A Multi-Dimensional Study to Assess the Impact of Communication Strategies Training on Enhancing EFL Learners’ Strategic Competence

دراسة متعددة الإتجاهات لقييم تأثير التدريب حول استراتيجيات الإتصال على تعزيز الكفاءة الإستراتيجية لمتعلمي اللغة الإنجليزية كلغة أجنبية

Une étude multidirectionnelle pour évaluer l'impact de la formation sur les stratégies de communication pour l'amélioration de la compétence stratégique des apprenants d'anglais comme une langue étrangère

Soumia Hadjab et Fatiha Hamitouche

p. 93-119

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Soumia Hadjab et Fatiha Hamitouche, « A Multi-Dimensional Study to Assess the Impact of Communication Strategies Training on Enhancing EFL Learners’ Strategic Competence », Aleph, 8 (1) | 2021, 93-119.

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Soumia Hadjab et Fatiha Hamitouche, « A Multi-Dimensional Study to Assess the Impact of Communication Strategies Training on Enhancing EFL Learners’ Strategic Competence », Aleph [En ligne], 8 (1) | 2021, mis en ligne le 25 janvier 2021, consulté le 18 septembre 2021. URL : https://aleph-alger2.edinum.org/3922

Communication strategies (CSs) have been conceptualized as problem-shooting devices whose conscious implementation is directed towards counteracting the imbalance between learners’ means and ends. To raise EFL learners’ awareness about the use and usefulness of CSs and assess the impact of explicit CSs training on enhancing learners’ strategic competence are the main objectives of the current study. An interventionist strategy-based instruction was conducted at the Department of English Language and Literature, Sétif 2 University. An intact group of thirty Senior learners (25 girls and 5 boys) were randomly divided into a treatment group (N = 15) and a comparison one (N = 15). A self-report strategy questionnaire was developed to investigate CSs employed by learners and to explore their perceptions of the use and usefulness of each CS. A focused two-way task was used to depict learners’ actual performance. And to have in-depth information of their learning processes, Stimulated Recall was utilized. Wilcoxon Matched-Pairs Signed-Ranks Test was used to analyze data gathered from the self-report strategy checklist. And ‘Typological Analysis’ was the procedure followed in analyzing students’ use of the seven taught achievement strategies. Green’s (1998) Recommendations for analyzing verbal protocal data were pursued. The results demonstrate that the experimental group outperformed the control one. Moreover, the study has yielded evidence to back the value of introducing explicit metacognitive strategy training in raising learners’ awareness about CSs. This scrutiny proves the efficacity and feasibility of the multi-dimensional perspective rather than the uni-dimensional one followed in many previous studies as it cements the weaknesses inherent in each research instrument.

لقد التعريف بإستراتيجيات الإتصال على أنها أدوات لفض المشكلات بحيث يتم استعمالها الواعي إلى خلق توازن بين الوسائل التي يملكها الطلبة و غاياتهم. و إن أهم هدفين تتغيا هذه الدراسة لتحقيقهما هو رفع منسوب الوعي عند الطلبة حول هذه الإستراتيجيات و أيضا تقييم التدريب المباشر لهذه الأدوات و تأثيرها على تعزيز الكفاءة الإستراتيجية للطلبة. لتحقيق هذين الهدفين تم إجراء دراسة تدخلية في قسم اللغة الإنجليزية و آدابها بجامعة سطيف 2. تم تقسيم مجموعة سليمة من طلبة السنة الثالثة متكونة من 25 فتاة و 5 فتيان بشكل عشوائي إلى مجموعة معالجة (N = 15) و مجموعة مقارنة (N =15), للتحقيق في الإستراتيجيات المستخدمة من طرف المتعلمين و استكشاف تصوراتهم حول استخدام و فائدة كل استراتيجية,تم تطوير استبيان حول استراتيجية التقرير الذاتي. و لرصد الأداء الفعلي للمتعلمين, تم استخدام مهمة مركزة ثنائية الإتجاه. و للحصول على معلومات متعمقة عن عمليات التعلم الخاصة بهم, تم استخدام الإستدعاء المحفز. كما تم اسخدام اختبار Wilcoxon المتطابق للأزواج الموقعة لتحليل البيانات التي تم جمعها من الإستبيان, و كان التحليل النمطي هو الإجراء المتبع في تحليل استخدام الإستراتيجيات السبعة التي تم تدريسها. و تم إتباع توصيات Green (1998) لتحليل البيانات الأوليو اللفظية. أظهرت النتائج تفوق المجموعة التجريبية على الضابطة, و أسفرت عن أدلة داعمة للتدريب المباشر لإستراتيجيات الإتصال و دور التدريب في زيادة وعي المتعلمين. أيضا, أثبتت الدراسة كفاءة استعمال المقاربة متعددة الأبعاد لكونها تعزز الضعف الكامن في كل أداة بحثية.

