Supporting more successful language learning: Approaches for helping post-secondary learners in three contexts

This paper offers a number of suggestions for foreign and second language teachers who want to help their students develop more positive learning characteristics. In response to a graduate-level methods class designed to help participants develop student-centered instruction, this paper presents three approaches for helping post-secondary language learners in three contexts: Syria, Turkey, and the U.S. The approaches involve learner training projects aimed at influencing learner beliefs and expectations (Project 1), reducing learner anxiety (Project 2), and encouraging motivation and learner autonomy (Project 3). The projects target beginning and intermediate-level English as a foreign language (EFL) and Spanish-language learners. They involve hands-on teaching strategies, awareness-raising activities, and integration of instructional technology. The paper presents a rationale for each project and includes sample activities. It ends with reflections on the learner training projects and implications for the development of such projects in different language learning contexts.


Abraham, R., & Vann, R. (1987). Strategies of two language learners: A case study. In A.

Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 85–102). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Amuzie, G. L., & Winke, P. (2009). Changes in language learning beliefs as a result of study abroad. System, 37(3), 366-379.

Benson, P., & Lor, W. (1999). Conceptions of language and language learning. System, 27(4), 459–472.

Blake, R. J., & Zyzik, E. C. (2003). Who‘s helping whom? Learner/heritage-speakers‘ networked discussions in Spanish. Applied Linguistics, 24, 519–544.

Chamot, A. U. (2005). Language learning strategy instruction: Current issues and research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25, 112-130.

Cohen, A. D. (2011). Strategies in learning and using a second language (2nd ed.). Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Cotterall, S. (1999). Key variables in language learning: What do learners believe about them? System, 27(4), 473–492.

Cotterall, S. (2000). Promoting learner autonomy through the curriculum: Principles for designing language courses. ELT Journal, 54(2), 109–117.

Dewaele, J., & Thirtle, H. (2009). Why do some young learners drop foreign languages? A focus on learner-internal variables. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12(6), 635–649.

Dörnyei, Z. (1994). Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 78(3), 273–284.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ehrman, M. E., & Oxford, R. L. (1995). Cognition plus: Correlates of language learning success. The Modern Language Journal, 79(1), 67–89.

Ellis, R. (2008). Learner beliefs and language learning. The Asian EFL Journal Quarterly, 10(4), 7–25.

Gregersen, T. (2003). To err is human: A reminder to teachers of language-anxious students. Foreign Language Annals, 36(1), 25–32.

Gregersen, T., & Horwitz, E. K. (2002). Language learning and perfectionism: Anxious and non-anxious language learners‘ reactions to their own oral performance. The Modern Language Journal, 86(4), 562-570.

Griffiths, C. (2008). Lessons from good language learners. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Grosse, C. U. (1991a). The TESOL methods course. TESOL Quarterly, 25(1), 29–49.

Grosse, C. U. (1993). The foreign language methods course. The Modern Language Journal, 77(3), 303–312.

Horwitz, E. K. (1987). Surveying student beliefs about language learning. In A. Wenden & J.

Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 119-129). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Horwitz, E. K. (1988). The beliefs about language learning of beginning university foreign language students. The Modern Language Journal, 72(3), 283–294.

Horwitz, E.K. (2001). Language anxiety and achievement. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, 112-126.

Horwitz, E. K. (2013). Becoming a language teacher: A practical guide to second language learning and teaching (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

Horwitz, E. K., Breslau, B., Dryden, M. A., Yu, J. F., & McClendon, M. E. (1997). A graduate course focusing on the second language learner. The Modern Language Journal, 81(4), 518- 526.

Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. The Modern Language Journal, 70(2), 125-132.

Horwitz, E. K., Hsieh, P. H., Bonzo, J. D., Huang, D., Na, Y. H., & Rubrecht, B. G. (2004). Case studies of language learners as a tool for helping teachers understand the experience of language learning. HongKong Journal of Applied Linguistics, 9, 1-14.

Hosenfeld, C. (1978). Students‘ mini-theories of second language learning. Association Bulletin, 29(2), 31–40.

Kitano, K. (2001). Anxiety in the college Japanese language classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 85(4), 549–566.

