Teaching English as a foreign language is a general issue and researchers investigate problems in all aspects of teaching process. Some researchers have argued that one of the key rationales for conducting SLA research is to improve second language teaching (Larsen-Freeman, Long,& Pica, as cited in Nassaji, 2012). Learning strategies is generally defined as 'the special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help learners comprehend, learn, or retain new information (O'Malley & Chamot, as cited in Ganbarzehi, 2014). Lightbown (as cited in Nassaji,)stated, although researchers have argued that many studies in SLA(second language acquisition) are useful for language teaching, being cautious about the extent to which such research can tell teachers what to do. She argued that 'second language research does not tell teachers what to do teach, and what it says about how to teach they had already figured out'.
Ellis (as cited in Nassaji) argued that there are progress in SLA, but the result of researches are not directly related with teaching process. For example, the results of studies about Universal Grammar are not relevant with everyday teaching. . Klein (as cited in Nassaji) stated, 'During the last 25 years, second language acquisition (SLA) research has made considerable progress, but it is still far from proving a solid basis for foreign language teaching, or from a general theory of SLA'. There are problems in the relationship between SLA research and language teaching. One problem is the difference between the teachers' and researchers' goals and objectives. Distinguishing between two types of knowledge, practical knowledge and technical knowledge, Ellis (as cited in Nassaji) pointed out that whereas teachers' goal is to develop practical knowledge, researchers have been interested in developing technical knowledge.
Technical research is explicit and researchers can find a good method by experiment, but practical knowledge is implicit and it is not based on experiment and teachers can find a useful way to teach by experience. Another problem is in the form of research methods and the way of reporting plans to use in SLA research. Crookes (as cited in Nassaji) pointed out that most of studies in SLA have viewed learning as a cognitive and internal process instead of a social process. Despite of being concerns about the relationship between SLA research to language teaching, there are many studies in the field that are relevant to language teaching, with many useful resources to use teachers in the classroom such as, the role of learners consciousness in SLA process, input and interaction, and learners' needs and motivation (Pica, as cited in Nassaji). Larsen-Freeman (as cited in Nassaji) indicates, the goal of SLA research is not simply to finding effective teaching materials to help teachers for conducting a certain lesson effectively. If SLA is interpreted that way and research cannot provide solutions to practical problems, one conclusion then would be that teachers should stop paying attention to research and attempt to simply rely on their own practice. SLA is a broad field and includes many items that they cover both basic and applied research.
There are various research methods, some of them are conducted in a lab setting under highly controlled experimental condition or in the classroom setting. Those researches, are conducted in a lab setting, may be less relevant to classroom pedagogy, but even classroom-based studies methods are not of similar degree of relevance. These kind of researches, sometimes may simply view the teacher as source of input not as someone involved in teaching (Crooks, as cited in Nassaji). When research is theoretical, its finding is not relevant to language pedagogy and teachers' classroom teaching (Ellis, as cited in Nassaji). Teachers can conduct a research being relevant to their pedagogical problems, Allwright (as cited in Nassaji) called these type of research, teacher research, action research, practitioner research or even exploratory practice. This kind of research has received increasing attention in the field of teacher education as a tool to enhance professional development (e.g. Burns et.al,as cited in Nassaji).
The main goal of the research is to find and develop alternative methods in pedagogical problems (Wallace, as cited in Nassaji). Ellis (as cited in Nassaji) pointed out, if there is a relevance between language pedagogy and SLA research, it should be found out how, to what extent, and in what areas. Evaluating the relevance is very important, so researchers should know how they evaluate the relevance. As Ellis discussed, there are two main approaches, one approach is that an applied linguist should use SLA theory and research then tries to identify its usefulness in teaching. According to Ellis, this approach is sometimes problematic because the researchers and teachers have different view about the relevance. Another approach begins with pedagogy and uses SLA to address issues proposed by practitioners and educators (Ellis, as cited in Nassaji). In this approach, instead of evaluating SLA for relevance pedagogical issues become the topics of SLA research.
This approach can be useful and teachers use the outcomes because it is practical instead of being theoretical, but beside of having advantages, this approach has limitations. First, all researchers of SLA are not interested in pedagogical issues because they have their own theoretical concerns (Crookes & Ellis, as cited in Nassaji). Second, this approach should be used by teachers because it addressed pedagogical issues, but always it may not be case because classroom practice is dependent on teachers' views, beliefs, and perspectives. In evaluating pedagogical findings, assessors should be familiar with the practice of classroom teaching (Nassaji, 2012). Interaction between researchers and teachers is very important because it helps teachers to know what researchers are saying and also 'researchers can hear what teachers are saying '(Lightbown, as cited in Nassaji).
Pica (as cited in Nassaji) pointed out that 'as teachers and researchers, we cannot work in isolation from each other if we are to help our students meet their needs and accomplish their goals'. Attention to what teachers say is also essential because it not only facilitates communications between teachers and researchers but can also lead to the production of research that can be more relevant to classroom practices and hence more likely to be used by teachers. There are a few studies in relevance between SLA research and what teachers gain from their researches. For example, Crookes and Arakaki (as cited in Nassaji) have done a research, which conducted in an intensive English program in the USA. Their goal was to explore teachers' beliefs about what sources they use to obtain teaching ideas. They collected data from 19 English as a second language (ESL) teachers using semi-structured interviews. They found that teachers talked about a number of sources that they believed they use to develop teaching ideas, including teaching experience, consultation with colleagues, and pre-service training and workshops. However, many reported that they do not consult published research. Researchers considered this situation is problematic. They believed the problem related with teachers' working condition, for example long hour of teaching.