Cette étude convie à réaliser deux objectifs, il s’avère essentiel de sensibiliser les étudiants aux stratégies de communication, et l’évaluation de la formation directe de ces outils et son effet sur l’amélioration de l’efficacité stratégique des étudiants. Une étude interventionnelle à l’université de Sétif 2 agit en fonction de ces objectifs. En premier lieu les étudiants de troisième année se divisent en deux groupes, l’un de traitement et l’autre de comparison. Pour enquêter sur les stratégies utilisées par les apprenants et leurs perceptions à propos de chaque stratégie, un questionnaire a été effectué. Suivi des résultat effectifs des apprenants, une tâche bidirectionnelle a été utilisée. Et pour obtenir des informations approfondies, une convocation motivée a été utilisée. Encore l’examen de Wilcoxon, l’analyse des données, les recommandations de Green (1998) ont été utilisés et font références aux outils de recherche. Cette étude a montré le rôle d’apprentissage pour une sensibilisation accrue des apprenants à propos des stratégies de communication. Encore cette étude a prouvé la compétence en utilisant une approche pluridimentionnelle qui renforce la faiblesse de chaque outil de recherche.

Introduction

Most of the communicative disruptions experienced by EFL learners are induced by a mismatch between their linguistic deficiencies (means) and their communicative intentions (ends). More precisely, these problems may derive from one or a combination of the following (Bou-Franch, 1994; Dörnyei, 1995; Dörnyei and Scott, 1997): (a) resource deficits, (b) processing time pressure, (c) perceived deficiencies in one’s own language output, and (d) perceived deficiencies in the interlocutor’s performance. On the face of it, it sounds reasonable to speculate that the efficient and controlled use of communication strategies (CSs henceforth) should in principle be an integral part of the strategic behaviour that characterizes autonomous learners (Manchón, 2000). In other terms, CSs have been conceptualized as problem-shooting/solving devices whose conscious implementation is directed towards counteracting the imbalance between learners’ means and ends. Thus, In any of these performance situations, the L2 learner’s attempt to compensate for missing/inaccessible knowledge results in CS-implementation (Manchón, 2000).

However, there were mixed reactions to the training of CSs and the teachability issue is still under scrutiny. Moreover, strategy training is still unheard of in very many ESL/EFL classes and the continuing uncertainty about the effectiveness of strategy instruction on strategy use and task performance provides a further general rationale. According to Manchón (2000), in contrast to the theoretical and empirical interest in the definition and classification of CSs, pedagogical matters do not stand out as a major research issue in the CS literature as a whole. Manchón (2000) continued to say that the advice to include CS-training in our teaching practice help learners become better problem solvers, more efficient users of their strategy repertoire and more adept at coping with unforseen communicative situations outside the classroom. The researcher continued to claim that if we want to move forward there is a need to carry out empirical studies at least to test whether in fact training students in the use of CS does make a difference. Some studies in the research literature suggested that further studies should investigate the teachability of CSs. Dörnyei (1995), for example, proposed ‘ future extensions and elaborations of the training programme may be expected to achieve even more marked results’ (P. 80). In addition, Nakatani (2005) supported the view that further investigation regarding the impact of strategy training on the forms of utterances should be conducted. According to Nguyet and Mai (2012) and Dörnyei and Thurrell (1994), finding effective ways to prepare students for spontaneous communication in one of the biggest challenges for all current language teaching methodologies. Hence instruction in class is important to provide students with conversational strategies to help them avoid or overcome communication breakdowns.

Further, Lam (2006) argued that the studies done so far about CSs did not adopt a multi-method approach to investigating the effects of strategy instruction on learners’ strategy use. It has been argued that a synthesis of approaches to investigating the impact of strategy training may offer a more comprehensive and fuller picture of learners’ strategy use. Hence, The main objectives of the present paper is to raise EFL learners’ awareness about the use and usefulness of CSs and to assess the impact of training CSs through the direct approach on the development of EFL learners’ strategic competence. Furthermore, scarcely studies reviewed did adopt a multi-method approach to investigate the previous variables, hence much work is needed to prove the effectiveness of synthesizing approaches in giving a comprehensive picture of learners’ strategy use. To achieve these goals, the subsequent research questions were proposed:

  1. Do our learners use communication strategies (CSs) in their speaking tasks?

  2. Does explicit strategy training have a direct impact on the learners’ strategic competence development? i.e., what are the effects of teaching CSs on learners’ actual use of these strategies?

  3. Are students able to identify the types of CSs they use in the speaking tasks?

1. Hypotheses

1.1. Null Hypotheses

It is hypothesized that there will be no difference between learners’ CSs use prior and after CS strategy training.

It is hypothesized that CSs training programme will not affect the development of EFL learners’ strategic competence.

1.2. Nondirectional Hypotheses

If learners receive CSs training, then their strategic competence will be developed.

This study provides additional evidence for strategy-based insrtuction and the teachability of CSs. The validity and usefulness of teaching CSs for improving communicative competence (CC henceforth) have been widely argued in the field of language teaching and learning. Many researchers make pedagogical recommendations and support the idea that communication strategy training is possible and desirable to develop the learner’s strategic competence (Faerch and Kasper, 1983; Willems, 1987; Tarone and Yule, 1989; Dörnyei, 1995; Lam, 2004; Kongsom, 2009; Manchón, 2000). Moreover, the present investigation dealt with both types of learning, i.e., learning process (covert thoughts) and learning product (overt speech), and shed light on the teachability of CSs from these two perspectives. However, the learning process aspect is most of the time overlooked in CSs research (Manchón, 2008). Also, the studies reviewed did not adopt a multi-method approach to investigating the impact of teaching CSs through the direct approach on EFL learners’ CC. It has been argued that a synthesis of approaches to investigating the impact of strategy training may offer a more comprehensive and fuller picture of learners’ strategy use (Chamot, 2004; Cohen, 1998; Cohen and Scott, 1996; Oxford, 1996a; Wigglesworth, 2005). Further, the literature reviewed provides a good justification for the present study in terms of a lack of adequate work on investigating the influence of CSs teaching through the direct approach on developing EFL learners’ CC (Rababah, 2016). Finally, from a pedagogical angle, this study provides a robust empirical evidence in favour of teaching clusters of strategies rather individual strategies, and also the benefits derived from departing from strategy programmes (Manchón, 2008; Dörnyei, 1995; Lam, 2004; Kongsom, 2009).