Kubota, R., & Catlett, S. (2008). Spanish only for foreign language in the elementary school (FLES): Competing discourses in local language policy. Foreign Language Annals, 41(1), 102–118.

Lantolf, J. P., & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Little, D. (2007). Language learner autonomy: Some fundamental considerations revisited. International Journal of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 14–29.

Lui, M., & Jackson, J. (2008). An exploration of Chinese EFL learners‘ unwillingness to communicate and foreign language anxiety. The Modern Language Journal, 92(1), 71–86.

MacIntyre, P. D. (2007). Willingness to communicate in the second language: Understanding the decision to speak as a volitional process. The Modern Language Journal, 91(4), 564– 576.

MacIntyre, P. D., Clement, R., Dörnyei, Z., & Noels, K. A. (1998). Conceptualizing willingness to communicate in a L2: A situational model of L2 confidence and affiliation. The Modern Language Journal, 82(4), 545–562.

Noels, K. A. (2001). Learning Spanish as a second language: Learners‘ orientations and perceptions of their teachers‘ communication style. Language Learning, 51(1), 107–144.

Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Oxford, R. (2011). Teaching and researching language learning strategies. Harlow, England: Pearson.

Oxford, R. L. (2015). Expanded perspectives on autonomous learners. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 9(1), 58-71.

Rashidi, N., & Omid, A. (2011). A survey on Iranian EFL learners‘ beliefs on the role of rote memorization in learning vocabulary and its effect on vocabulary achievement. Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics, 15(1), 139–161.

Ray, J. M. (2009). A template analysis of teacher agency at an academically successful dual language school. Journal of Advanced Academics, 21, 110–141.

Rees‐Miller, J. (1993). A critical appraisal of learner training: Theoretical bases and teaching implications. TESOL Quarterly, 27(4), 679-689.

Riley, P. (1997). ‗BATs and BALLs‘: Beliefs about talk and beliefs about language learning. Mélanges Pédagogiques, 23, 125–153.

Rubin, J. (1987). Learner strategies: theoretical assumptions, research history and typology. In A. Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 15–30). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Rubin, J., Chamot, A. U., Harris, V., & Anderson, N. J. (2007). Intervening in the use of strategies. Language learner strategies, 30, 29-45.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67.

Shrum, J., & Glisan, E. (2005). Teacher’s handbook: Contextualized language instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle.

Sykes, J. (2011). Facilitating reflection on implicit learner beliefs through metaphor elicitation. Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics, 15(1), 91–113.

Tanaka, K., & Ellis, R. (2003). Study abroad, language proficiency, and learner beliefs about language learning. JALT Journal, 25(1), 63–85.

Toribio, A. J. (2004). Spanish/English speech practices: Bringing chaos to order. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7, 133–154.

Ushioda, E. (2001). Learner autonomy in Irish L2 classrooms: New initiatives. In L. Karlsson, F. Kjisik, & J. Nordlund (Eds.), All together now (pp. 219-225). Helsinki, Finland: University of Helsinki Press.

Watzke, J. L. (2003). Lasting change in foreign language education: A historical case for change in national policy. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Wenden, A. (1987a). Conceptual background and utility. In A. Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 3–13). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wenden, A. L. (1995). Learner training in context: A knowledge-based approach. System, 23(2), 183-194.

White, C. (1999). Expectations and emergent beliefs of self-instructed language learners. System, 27(4), 443–457.

Wu, X. (2003). Intrinsic motivation and young language learners: The impact of the classroom environment. System, 31(4), 501–517.

Yan, J. X., & Horwitz, E. K. (2008). Learners‘ perceptions of how anxiety interacts with personal and instructional factors to influence their achievement in English: A qualitative analysis of EFL learners in China. Language Learning, 58(1), 151-183.

Yang, N. (1999). The relationship between EFL learners‘ beliefs and learning strategy use. System, 27(4), 515–535.

Young, D. J. (1990). An investigation of students‘ perspectives on anxiety and speaking. Foreign Language Annals, 23(6), 539–553.

Young, D. J. (1991). Creating a low-anxiety classroom environment: What does the anxiety research suggest? The Modern Language Journal, 75(4), 426–439.

Young, D. J. (1999). Affect in foreign language and second language learning: A practical guide to creating a low-anxiety classroom atmosphere. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Kaynak Göster