating the message, coining word, using a circumlocution or synonym, or selecting the topic can be used in informal writing as well as speaking (Oxford: 1990).

Indirect Strategy

Indirect strategy is divided into 3 (three) groups:

Metacognitive strategy

Brown (2000:124) explains that metacognitive is a term used in information processing theory to indicate an executive function, strategies that involve planning for learning, thinking about the learning process as it is taking place, monitoring of one’s production or comprehension, and evaluating learning after an activity is completed. Metacognitive strategies also help the learners to regulate their learning.

Affective strategies

Affective strategy is an indirect learning strategy; because it supports and manages language learning without directly involve the target language. It is concerned with the learners’ emotional requirement such as self-confidence, etc. it is supported by Oxford (1990), “Affective strategies are learning strategies which enable learners to control feelings, motivations, and attitudes related to language learning”.

Social strategies

Social strategy leads to increased interaction with target language. This strategy is able to help the learners increase their ability to empathize by developing cultural understanding and becoming aware of other, thoughts, and feeling. Moreover, Rubin (1987) as cited by Hismanoglu (2000) says that social strategies are activities learners engage in which afford them opportunities to be exposed to and practice their knowledge.

METHOD

Research Design

This study employed a qualitative research design, taking on characteristics of a case study. The case study was considered as the appropriate research method for this study because this study, as like other case study, concerned on a small scale and a single case (Bogdan and Biklen, 1998, 54), that is the issues of English learning strategies employed by the eighth grades student. This study employed multiple data collection (Connole, et. al, 1990, 72); those were interviews and documentation, which represent the important aspect of a case study. The use of multiple data collection was intended to enhance the validity of the study and to attain more rounded and complete analysis of English learning strategies employed by the best students.

Participants and Setting

This study took place in MTsN 5 Jombang. The participants of this study were five students of eighth grades who are regarded as the best in English subject who were taken from five different classes. The category of the best student was based on the document given by the English teacher.

Data Collection Method

As stated in the previous paragraph, this study employed a qualitative research, using multiple techniques of data collection, conducted not only at the conclusion but also in an ongoing way (Bogdan and Biklen, 1998, 158). Two techniques of data collections were used, including document and interviews as primary instrument. Each technique was elaborated below.

a. Interviews

Defined as an interaction between two people, with the interviewer and the interviewee acting in relation to exchange information and idea about a theme of mutual interest (Kvale 1996, Sugiyono 2005), interviews in this study were an important means to obtain the information concerning the English learning strategies employed by the best students in eighth grade. An individual interview is conducted.

b. Document

To support the data collected through interview, documentation will be conducted. In applying document method, the researcher collects the information of students’ achievement based on the students’ achievement record which is given by English teachers in eighth grades of MTsN 5 Jombang.

Data Analysis

Data analysis in this study was conducted over the course of the study and in conclusion of the study. Data from interviews was transcribed and subsequently categorized and interpreted to answer the research questions.

Findings and Discussion

Having interviewed the participants, the researcher found some ways related to the English strategies employed by the best students in eighth grades of MTsN 5 Jombang. The classification of language learning strategies is based on Oxford’s taxonomy as cited by Brown (2000: 126-127). The result was presented in a form of table, as follow:

No

Participants

Sex/ Age

Classifications Activity

Types of Strategy

1

LS

F/ 14

· Joining in an English course

· As an event organizer in every meeting held in her English course

· Joining some English competitions

· Doing many English tasks

· Listening to English song

· Watching English program on TV

· Metacognitive

· Social

· Metacognitive

· cognitive

· affective

· Affective

2

THN

F/ 14

· Paying attention to her subject

· Joining in an English course

· Doing many English tasks from her teacher

· Consulting to dictionary for difficult vocabularies

· Applying her new vocabularies in daily conversation

· Asking for clarification and explanation to her teacher or others

· Metacognitive

· Metacognitive

· Cognitive

· Compensation

· Metacognitive

· Social

3

DA

F/ 14

· Noticing other person who speaks English

· Trying to communicate using English

· Sharing her feeling

· Having a small discussion to overcome problems in learning

· Asking for explanation to her teacher or others

· Metacognitive

· Social

· Affective

· Social

· Social

4

MFA

M/ 14

· Asking clarification to his teacher

· Joining in an English course

· Consulting to dictionary

· Translating English text

· Watching English program on TV

· Trying to communicate using English

· Switching the difficult words into his 1st language

· Making a small note

· Social

· metacognitive

· Compensation

· Cognitive

· Affective

· Social

· Compensation

· Cognitive

5

MFN

M/ 15

· Writing some stories in English

· Joining in an English course

· Arranging a small group discussion

· Paying attention to English subject

· Practicing his speaking ability through conversation with his friends.