The paper is going to be proceeded as follows. First of all, the conceptualization of CSs, their defning criteria and defining perspectives in addition to their classifications will be presents. Secondly, CSs typology adopted in the current paper and the CSs targeted will be thoroughly explained. Thirdly, critical voices concerning the teachability of CSs will be referred to. In the fourth place, the elements of the interventionist study conducted will be unveiled. The last part will be devoted to discuss the findings with concluding remarks.

2. CSs: Conceptualization, Defining Criteria, Defining Perspectives and Classifications

The notion of CSs in EFL context was coined by Selinker (1972) in his discussion of learner interlanguage. After Selinker’s classic paper, a number of works were subsequently suggested. Savignon (1972) studied ‘coping strategies’ and conducted a pioneering experimental pedagogical research and followed a communicative approach focusing on students’ training in CSs. Váradi (1973, but published in 1980) developed the prospects of Selinker (1972) by inaugurating a systematic analysis of CSs and launching many frameworks and terms. Also, Tarone (1977, in addition to Tarone, Cohen and Dumas, 1976) elaborated on Selinker’s notion by providing another systematic analysis of CSs, and introducing several typologies and terms used in subsequent CS investigation. Whereas several definitions have been extended for CSs (Dörnyei and Scott, 1997; Nakatani, 2006; Canale and Swain, 1980; Bialystok, 1983; Dörnyei, 1995; Lam, 2010; Manchón, 2000), complete consensus has not been arrived at yet on the definition of CSs because the wide range of strategies researched has been an obstacle for reaching an agreement (Dörnyei, 1995; Xamani, 2013). However one working definition many researchers accept is that a CS is ‘a systematic technique employed by a speaker to express his [or her] meaning when faced with some difficultyˮ (Corder, 1981, p. 103). Other researchers, however, looked at CSs in a broader sense by also including attempts to “enhance the effectiveness of communicationˮ (Canale, 1983, p. 11). This very view is strengthened by a definition supplied by the CEFR, ‘strategies are a means the language user exploits to mobilize and balance his or her resources, to activate skills and procedures, in order to fulfil the demands of communication in context and successfully complete the task in question in the most comprehensive or most economical way feasible depending on his or her precise purpose. CSs should therefore not be viewed simply with a disability model – as a way of making up for a language deficit or a miscommunicationˮ (2001, p. 57). In plain words, CSs are conceived by the CEFR as lines of action aiming at maximizing communication effectiveness.

And despite the large-scale disagreement in the research literature about the definite nature of CSs, problem-orientedness, systematicness/consciousness and intentionality are central features of these problem-shooting devices. The first feature, that is problem-orienteness, has been considered as a primary identifying criterion for identifying CSs (Bialystok, 1990). Thus, Bialystok claimed that CSs are used ‘only when a speaker perceives that there is a problem which may interrupt communication ˮ (1990, p. 3). In the same vein, Nakatani and Goh (2007) stated that CSs are tactics adopted by ESL learners to solve oral communication problems. And consciousness is when the language user is aware of the communicative problem and is ‘consciously’ utilizing a strategy to resolve it (Xamani, 2013). Whereas the idea that the user has the capability to choose between several options for overcoming a communication problem refers to the third criterion, i. e, intentionality (ibid.).

This work has studied CSs from two main theoretical perspectives: the interactional view and the psycholinguistic one. The interactionist approach treats CSs as parts of discourse and focused attention on the linguistic performance of CSs (Varádi, 1973; Tarone, 1977, 1981; Corder, 1983). To put it differently, this view is based on the interaction process between language users and their attempts to negotiate meaning to enhance comprehension (Tarone, 1980; Canale, 1983; Nakatani, 2005; Nakatani and Goh, 2007). Tarone (1980) conceived CSs as the ‘mutual attempts of two interlocutors to agree on a meaning in a situation where the requisite meaning structures do not seem to be sharedˮ (p. 420). And for Nakatani (2006), the term oral communication strategy is utilized to empower the participants’ negotiation stance to circumvent communication breakdowns and as such they are viewed as communication enhancers. On the other hand, the psycholinguistic perspective focuses on the cognitive processes the learner goes through when becoming aware of a linguistic threat/crisis (Faerch and Kasper, 1980, 1983, 1984; Bialystok, 1990; Poulisse, 1993; Kellerman and Bialystok, 1997). Faerch and Kasper (1983, p. 36) defined CSs as ‘conscious plans for solving what to an individual presents itself as a problem in reaching a particular communicative goalˮ.

