The Reading Matrix © 2009
Volume 9, Number 2, September 2009
Learning Strategy Research — Where Are We Now?
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Learning strategy research has been very prolific and much has been written about the field and
its importance to language learning. This paper traces the history and development of learning
strategy research by anchoring it in the field of cognitive psychology in the early years from
1970 to 1990 before reviewing the varied and descriptive nature of the research from the 1990 to
the present time. The review highlights that learning strategy research is becoming more
diversified and also more revealing in its findings. This needs to be taken as a positive movement
because of the holistic picture of the learner and learning that is emerging which, in turn, can
help teachers review their pedagogical practices to enhance learning.
Much has been written, rewritten, and discussed about learning strategies and their
importance to language learning in the last few decades. It is undeniable that learning strategy
research has been largely developmental and as such, much of the early work is not well
grounded in any theoretical base. Research in learning strategies has been concentrated in
describing the different types of strategies (Rubin, 1975; Bialystok, 1978; Cohen & Aphek 1981)
and how frequently these are employed by learners of different proficiency levels (O?Malley,
Chamot, & Stewner-Manzanares, 1985). This paper explores learning strategy research in second
language acquisition and cognitive psychology to illustrate the common elements between these
two fields for theory building.
Research in the fields of second language acquisition and cognitive psychology on the
influence of learning strategies on learning was conducted individually without any interaction
between the two fields in the 1970s. The research done in the area of second language
acquisition was largely descriptive and mostly inconclusive, while the research in cognitive
psychology on the effectiveness of training learners to acquire and use strategies was
experimental and co-relational. By the 1980s, the latter work made evident a number of
interesting conclusions about learning strategies. These were a system of classifying and defining
learning strategies; descriptive information on applying strategies for different students and
tasks; and the effectiveness of strategy training. Second language acquisition was also grappling
with these topics but the area of strategy training had not yet fully filtered into the research.
However, neither field had a clear theoretical understanding of why learning strategies were
effective in learning or what the links were between cognitive processes and strategies use.
To draw the parallels between these two fields, this historical discussion will begin with a
review of the work done by cognitive psychologists and then see how much of it is applicable to
the work done in the area of language learning.
RESEARCH IN LEARNING STRATEGIES IN THE 1970s
Studies in Cognitive Psychology
In cognitive psychology, studies of learning strategies with L1 learners have concentrated
on determining the effects of strategy training on different kinds of tasks and learners. One of the
earliest works to consider is that of Dansereau (1978) who helped to categorize learning
strategies into two - those that operate directly on materials (primary strategies) and those that
operate on the individual to help establish a suitable learning atmosphere (support strategies). To
assist the learners and make the training more effective, Dansereau devised a training system
based on findings from the educational and psychological research of that time, to assist learners
with alternative learning procedures and help them interact more effectively with academic and
Wesche (1975) studied the learning behaviors of successful adult language learners in the
Canadian civil service and discovered that there was more variety and quality of learning
behaviors by those who improved quickly. A very important finding here was the notion that a
learner can display a complexity of behaviors at any one time to undertake learning. Interestingly
enough, this has been seen again and again in many studies involving second language learners
(Sarig, 1987; Nambiar, 1996; Mah, 1999). Sarig (1987) worked with students whose L1 was
Hebrew and compared their strategy use when reading in Hebrew and when reading in English.
The study revealed that a fifth of all strategy use reported by the students were combinations of
cognitive strategies, metacognitive strategies, or both, cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
Nambiar (1996) and Mah (1999) also found that Malaysian undergraduates used strategies in
combination, especially from the cognitive and metacognitive strategy groups. This is an
important finding because it helps us understand why some learners are more successful at
completing a language task compared to others.
Weinstein (1978) studied the effects of a diversified elaboration skill-training program on
the learning and retention efficiency of ninth graders. This work provided evidence that a general
learning strategies program can be developed and implemented to provide learners with a set of
procedures to maximize acquisition, retention, and retrieval of material. Rigney (1978) went one
step further and showed how it is possible to increase the effectiveness of learning by showing
how learners can control the kinds of information processing they do while acquiring, retaining,
retrieving information and performance during learning. This, Rigney claimed, could be
accomplished by simply teaching learners effective processing strategies.
Research done in cognitive psychology has also shown that successful learners have
effective ways of processing information and that these „strategies? can be taught to other
learners. What is not clear from the literature on cognitive psychology research however is why
these strategies are effective in the learning process and what the link is between strategies and
Studies in Second Language Acquisition
In the area of second language acquisition research, learning strategies emerged from a
concern for identifying the characteristics of successful learners (Rubin, 1975; Stern, 1975). One
of the earlier works to consider is that of Rubin (1975) who set out to identify the strategies of
successful learners so that these could be made available to less successful learners. Among the
factors considered were psychological, communication, social and cognitive strategies. Rubin?s
work was viewed with great interest because it paralleled the development in cognitive literature
on the mental processes of the good learner. Both Rubin?s and Stern?s work produced lists of
learning strategies but these were for the most part intuitive lists.
