Perceptual Learning Style Preferences and Their Relationship to Language Learning Strategies in Adult Students of English as a Second Language
The problem. In exploring the differences that exist among second language learners, researchers have focused on different aspects of cognitive learning style--an individual's preferred means of processing information. Within the cognitive domain, perceptual learning style emerges as a neglected, yet significant factor in second language acquisition. Through the learner's perceptual channels, classified as auditory, visual,tactile and kinesthetic, information is taken in, encoded and stored. It was the purpose of this study to investigate the interplay between an individual's dominant perceptual style and the strategies he/she employs in learning a second language. Methods. Using a sample of 147 adult immigrants, two areas were researched. The first involved the relationship between an individual's learning style preference and factors in his/her background including age, sex, native language, level of English proficiency, educational background, period of residence in the United States and work history. The second area of investigation focused on the interrelationships among learning style preference, background variables and learning strategies. The subjects were enrolled in community college English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The linguistic backgrounds represented were (1) Chinese, (2) Laotian, (3) Vietnamese, (4) Spanish and (5) Other (a sampling of different languages). The study was based on an analysis of data derived from a several sources. Two self-assessment instruments designed specifically for ESL students were used-the Perceptual Learning Style Preference Questionnaire and the Strategy Inventory of Language Learning (SILL). English proficiency levels were established using scores from the Michigan Test of English Language Proficiency. In addition, a questionnaire was administered to gather background data on the subjects. To investigate the relationship among the variables, stepwise multiple regression, chi-square and multivariate analyses were performed. Findings. The findings consist of relationships among the variables in each of the two areas of investigation. First, It was shown that perceptual learning style preference is influenced by factors in the learner's background, particularly native language. Overall, the dominant learning style preferences for the sample were tactile and kinesthetic. Second, relationships were found between learning styles and strategic approaches to second language learning. The strongest correlation existed between visual learning style and visualization strategies. In general, the study has shown that a complex system of interactions exists among background characteristics, learning style preferences and language learning strategies.
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