As different types of definitions appeared, they led to many different categories of CSs (Xamani, 2013). A variety of typologies referring to CSs in IL production have been proposed by Váradi (1973), Tarone (1977), Tarone et al., (1976), Corder (1978b), Faerch and Kasper (1980, 1983a). In addition, typologies relating specifically to lexical problems are provided by Blum-Kulka and Levenston (1978), and Paribakht (1985). However, there is a considerable overlap between the types of CSs. It is very clear in the literature that a single utterance may be labelled under two different categories. Cook argued that ‘if the lists were standardized, at least, there would be an agreement about such categoriesˮ (1993, p. 133). It is supposed that because of the problems of definition, there is no agreement yet for CSs types and classification (Ellis, 1985). The classifications offered by scholars have been organized around particular features, such as the behaviour of the learner as to whether to reduce or achieve the goal; or to refer to different sources of information – L1-based versus IL- or L2-based strategies; or to employ his conceptual, analytic versus linguistic tactics (Nacey and Graedler, 2013; Rababah, 2002). Moreover, many terms have been developed by individual researchers to refer to more or less the same strategy, e.g., code-switching/language switching/borrowing or foreignizing/anglicizing, etc. As Bialystok (1990) noted, ‘the similarity in the strategies listed, and to some extent, even in their classification, is strikingˮ (p. 45).

CSs are divided into reduction strategies and achievement ones depending on the language learners’ behaviours (Faerch and Kasper, 1983b, 1984; Nacey and Graedler, 2013). With reduction strategies, the communicated message is ‘reduced’ due to linguistic defficiencies. Learners change the message they intend to convey, either by refusing to discuss a particular subject (topic avoidance), or by attempting to convey something but then giving up (message abandonment). Both are so-called ‘functional strategies’, where learners change their communication goals. Faerch and Kasper also discussed formal reduction strategies, where learners simplify their language to such an extent that they never risk encountering any communication hiccups (ibid., 1984). And if learners keep their original communication ends despite breakdowns, then they employ ‘achievement strategies’. Both ‘cooperative strategies’ and ‘compensation strategies’ are subsumed under this category (Nacey and Graedler, 2013). Cooperative strategies entail the learner calling an authority for assistance, and may be accomplished through various means: non-verbal signal (rising intonation, hesitations, etc), verbal signal and explicit appeal. With compensation strategies, by contrast, learners attempt to solve their communication difficulty themselves rather than rely on an outside authority. Compensation strategies are cut up into three subgroups: retrieval, L1-based and L2-based (ibid.). It can be said that CSs are commonly used not only to bridge the gaps between the linguistic and sociolinguistic knowledge of the foreign language learners and those of the interlocutors in a communication situation but also to keep their talk flowing within their available linguistic knowledge, and eventually manage their oral communication (Somsai and Intaraprasert, 2011; Zheng, 2004). Further, Zheng (2007) and Rababah (2002) claimed that CSs can enhance language learners’ confidence, flexibility, and effectiveness in oral communication. Gass and Selinker (1994) and Ellis (2003) also emphasized the utility of CSs whenever learners need to express themselves in the target language but lack the linguistic knowledge to do so. And because they are used to avoid eminent communicative breakdowns and sustain interaction during oral exchanges, CSs are catalysts for communication and comprehension skills alike (Mitchell and Myles, 1998; Bataineh, Al-Bzour and Baniabdelrahman, 2017). According to Dörnyei (1995), CSs can help learners obtain English language practice. Additionally, they may help learners remain in a conversation and so provide the learners with more input, more opportunities for checking and testing their hypotheses, and therefore, more chances to develop their interlanguage system (Mariani, 2010). Tarone (1980) suggested that the conversational effect of CSs in general is to enable the native speaker to help the L2 learner use the right form to say what he wants. Thus, all strategies can help to expand resources and the main contribution of CSs is to keep the conversational channel open. Thus even the learner is not provided with the particular structure he needs, he will be exposed to a number of other structures, some of which may constitute a suitable intake for his learning strategies to operate on. As Hatch (1978) stated that the main significant matter of all has to be ‘don’t give up’. Tarone (1980) and Faerch and Kasper (1983) argued that achievement strategies may be beneficial in that they sustain learners negotiate their way to the correct target language structures and fulfil their communicative intentions.

2.1. CSs Classification Adopted in The Current Study and the CSs Targeted

Dörnyei and Kormos (1998) brought several lines of research and provided an extensive overview of problem management in language communication. Following Dörnyei and Scott (1997), Dörnyei and Kormos (1998) distinguished four main problem sources in L2 communication: (a) L2 resource deficiencies, (b) processing time pressure, (c) perceived difficulties in one’s own language output, and (d) perceived troubles in the interlocutor’s performance. In order to supply a systematic analysis of the wide range of problem-solving mechanisms linked with these problem areas, they adopedt a psycholinguistic perspective based on the L2 adaptation of Levelt’s (1989, 1993, 1995) model of speech production. This approach offers a theoretical framework in which problem-solving devices can be connected to the various pre- and post-articulatory phases of speech processing, thereby helping to achieve a coherent process-oriented description.