Wong-Fillmore (1976) identified the social strategies used by successful language
learners, thereby drawing a relationship between strategies that contribute indirectly to learning
and learning strategies. Observing Mexican and American children, Wong-Fillmore found that
by using a few well-chosen formulas, these learners could converse with each other and thereby
learn new material. The work was beneficial in highlighting the effectiveness of training in using
Using Stern?s list of 10 strategies necessary for second language competence and
interviews with good language learners, Naiman, Frolich, Stern, and Todesco (1978) set out on
more empirical work. Naiman et al. (1978) uncovered five major strategies that good language
1. Active involvement in learning by identifying and determining the learning environment
2. Awareness of language as a system
3. Awareness of language as a means of communication and interaction
4. Acceptance of the affective demands of L2 and coping with it
5. Extension and revision of L2 system by inferencing and monitoring.
Though the lists of strategies suggested by Rubin (1975) and Naiman et al. (1978) are not
theoretically grounded, the studies were nonetheless useful as both identified strategies used by
good language learners. It is worth noting here that Naiman et al. were the first researchers to
empirically validate the effectiveness of strategies.
Bialystok (1978) distinguished between language use and language form better known as
functional practice strategies and formal practice strategies respectively in her model of second
language learning. Functional practicing and inferencing and formal practicing and monitoring
strategies were all seen as “optimal means of exploiting available information to improve
competence in a second language” (p. 71). In addition, Bialystok talked about explicit and
implicit linguistic knowledge and general knowledge because the type of strategy used was
dependent on the type of knowledge necessary for the task. This was one of the earliest
researches to include the cognitive component in understanding how learners process
Hosenfeld, Arnold and Kirchofer (1981) using „think-aloud? protocols reported on the
reading strategies of successful and unsuccessful second language learners and, more
specifically, on a metacognitive strategy in which good learners evaluate their thinking using
logic. Hosenfeld et.al (1981) were some of the first SLA researchers who attempted to train
learners in the use of efficient reading strategies.
Cohen and Aphek (1981) researched the strategies learners used while learning
vocabulary as well as the role of mnemonic associations in vocabulary retention. Using mostly
classroom observations, they deduced that students basically tried to memorize words resulting
in the identification of 11 categories of associations used. In addition, their work revealed
strategies that hindered learning; these were poor memory techniques, poor inductive inferencing
strategies, and poor deductive reasoning.
In sum, the research done in the area of learning strategies in second language acquisition
from the 1970s to the early 1980s contributed greatly to our understanding of how strategies
enhance and support language learning. Most of these studies have examined strategy use among
good language learners in formal learning settings. Furthermore, most of these studies were done
among adult language learners, with the exception of Wong-Fillmore?s (1976) study on Mexican
children. While studies among adult learners have been based mostly on self-report data, those
with the children have been on observations. Thus, it remains unclear whether the differences in
strategy use are a result of age or of methodology employed. Nonetheless, these studies on the
good language learner have been most useful in providing later researchers with keen insights
into the behaviors of successful language learners.
RESEARCH IN LEARNING STRATEGIES IN THE 1980s
Studies in Cognitive Psychology
Research in the 1980s concentrated on the effects of strategy training on different
learners and tasks especially with reading comprehension and problem solving (Brown,
Bransford, Ferrara, & Campione, 1983; Chipman, Segal, & Glaser, 1985). One important finding
was that learning strategies could be placed within an information-processing model. It was
around this time that O?Malley et al., (1985) worked on their tripartite model comprising
metacognitive, cognitive and social affective strategies in second language learning.
Among the earliest cognitive psychologists to consider the social nature to learning was
Slavin (1980) who found that students who were trained to use cooperative learning strategies
did better than those who were not provided with such training. Cooperative strategies have also
been used in a number of reading comprehension activities and the results have also been
positive in that they do enhance the learning (Dansereau, Larson, & Spurlin, 1983). This has
some resemblance to the affective component described in second language learning (Naiman,
1978; Rubin & Thompson 1982).
Brown and Palinscar (1982) recognized that “an ideal training package would consist of
both practice in the use of tasks-appropriate strategies, instruction concerning the significance of
those activities, and instruction concerning the monitoring and control of strategy use” (p. 7).
They attempted to separate cognitive strategies from the metacognitive strategies. Cognitive
strategies were more concerned with individual tasks and required the material to be manipulated
or transformed to enhance understanding. Metacognitive strategies were strategies concerned
with the planning for the learning, monitoring of understanding, and evaluation of one?s own
learning. Brown et al. (1983) went on to state that students needed both cognitive and
metacognitive strategies to maximize their learning potential.