Another study by McDonough and McDonough (as cited in Nassaji) examined the perceptions of a group of teachers attending a conference in the UK about the use of research in their teaching. They use a written questionnaire and collected data from 34 English language teachers to investigate their opinions about the relevance between L2 research and their teaching. They found that most of teachers in this study had used the research findings in their teaching and they had chances to conduct research in their institutions. Both of studies were in a limited condition and in second study, most of present teachers in the conference were already involved in conducting research. To explore the relationship between SLA research and L2 teaching, another study was conducted by Borg (as cited in Nassaji). The research was conducted among two groups of teachers teaching in two different instructional contexts: an ESL context in Canada and an EFL (English as a foreign language) context in Turkey. Collecting data by a written questionnaire revealed that most of teachers (in both contexts) were familiar with SLA research through taking SLA related courses. Most teachers had an agreement with using SLA research in teaching but some of them believed that their teaching experience is more useful than using research in classroom.
Beside these researches and their relationship with real teaching environment, teachers should be able to analyze teaching in terms of student learning, it is a central construct, because the goal of teaching is to support student learning. Teachers should know what did students learn, and how and why did instruction influence such learning, how could lessons based on this information be revised to be more effective when teaching them next time (Hiebert, Morris, Berk & Jansen 2007). Teachers can analyze teaching methods by observing the effect of methods on students. As Oxford (2001) stated, one image for teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) is that of a tapestry. The tapestry is woven from many strands, such as the characteristics of the teacher, the learner, the setting, and the relevant languages (i.e., English and the native language of the learners and the teacher). All parts are related with each other and teachers cannot ignore the one part or pay more attention to another part. Teachers should not separate the teaching skills, for example teaching grammar in isolation and without context. Students should learn all skills to improve their language learning.
Oxford (2001) suggested two forms of integrated-skill instruction: content-based language instruction and task-based instruction. The first of these emphasizes learning content through language, while the second stresses doing tasks that require communication language use. In content-based instruction, students can practice all language skills through learning different contents. In task-based instruction, students participate in communicative tasks in English. Tasks are defined as activities that can stand alone as fundamental units and that require comprehending, producing manipulating, or interacting in authentic language while attention is principally paid to meaning rather than form (Nunan, as cited in Oxford 2001). Teachers should learn different ways to integrate language skills in the classroom, and evaluate the extent to which the skills are integrated. Choosing instructional materials, textbooks, and technologies that promote the integration of listening, reading, speaking, and writing, as well as the associated skills of syntax, vocabulary, and so on (Oxford, 2001).
The purpose of language teaching and learning is to improve the speakers' four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with the base of large and good grammar, but this is not the final purpose The final purpose is to let speakers be able to use language (Shakibaei & Keivan). For improving these skills, teachers choose the best strategies in the classroom. Stern (as cited in Ghanbarzehi) tried to distinguish good language learners from those of unsuccessful learners assuming the good language learners may have different strategies and abilities. She classified strategies of good language learners as: a) planning strategy, b) active strategy, c) empathic strategy, d) formal strategy, e) experiential strategy, f) semantic strategy, g) practice strategy, h) communication strategy, i) monitoring strategy, and j) internalization strategy.
In her later study, Stern narrowed down above mentioned strategies to five categories: 1) management and planning strategies, 2) including strategies relate to the learners intention to manage their own learning, 3) cognitive strategies including the steps or operations used in learning or problem solving which need direct analysis, transformation, or synthesis of learn materials, 4) communicative-experience strategies refer to gesturing paraphrasing or asking for repetition, and explanation in order to help learners to express themselves better, 5)interpersonal strategies including the techniques that learners use to monitor their own development and evaluate their own performance; affective strategies used to create positive affect towards the target language and its speakers.
Oxford (as cited in Ghanbarzehi) merged learning strategies with communicative strategies and introduced her six-segmented classification of learning strategies. She suggested language strategies as: 1) cognitive strategies, e.g. helping the learner to manipulate the language material in direct ways, 2)metacognitive strategies , e.g. helping learners to manage the learning process overall, 3)memory-related strategies, e.g. helping learners link one L2 item or concept with another but do not necessarily involve deep understanding, 4)compensatory strategies, e.g. helping make up for missing knowledge, 5)affective strategies e.g. helping learners manage their emotions and motivation level, and 6)social strategies such as helping the learner to learn via interacting with others and understanding the target culture.
Teachers may use these strategies in their teaching program, but as Oxford (1990) declared, 'There is no complete agreement on exactly what strategies and; how many strategies exist; how they should be defined, demarcated, and categorized; and whether it is possible to create a real, scientifically validated hierarchy of strategies' classification conflicts are inevitable'. The goal of teaching English is to facilitate learning language. Teachers can choose and use good strategies that researchers suggested for using in the classroom. These strategies are useful for planning before teaching and using them during teaching program.
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