As a matter of fact, only achievement/compensatory strategies were adopted and investigated in this study. According to Fearch and Kasper (1983), the learner uses a achievement/compensatory strategy when she/he tries to solve communication problems by expanding her/her communicative resources than by reducing her/his communicative goal(s). That is, achievement/compensatory strategies provide alternative plans for the learners to carry out their original communicative goal(s) by maniputing available language, therefore compensating in some way for their linguistic gaps (Dörnyei, 1995). First and foremost, at the initial planning stage during speech production, ‘resources deficit’, i.e., insufficient knowledge of vocabulary items, is the fundamental problem that an L2 speaker is likely to encouter (Dörnyei and Kormos, 1998; Levelt, 1989). To address this problem, the present research proposes that ‘circumlocution’ may help learners to solve the immediate problem of ‘what to say’ and ‘how to say it’. Faucette (2001) concluded that cirmumlocution, paraphrase and approximation empower students to take part in communication by aiding them to not leave the conversational setting. ‘Appeal for help’ becomes helpful when the learner wants to seek the interlocutor’s support in solving communication problems (Kongsom, 2009), and it is recommended by Dörnyei and Scott (1997) because it sustains EFL learners through negotiation of meaning and arriving at their communicative goals and leads to language learning. The second problem is ‘processing time pressure’ and is related to the fact that FL/L2 speech processing is far less automatic than L1 speech processing (Dörnyei and Kormos, 1998), and the retrieval may consume ‘more time than the production system will allowˮ (de Bot, 1992, p. 14). The third disruption happens when ‘the monitor inspects the language output both before articulation and after articulationˮ (Dörnyei and Kormos, 1998, p. 371) and discovers ‘deficiencies in one’s own language outputˮ (p. 371). To cope with the problem, ‘self-correction’ is recommended to learners as the strategy has an effect on enabling the FL/L2 speakers to adjust linguistic correctness, which may facilitate pushed output (Swain, 1998). Another strategy that was selected to overcome perceived deficiencies in one’s own speech is ‘comprehension checks’. The latter check questions with other two types (i.e., asking for confirmation and asking for clarification) are referred to as ‘modified interaction strategies/ conversation adjustements’. ‘Seeking confirmation’ and ‘seeking clarification’ belong to the fourth problem which may arise when an L2 speaker experiences ‘perceived deficiencies in the interlocutor’s performanceˮ (Dörnyei and Kormos, 1998, p. 374). That is, problems may occur when the L2 speaker does not hear or have enough or adequate FL/L2 knowledge to understand the speech of his/her interlocutor (s) (Lam, 2005).

2.2. The Teachability Issue: CSs between Pros and Cons

In the 90s, there were mixed reactions to the training of CSs (Lam, 2004). Kellerman (1991) was critical of the need to train CSs. the researcher maintained that it was not necessary to train learners (LLs henceforth) in the use of such strategies. For one thing, there are pre-existing CSs in one’s L1 to fill in gaps in vocabulary knowledge and the LLs should be able to transfer those strategies to deal with problems alike in any FL/L2 practices. But if LLs have difficulty in using such strategies in an FL/L2 situation, they would lack proficiency in their FL/L2 or there would be a lack of positive atmosphere for strategy use that has impeded students’ ability to deploy CSs to solve lexical problems. Hence, Kellerman (1991) argued that it is desirable to strengthen LLs’ linguistic competence or prepare classroom atmosphere to strategy use rather than to implement strategy training (ST henceforth). Kellerman (1991) concluded, ‘there is no justification for providing training on compensatory strategies in the classroom… Teach the learners more language and let the strategies look after themselvesˮ (p. 158). Kellerman’s (1991) view is in contrast to a study in the same year (Dörnyei and Thurrell, 1991).

The latter supported the training of CS in language classroom on the grounds that the teaching enhances LLs’ strategic competence (SC henceforth), which is part and parcel of communicative language ability. Dörnyei and Thurrell (1991) claimed that the teaching of SC is particularly relevant to the foreign language classroom not least because learners who possess a wide repertoire of linguistic knowledge may still fail in oral language examinations because they are not previleged with the ability to keep going when there is a communication breakdown. Hence, according to Dörnyei and Thurrell (1991), the mastery of linguistic ability alone does not guarantee success in using a language in oral communication. With a view to helping teachers develop LLs’ SC, specific strategies based on strategy types defined by Corder (1981) were identified for training. They included ‘resource expansion or achievement strategies’ such as ‘paraphrasing’ or using ‘circumlocution’; ‘message adjustment strategies’ such as ‘getting off the point’; ‘conversational formulae’ such as ‘using fillers’ to keep students going despite defficiencies.

3. The Study

3.1 Research Design

In fact, an interventionist strategy-based instruction study was conducted at Mohamed Lamine Debaghine (Sétif 2) University. The subjects were 30 students (25 girls and 5 boys) who were randomly divided into a treatment group (N = 15) and a comparison group (N = 15). The participants were between 21–26 years old and their experience in learning English as a foreign language ranged between 9–12 years. The students were in their third year of study (Senior learners). They were selected on the basis of their availability. The mean scores of the two groups in a 2-part Quick Placement Test (Version 2) were 62.52 and 60.80 and the one-way ANOVA test showed that the scores indicated no statistically differences (ANOVA, P =.1350). The teaching materials for both groups were designed by the researcher on the basis of the available resources and well-researched strategies-based instructional materials (Klippel, 1984; Cohen and Weaver, 2006). The full set of materials was field-tested and revised after the teachers’ and students’ feedback in the pilot study. The experiment consisted of a 12-week strategy training programme. Each lesson lasted 90 minutes. Both groups did the same activities. However, the experimental group received additional instruction in the use of the seven strategies (direct appeal for help, circumlocution, self-correction, comprehension checks, asking for clarification, asking for confirmation).

