Monday, 2 December 2013

Implicity and Explicity learning:A Necessity

0. Introduction

The main area of this paper is concerned with the importance of learning strategies and learning techniques within the whole area of foreign language instruction whereas the particular focus in this study will analyse the problem of how to foster both explicit and implicit learning strategies when reading English texts. This will also involve describing the changes in the demands for teaching and learning. By taking examples from the results of research on the good language learner, certain aspects of the important groundwork for current research into learning strategies and learning techniques will be shown; in addition, definite conclusions can be drawn from the results of this research in the context of the importance of a flow concept as a vital component within the general concept of strategies. Based on previous results, the conclusions drawn will open up new questions for further research.

Within the whole field of research into learning and teaching methodologies, there has been, on the whole, a noticeable increase in research within the framework of learning strategies. Two diametrically opposed approaches have been followed in this area of foreign language teaching and research. Whereas, on the one hand, the attempt has been made to train for an explicit implementation of strategies (cf. Nold & Schnaitmann, 1997), the opposite path has also been taken by taking measures to elicit and promote the more implicit, "natural" learning strategies. (Bleyhl 1996a, 1996b).Within the whole area of discussion about strategies, the current state of the debate is expressed in terms of the following dichotomies i.e. explicit/implicit, conscious/subconscious and observable/non-observable. Although these dichotomies are perceived to be incompatible by many authors, Bialystok has managed to reconcile them and bring them together in her model of interacting knowledge sources. Following the presentation of this model, conclusions relevant for research will be drawn. In the latter part of the paper, there will be a report on our own empirical investigations which were carried out as part of a research project on the interaction between strategies and interests in the field of reading English texts. The changes in the demands on learners and teachers together with changes in perspectives caused by these new demands provided both the starting point for and reasoning behind posing particular questions as part of the research project. In addition, the results relevant to this part of the study have been selected to gain more concrete insights into these aspects of explicitness as against implicitness with regard to knowledge strategies for learners. In the final part, conclusions will be drawn.

1. The changes in the demands made on teachers and learners

Completely different demands caused by technological, social, cultural and economic changes in society as well as by the short-term value of knowledge and skills in an ever-changing world are nowadays being made on teachers and learners. This situation continues to make increasing demands for a very high degree of flexibility and for highly sophisticated thinking skills (cf. Nenniger, 1995). In addition, it has not only led to "a growing scientific interest in gaining more insight into self-directed, intentional learning" (Konrad & Wosnitza, 1993: 1) but it has also, at the same time, aimed at equipping the pupils with the full range of skills to enable them to act as autonomous learners both during their schooling and beyond so that self-motivated learning becomes a life-long process (cf. Finkbeiner 1995a). This aim is also firmly based on an epistemological change which Wolff (1996) claims is strongly influenced by the new insights gained from cognition psychology, cognitive science, radical constructivism, biology as well as from neurophysiology. Resulting from the new shift of emphasis in the educational debate, Wolff (1996: 2) has come to the following conclusions:

  • Understanding and learning are seen as active processes of construction involving the incoming perceptual stimuli and the learner's current state of knowledge.
  • Learning is an autonomous process carried out mainly by the learner himself or herself in an independent way.
  • Learning is a process organised by the learner acting on his or her own initiative but with the result that autonomous responsibility and organisation emerge from the inherent logic and sense within a specific item pertaining to the learning process.
  • Learning is an exploratory process planned by the learner acting within a paradigm based on hypothesis formation and testing.
  • Learning is a process controlled by the learner who makes use of strategies.
  • Learning is a process which works particularly well in groups.
    Learning is a process which benefits very greatly from a varied and authentic learning environment.
  • The outcome of any particular learning process varies from learner to learner, because knowledge is always subjective and takes different forms for each particular learner. (Wolff 1996: 2)

This view of learning requires a form of education that has the following characteristics: open, democratic, liberating, based on pair and group work and relevant to the real world. This type of education has many associations with the ideas supported by proponents of modern methods and which nowadays are being re-examined in the light of the new approaches based, for example, on active learning methods (c. f. Bach & Timm 1996; Finkbeiner 1995a, 1996a 1996b; Gudjons 1989) or based on communicative, interactive and experience based approaches (c. f. Legutke & Thomas: 1993; van Lier: 1996).

2. Learning strategies as a research topic: the "good language learner"

The question as to what is the best way to learn how to think and how to learn and how to teach these skills has always been an existential problem for people interested in knowledge and education.

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