· Asking for clarification and explanation

· Cognitive

· Metacognitive

· Metacognitive

· Metacognitive

· Social

· Social

Table 1

The analysis of learning strategies employed by the students

As indicated in Table 1, it was noted that each participant employed various strategies. Those comprise metacognitive, social, cognitive, affective and compensation. In this case, they do not employ all types of learning strategies altogether but variedly. Based on the data from interviews, those strategies are employed based on situation and condition in which they were in. it is employed as it is appropriate to require in learning, performing task, solving their problem in learning English, and processing the new language input.

Every participant employed various combinations of language learning strategies. One of the participants tends to combine social and metacognitive strategies, while other prefers to employ more various language learning strategies. In brief, it can be said that those participants employed Elective strategy (Brown, 2000) as the dominant language learning strategies in their learning which refers to the combination of learning strategies used by language learners.

Conclusion

In general, there are five types of learning strategies employed by the best students of eighth grades in MTsN 5 Jombang. Those are metacognitive, social, cognitive, affective and compensation. Those strategies are employed to help the students in mastering English, improving their ability in English, and overcoming the difficulties they face during learning English.

Furthermore, in employing those strategies the students frequently combine two or more strategies, it is called elective strategy. The reason is that the students might not be confident if they apply only one type of strategy. Thus, they try to utilize several strategies based on the situation and condition in which they were in.

In short, the best students of eighth grades in MTsN 5 Jombang tend to select strategies that work together in highly orchestrated way, tailored to the requirements of language task than employ one strategy for all situations and conditions.

References

Bogdan, R., C., & Biklen, S., K. (1998). Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theory and Methods. Boston: Allyn & Bacon Aviacom Company.

Brown, H. Douglas. 2000. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. San Francisco.

Chamot, Anna Uhl. 1999. Learning Instruction in English Classroom Language. Hyper.Chutu.ao.jp/jalt/tlt/99/jun/Chamot.html.

Connole, H., et. al. 1990. Issues and Methods in Research. Adelaide: Deakin University.

Dakun, Wang. 2006. Learning Strategies and Implication for Second Language Teaching. Indonesian JETL. Atmajaya Catholic University. Jakarta.

Ellis, Rod. 1994. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hismanoglu, Murat. 2000. Language Learning Strategies in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching. Available at: The Internet TESL Journal Vol. VI No. 8, August 2000. http://itesjl.org/

Kvale, S. 1996. Interviews: An introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Oxford, Rebecca. 1990. Language Learning Strategies, What Every Teacher Should Know. New York: Newbury House Publisher.

Oxford, Rebecca 2006. Language Style and Strategies: An Overview. http://www.education.umd.edu/EDCL/secondlanguage/TESOL/oxfrod.doc.

Sugiyono. (2005). Memahami Penelitian Kualitatif. Bandung: Alfabeta.

Wenden, Anita. (1991). Learning Strategies for Learner Autonomy: Planning and Implicating Learner Training for Language Learners. New York: City University of New York. Prentice Hall.

Appendix

Guiding Interviews for The Students

1. Sudah berapa lama anda belajar Bahasa Inggris?

2. Apakah anda belajar sendiri atau mengukuti kursus Bahasa Inggris?

3. Di rumah anda, siapakah yang paling berperan dalam medukung anda belajar Bahasa Inggris?

4. Cara apa yang anda sukai dalam belajar untuk bisa mengusai Bahasa Inggris dengan baik?

5. Mengapa anda menyukai cara tersebut?

6. Jika anda menemui kesulitan dalam belajar Bahasa Inggris, bagaimanakah anda mengatasi kesulitan tersebut?

7. Apakah ada cara yang lain untuk mengatasi masalah yang anda hadapi?

8. Jika guru memberikan latihan soal di sekolah, cara apa yang anda gunakan agar anda dapat menyelesaikannya dengan tepat dan benar?

9. Bagaimana cara anda mengembangkan penguasaan ketrampilan Bahasa Inggris anda?

10. Cara apa yang anda gunakan untuk mengatasi keterbatasan ketrampilan berbahasa Inggris anda?

11. Apakah anda memfokuskan pembelajaran Bahasa Inggris hanya di sekolah atau anda menambahnya dengan kegiatan lain? Mengapa?

12. Cara apa yang anda lakukan untuk membangkitkan semangat anda dalam belajar Bahasa Inggris?

13. Jika anda mendapatkan kesulitan dalam mempelajari Bahasa Inggris, kepada siapa anda meminta bantuan/ penjelasan?

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