3.2 Implementing the Experimental Design

The instructional approach adopted for the experimental group (EG henceforth) was explicit strategy training (Chamot, 2004, 2005; Chamot and O’Malley, 1994; Cohen and Weaver, 2006; Oxford, 1990; Rossiter, 2003a). To implement this very approach, Dörnyei’s (1995) CSs training programme was adopted. Six porcedures in the programme were to be followed. The first step deals with ‘raising learner awareness about the nature and communicative potential of CSs’ in which the learners are made conscious of strategies already form part of their repertoire. The second step is urging learners to be willing to take risks and use CSs’. The third is ‘providing L2 models of the use of certain CSs’ through demonstrations, listening materials and videos, and ‘getting learners to identify, categorize, and evaluate strategies used by native speakers or other L2 speakersˮ (Dörnyei, 1995, p. 63). And the fourth step is about ‘highlighting cross-cultural differences in CS use’. ‘Teaching CSs direcly’ is the fifth stage. This structured inductive approach presents linguistic devices to verbalize CSs which have a limitted set of surface structure realizations. ‘Providing opportunities for practice in strategy use’ is the sixth and the last step in this instructional programme. This stage of practice ‘appears to be necessary because CSs can only fulfil their function as immediate first aid devices if their use has reached an automatic stageˮ (ibid.). This automatization will not always occur without specific focused practice (Dörnyei, 1995; Willems, 1987).

3.3 Instrumentation, Data Analysis and Findings

The researcher of the present investigation adopted Lam’s (2006) stance, i.e., a multi-method approach was favoured. In fact, the implementation of the multi-method approach helps complement the strengths and weaknesses inherent in each research instrument. The self-report strategy questionnaire was developed to investigate CSs commonly employed by the students and to explore students’ perceptions of the use and usefulness of each CS. The checklist was based on Dörnyei and Kormos’ (1998) framewok of problem solving mechanisms in L2 use. It consisted of 39 five-point Likert-Scale communication strategy statements (for 7 CSs). Students reported their use of each strategy on a scale from ‘never’ (1) to ‘most often’ (5) and rated the usefulness of each strategy from ‘not useful’ (1) to ‘most useful’ (5) (Appendix A). The reliability of the questionnaire, estimated by Cronbach’s Alpha, was 0.80 which was rather high and clearly demonstrated that all the items in the questionnaire could measure the students’ use of CSs with enough consistency. Also, the questionnaire’s scores were used to calculate the internal validity of the tool and each of its axes and the extent to which these component paragraphs related to each other. And to ensure that there was not an overlap, it was verified by finding the correlation coefficient (Spearman). It was found that the validity factor was high (0.88) and this was evidence of the strength of the internal cohesion of all the items of the instrument. To examine whether CS instruction would alter students’ reports on the use and usefulness of CS, a strategy questionnaire was administered to 30 students before and after the CS instruction. And to test the difference between the two groups (experimental and control) and in-group differences (pre- and post-), Wilcoxon Matched-Pairs Signed-Ranks Test was used. With respect to the speaking task battery, a focused two-way task (a conversation task) rather than was chosen to ‘induce learners to process, receptively and productively, some particular linguistic feature (s)ˮ (Ellis, 2008, p. 819). In the ‘Conversation Task’, learners were displayed with a set of themes selected from Rosset’s (1997) book, and a general agreement was on these three topics: success in life, learning a foreign language and reading. In pairs or in small-groups of no more than four members, the students were asked to develop one of these themes in less than five minutes. The task performance was videotaped or audiotaped, according to the learners’ consensus. For the sake of future analysis, the data that was was transcribed according to the transcription conventions supplied by Dresing et al., (2015). About the reliability and validity of this very tool, test scores were used to calculate the internal validity of the instrument and each of its axes and the extent to which these component paragraphs relate to each other, and to ensure that there is no overlap and this was verified by finding the correlation coefficient (Pearson, P = 0.83) between the dimension paragraphs and the total scores. Further, the reliability coefficient was high, as its value reached (0.778). To code and categorize CSs used by the students in the study, the researcher followed ‘Typological Analysis’ defended by LeCompte and Preissle (1993) and Hatch (2002). According to LeCompte and Preissle (1993), ‘Typological Analysis’ ‘involves dividing everything observed into groups or categories on the basis of some canon for disagreeing the whole phenomenon under studyˮ (p. 257). Stimulated Recall (SR) was used to investigate learner learning processes (i.e., covert strategic thinking). Using verbal reports to assess learners’ strategies is particularly effective in understanding learners’ strategies because strategy use of language learners is still part of their declarative knowledge, which is not yet internalized and routinized (Gass and Mackey, 2000), and amenable to be reported. To minimise memory loss and to improve the validity of the SR data, students of the EG were individually interviewed soon after the task in both tests (pre- and post-). During the SR interviews, the video/audio-taped tasks were played back to the students, who were asked to watch and report on what they were able to remember about their thoughts during specific episodes while the task was in action (Lam, 2007). Occasionally, the researcher paused the video/audiotape and asked ‘[W] hat was at the back of your mind at that momentˮ (Lam, 2007, pp. 59–60). The aim of this recall question was to remind the students that the task was the focus of the recall, thus minimizing the possibility that they could report thoughts that came up during the SR interviews. The correlation coefficient for the study tool as a whole was statistically significant at the level of significance (0.01), and the value of the validity coefficient for the tool was (0.78). Therefore, the validity coefficient was high and the tool was valid. And the stability coefficient was high, with a value of (0.81). The first step in analyzing protocol data was to identify a ‘unit of analysis’ in each interview (Green, 1998). Each time the video/audio was stopped and the student gave a report constituted an episode and was taken as the unit for analysis. The three steps recommended by Green (1998) for analyzing verbal protocol data were employed in the present study. They are (1) developing a coding scheme, (2) identifying the unit for analysis, and (3) segmenting the protocols for coding.