Weinstein and Mayer (1986) believed that information processing could help us
understand the role of learning strategies in the learning process. They suggested a four stage
encoding process involving selection, acquisition, construction, and integration. The process of
selection and acquisition centers on the gathering of knowledge while construction and
integration focuses on what knowledge is acquired and how it is organized. The authors claim
that learning strategies are used intentionally by learners to facilitate their learning. This suggests
that learning strategies “affect learners? motivational or affective state, or the way in which
learner selects, acquires, organizes or integrates new knowledge” (p. 315).
Research done in cognitive psychology in the 1980s helped ground the work in the
information processing framework and this was an important contribution for language learning
in particular (see O?Malley et al., 1985). The distinction between the different groups of
strategies was also helpful in that it helped researchers to identify and classify strategies into
categories rather than simply a list, as was done in the 1970s.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition
This era of research in cognitive psychology threw light on the distinction between
cognitive, metacognitive, and social or affective strategies. In the field of second language
acquisition the same type of work was done with language learners. Wenden?s (1983, 1986)
work has advanced our understanding of the importance of metacognition in second language
learning, especially in terms of what learners know about the way they learn and how they plan
for learning. Concentrating on self-directed learning among adult foreign language learners and
using interviews the researcher concluded that there are eight questions learners could pose to
themselves to determine their learning processes. These questions centered around knowing
about learning, planning, monitoring, and self-evaluation, all of which match Brown and
Palinscar?s (1982) categorization of metacognitive strategies. This is clearly an insight into the
influence cognitive psychology had in learning strategies in language learning.
O?Malley et al. (1985) provided the first clear distinction between metacognitive and
cognitive strategies by working with beginning and intermediate level ESL learners to assess
their strategy use for oral language tasks. Using self-reports by students they distinguished
between cognitive, metacognitive, and social strategies and outlined the first taxonomy of
learning strategies. Many of the strategies reported in their study matched those identified in the
work done in first and second languages (Bialystok, 1981; Brown & Palinscar, 1982; Slavin
1980; Naiman et al., 1978; Rubin, 1981; Wittrock, 1983).
After considering the earlier work on strategy research, Oxford (1990) presented a system
of strategies that support each other and can be associated with each other. Oxford suggested that
strategies be grouped into two—direct and indirect strategies—not unlike Dansereau?s (1978)
primary and support strategies or Rubin?s (1981) direct and indirect strategies. Direct strategies
are made up of memory, cognitive, and compensation strategies while indirect strategies
comprise social, affective, and metacognitive strategies. These are further divided into nineteen
sets, each set being further subdivided into specific behaviors. There are about 62 behaviors in
this system to help explain how learners learn and this is wherein the problem lies. With so many
behaviors, it is difficult to decide which are most important to learning. In addition, there is a
tendency to find overlapping behaviors, which cannot be attributed to any particular theory of
This comprehensive classification system has provided the foundation for the Strategy
Inventory for Language Learning (SILL). This inventory has been employed in numerous studies
across the world to validate the effectiveness of learning strategies to language learning. It is
estimated that the SILL has been used in major studies around the world and involved 10,000
language learners (Kaylani, 1996). In addition, it has been translated into more than 20 languages
The work of Cohen (1998) who made a distinction between language learning and
language use strategies is also valuable here. Cohen described language-learning strategies as
strategies for identifying material to be learned, drawing differences between it and other
material, grouping it for easier learning, working on the material repeatedly, and committing the
material to memory when it cannot be acquired naturally. Language use strategies, on the other
hand, are made up of retrieval, rehearsal, cover, and communication strategies.
Retrieval strategies are strategies that are used to source material stored in the memory
(e.g., using mnemonics to help remember keywords). Rehearsal strategies are strategies for
rehearsing target language structures (e.g., practice how to use a form of the tenses so as to be
able to use it for an exam). Cover strategies are used by learners to give the impression that they
are in control of their learning when they are not. These are similar to compensation strategies in
that they compensate for gaps in the target language knowledge helping learners not to appear
unprepared or foolish. Communication strategies are used to convey messages to the learner
Much of the work done in the 1980s in learning strategy research was in helping to
identify good learning strategies and ultimately compile a list of such strategies. If we look
closely at the parallels between the work done in cognitive psychology and learning strategies,
we may postulate that some of the work done with learning strategies in the area of language
learning also has some theoretical base in cognitive theory. Despite the vast research conducted
on identifying strategies and compiling lists of characteristics of good language learners, there
remains a need to see if there were indeed any similarities or differences in these characteristics
when taken beyond the native speaking English world.
