Effects of L2 proficiency and gender on choice of language learning strategies by university students majoring in English

| March 21, 2011
Effects of L2 proficiency and gender on choice of language learning strategies by university students majoring in English

Keywords: language learning strategies, metacognitive strategies, cognitive strategies, gender, proficiency, self-efficacy.

Adel Abu Radwan
Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

Bio Data
Dr. Radwan received his Doctorate in applied linguistics from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He worked as an adjunct professor at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. He is currently an assistant professor at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, where he teaches courses in psycholinguistics, language acquisition, and theoretical linguistics. Dr Radwan s chief interest is investigating the role of metacognition in language learning and pedagogy.

This study investigates the use of language learning strategies by 128 students majoring in English at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Oman. Using Oxford’s (1990) Strategy Inventory for Language Learners (SILL), the study seeks to extend our current knowledge by examining the relationship between the use of language learning strategies (LLS) and gender and English proficiency, measured using a three-way criteria: students’ grade point average (GPA) in English courses, study duration in the English Department, and students perceived self-rating. It is as well a response to a call by Oxford to examine the relationship between LLSs and various factors in a variety of settings and cultural backgrounds (see Oxford, 1993).

Results of a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that the students used metacognitive strategies significantly more than any other category of strategies, with memory strategies ranking last on students’ preference scale. Contrary to the findings of a number of studies (see e.g., Hong-Nam & Leavell, 2006), male students used more social strategies than female students, thus creating the only difference between the two groups in terms of their strategic preferences. Moreover, ANOVA results revealed that more proficient students used more cognitive, metacognitive and affective strategies than less proficient students. As for study duration, the results showed a curvilinear relationship between strategy use and study duration, where freshmen used more strategies followed by juniors, then seniors and sophomores, respectively.

Analysis of the relationship between strategy use and self-rating revealed a sharp contrast between learners who are self-efficacious and those who are not, favoring the first group in basically every strategy category. To find out which type of strategy predicted learners’ L2 proficiency, a backward stepwise logistic regression analysis was performed on students data, revealing that use of cognitive strategies was the only predictor that distinguished between students with high GPAs and those with low GPAs. The present study suggests that the EFL cultural setting may be a factor that determines the type of strategies preferred by learners. This might be specifically true since some of the results obtained in this study vary from results of studies conducted in other cultural contexts. Results of this study may be used to inform pedagogical choices at university and even pre-university levels.


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