3.3.1. Results of Self-Report Strategy Questionnaire on the Use and Usefulness of CSs

To measure whether there was a significant difference in students’ reported use and usefulness of CSs in the pre- and post- CS instruction, Wilcoxon Test was used (Hatch and Lazaraton, 1991). We start presenting CSs’ use reported by students (of both groups) before and after CS training, and their reports on the usefulness of CSs before and after CS training. After, we compare CSs’ use and CSs’ usefulness in the pre- and post-tests.

Table 1. Reports of EG Students of CS Use Before and After CS Instruction

Pre- Post-Test U

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Rank

Z

P

Negative Ranks

0

0

0

3.41

0.001

Positive Ranks

15

8

120

Equal

0

Total

15

From this table it can be seen table for the responses of the experimental group (EG) members on the scale of the part (U) in the pre-test and the post-test measurement, where the value of Z = 3.41 at the value of P = 0.001 by comparing it with the level of Significance in the study (0.05) that there are differences within the group (EG) in favor of (Post-test), as the value of (Mean Rank) was 8, meaning that the number of individuals who benefited from the experience (Traitment) was estimated as (Positive Ranks) 15 individuals (i.e. that development affected all members of the sample – meaning that the method used has helped develop a set of skills for BA students.

Table 2. Reports of EG Students of Strategy Frequency from the Self-Report Strategy Questionnaire

Pre- Post-Test F

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Rank

Z

P

Negative Ranks

0

0

0

3.41

0.001

Positive Ranks

15

8

120

Equal

0

Total

15

It is evident from Table2 for the responses of the EG members on the scale of the part (F) in the pre-test and the post-test measurement, where the value of Z = 3.41 at the value of P = 0.001 by comparing it with the level of Significance in the study (0.05) We conclude that there are differences within the group (EG) in favor of (Post-test), as the value of (Mean Rank) was 8, meaning that the number of individuals who benefited from the experience (Traitement) was estimated as (Positive Ranks) 15 individuals (i.e. development affected all members of the sample – meaning that the method used has helped develop a set of skills BA students.

The present results strengthen previous findings about the effect of strategy training in raising EFL learners’ awareness. Related literature has validated the beneficial impact of teaching and enhancing LLs’ awareness of CSs (Brown, 2000; Dörnyei, 1995; Huang and Van Naerssen, 1987; Maleki, 2007; Nakatani, 2005). Furthermore, LLs can raise their awareness of efficient strategies by examining their performance, and thereby improving their target proficiency (Nakatani, 2005). Students need for support on how to make use of their limited linguistic knowledge by adopting appropriate CSs. Therefore oral expression teachers should raise LLs’ awareness of the communicative potential of some CSs in different communication tasks (Ghout-Khenoune, 2012).

3.3.2. Results of the Speaking Task Battery

Using SPSS (Version 22), independent T-Test of the pre-tests and post-tests of the control group (CG henceforth) and EG was calculated. In different terms, we counted the actual use (i.e., frequency) of CSs before and after CS instruction in both groups. Moreover, the T value was calculated when paired samples T-Test of the performance of the experimental group on the pre-test and the post-test were conducted.

Table 3. Independent T-Test of the Pre-Tests of the Control and the Experimental Groups

Pre - test

Conversation

Communication strategies

Control group

Experimental Group

Frequency

Percent (%)

Frequency

Percent (%)

1

Circumlocution

0

0

1

1.02

2

Appeal for help

2

2.40

0

0

3

Fillers

84

85.71

34

34.69

4

Self - correction

7

7.14

2

2.40

5

Comprehension checks

2

2.40

0

0

6

Clarification request

3

3.06

3

3.06

7

Asking for confirmation

0

0

1

1.02

In the pretest, the members of the two groups used CSs with different frequencies. The shared used CSs were ‘fillers, self-correction and clarification request’ where the CG outperformed the EG in the use of the two first strategies. Moreover, the CG used ‘appeal for help and comprehension checks’ (once for each) but the EG did not. In addition, ‘circumlocution and asking for confirmation’ appeared in the actual performance of the EG and did not take place in the actual use of the CG.

Table 4. Independent T-Test of the Post-Tests of the Control and the Experimental Groups

Post - test

Conversation

Communication strategies

Control group

Experimental Group

Frequency

Percent (%)

Frequency

Percent (%)

1

Circumlocution

0

0

1

0.78

2

Appeal for help

3

3.22

4

3.12

3

Fillers

82

88.17

100

100

4

Self - correction

5

5.37

13

10.15

5

Comprehension checks

3

3.22

1

0.78

6

Clarification request

0

0

7

5.46

7

Asking for confirmation

0

0

2

1.56

By contrast, in the post-test, the EG outperformed the CG. The main CSs used by the CG were ‘appleal for help, fillers, self-correction and comprehension checks’. And the EG used all the 7 taught strategies with different frequencies. ‘Fillers’ was the most used strategy (100‰), then ‘self-correction’ (10.15‰), and ‘clarification request’ (5.46‰). ‘Appeal for help, asking for confirmation and circumlocution’ appeared with different percentages (3.12, 1.56 and 0.78) respectively.

The current findings support the training of CS in language classroom on the grounds that the teaching strengthens LLs ‘SC, which is part of the communicative language ability. Dörnyei and Thurrell (1991) argued that the teaching of SC is essentially relevant to the foreign language classroom not least because students who possess a wide repertoire of linguistic knowledge may still fail in oral language examinations because they often lack the ability to keep going when there is a communication breakdown.

3.3.3. Results of Retrospective Protocols

Table 5. Retrospective Protocol Data in Pre- and Post-Tests



ASs



CSs

Conversation Task



Strategie
s used

Pre-test

Experimental

Post-test

F

%

F

%

F

%

F

%

F

%

F

%

4

33.3

Lack of vocab

5

41.7

Lack of ideas

4

30.8

1

8.3

Grammar

6

46.2

6

100

0

0

2

16.7

Pronunciation

1

7.7

0

5

100

0

1

8.3

Stress

0

0

12

100

Total

2

15.3

Table5 summarizes the results of the experimental group, and through comparison between (Pre-test) and (Post-test), we notice that there is a difference in favor of (post- test) and the development was in (Lack of Ideas). And about the strategies used between (Pre-test) and (Post-test), we can see that students have changed their use of strategies from using “avoiding strategies” (ASs) strategy in (Pre-test) to their use of (CSs) strategy.

In fact, the goal of instructing language LLs in the use of strategies is to prepare self-regulated learners who can deal with new and unexpected learning tasks with confidence and choose the most suitable strategies for achieving the communicative demands of a particular task. This indicates that the focus of ST is on “how” to learn rather than on “what” to learn (Manchón, 2000).

3.3.4. Samples of Students’ Retrospective Comments

  1. Student1:
    The pre-test : ‘I have a lot of ideas but I didn’t find solution how to organize them (…) I have ideas but disorderˮ.
    T
    he post-test : ‘problem is was stress and (..) lack er of some ideas lack of some words (..) er the main I (…) I er use some fillers to to overcome this problems or to be more con/conscious about I’M. I’M. actually sayingˮ.

  2. Student2
    The pre-test : ‘Finding information about the topic (…) not words but informationˮ.
    The post-test : ‘This one was easier since I I know how to use some strategies to avoid er (..) to to keep silent for a long time I used some strategies that help me a lot so I didn’tˮ.

4. Discussion and Conclusion

The study has provided evidence to support the value of raising learners’ awareness about the use and usefulness of CSs. It is necessary to introduce explicit meta-cognitive ST in order to expand TL development. The discrepancy between self-awareness of what the learner might potentially use and what they may actually employ in their real communication can be attributed to the lack of awareness of what the strategies are and how they should be employed. This is a call for more systematic training in communicative strategies awareness among students of different proficiency levels (Hua et al., 2012).

The explicit teaching of strategies proves to be beneficial to language learners in terms of (i) enlarging their strategic repertoire; (ii) enhancing test scores; (iii) empowering their self-confidence and motivation; (iv) improving their autonomy; and (v) handling more charge for their proper learning. It is suggested that strategy ST has to go through different stages. First, the ST programme should start with an assessment of the strategies that learners currently use and how well they use them because as Wenden (1991, p. 108) stated, ‘the intervention should match the needˮ. The next stage includes either deductive or inductive awareness of the strategy/ies learners are to be trained in. The main target here is to raise the student’s awareness of the value and benefits of strategy use. To this end, the instructor helps the learner develop declarative knowledge (what strategy/ies they are learning to implement), procedural knowledge (how the strategy/ies should be utilized and why) and conditional knowledge (in which contexts should the strategy/ise be applied) (Manchón, 2000). This explicit strategy instruction is predicated on the grounds that the metacognitive awareness that learners gain will help the retention and transferability of strategy use. The third stage is the practice, where LLs are given practice in using the strategy in question in contextualized tasks. The final stage includes the evaluation of strategy use and the illustration of how the strategy can be transferred to other settings and tasks (ibid.).

Furthermore, the present investigation proves the efficiency and feasibility of the multi-method/multi-dimensional approach rather than the uni-dimensional perspective followed in many previous studies as it cements the weakenesses inherent in each research instrument. Using questionnaire to assess strategy use has a long established tradition. In fact, they are among the most well-known methods to assess frequency of language learning strategy use (Rababah, 2002). However, checklist findings do not necessarily reflect the learners’ actual strategic behaviours in keeping the conversational flow and circumventing any unexpected communicative breakdown. And while obsevations are useful in capturing certain kinds of observable behaviours, it is however agreed that this method cannot be used to investigate covert strategies. Nor can it be used to depict strategies linked to the affective state of the learners (Cohen, 1997, 1998; Oxford, 1996). To put it differently, learning may and may not be observable, hence the implementation of research tools to assess both the observable and the non-observable behaviours of learners is more desirable to gain a panoramic view of the effect(s) of ST (Wigglesworth, 2005). In other terms, both the product (i.e. overt strategy use) and process (i.e., covert strategic thinking) of oral communication can be measured by the triangulation of findings, i.e., the convergent mixed methods design is highly advocated in the current paper as it gives equal importance to both quantitative and qualitative data and regards them as approximately equal sources of information especially in investigating CSs use.

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Soumia Hadjab

Université Sétif 2

Fatiha Hamitouche

Université Alger 2

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