RESEARCH IN LEARNING STRATEGIES IN THE 1990s
This period in learning strategy research focused on the variables affecting the choice of
learning strategies among various group learners. Variables like proficiency, learning
environment, ethnicity, age, gender, learning styles, motivation, and beliefs were the more
researched topics in learning strategy work.
Proficiency and Learning Strategies
Much of the work with this variable has shown that there is a relationship between
learning strategies and proficiency and this could very well be a bi-directional relationship. It
appeared to be a question of whether the level of proficiency determined the learning strategy
use or whether the learning strategy use determined the level of proficiency.
Dreyer and Oxford (1996) found a very high correlation between language proficiency
and strategy use among Afrikaans. Proficient learners used the cognitive strategy of using mental
processes, the compensation strategy of compensating for missing knowledge, and the
metacognitive strategy of organizing and evaluating learning significantly more than less
proficient learners. The use of social strategies was more common among the less proficient
Park (1997) explored the relationship between strategy use and proficiency in a Korean
context and found a significant linear relationship between the two. Phillips (1991) argues that
intermediate learners used more strategies than advanced and low proficiency students indicating
a curvilinear relationship between these two variables. There was no clear indication of level of
proficiency to strategy categories although the study did report a correlation between level of
proficiency and individual strategies.
Sheorey (1999) examined learning strategy use among a group of Indian college students
learning English in their native land to explore if there were differences in the strategy use
among these students to variables like self-reported English proficiency, high school medium of
instruction (English or vernacular and gender). Sheorey surmised that learners with high
proficiency in English tended to use strategies more frequently. Bremner (1999) investigated the
strategy use of a group of undergraduates in Hong Kong and found significant levels of
association between cognitive strategies and proficiency among proficient learners. Less
proficient learners on the other hand tended to use more affective strategies.
Kayad (1999) investigated the correlation between proficiency level and learning
strategies use among university undergraduates in Malaysia and found that there existed a pattern
of strategy use, which suggested that second language proficiency level has an effect on the use
of strategies. In this study, proficient learners reported using cognitive strategies for listening,
reading and writing more than less proficient learners. Using strategies for active, naturalistic use
of English (watching TV or movies in English, reading for pleasure, writing in English) is
according to Green and Oxford (1995) strongly related to a high level of proficiency. The less
proficient learners, on the other hand, used more affective strategies and compensation strategies
and the metacognitive strategy of thinking about their progress in learning. These strategies are
useful in supporting learning but may not be directly involved in actual learning. This finding
parallels that in Nambiar (1996) and Sarjit Kaur and Salasiah (1998).
Nambiar (1996) investigated learning strategies use among beginning, intermediate, and
advanced learners in a Malaysian tertiary setting to explore the relationship between strategy use
and proficiency and discovered that although the three groups used similar strategies, their
manipulation of the strategies were different. The advanced learner was very confident in the
choice of strategy and did not use compensation strategies like „guessing? and social strategies
like „asking for help? to complete the language activity. Both the intermediate learners and the
beginners used the affective strategies when they had difficulty understanding the task. In this
case what they did was to try and mask their anxiety by laughing it off. The advanced learner
used the affective strategy only as a form of encouragement to take risks wisely and as a reward
when accurate in answers.
Sarjit Kaur and Salaisah (1998) examined learning strategies among Malay students at a
tertiary institute and found that these learners favor compensation and affective strategies to
other strategies. Just like the learners in Nambiar?s (1998) study and the Indonesian learners in
Davis and Abas (1991) and Nuril Huda (1998,) these Malay students tended to use compensation
and affective strategies because they were not proficient in the English language and preferred to
guess their answers. In addition, they tended to seek comfort in affective strategies, and this was
an indication of their anxiety in language learning. Kayad (1999) reports that the less proficient
learners used „less challenging strategies? or strategies that did not require much linguistic
knowledge to help them in their learning (p. 232).
Bruen (2001) worked with 100 Irish college students and, using the SILL and interviews,
found that learners with higher proficiency used more strategies and used them in a more
structured and purposeful way. Peacock and Ho (2003) used the SILL and semi-structured
interviews with 1,000 Chinese EFL students in Hong Kong and found that many cognitive and
metacognitive strategies were significantly and positively associated with proficiency. Similarly,
Lai (2005) investigated strategy use and proficiency among learners in Taiwan and found that
proficiency level has a significant effect on strategy choice and use. The more proficient learners
used more strategies especially metacognitive and cognitive strategies.
Gan, Humphreys, and Hamp-Lyons (2004) examined strategy use among successful and
unsuccessful EFL students in China and found that successful students use more strategies and
also more sophisticated strategies than unsuccessful students. Similarly, Lan and Oxford (2003)
also surveyed strategy use among Taiwanese 6th graders learning EFL and found that students
with high proficiency levels used strategies significantly more than medium proficiency students
who, in turn, used more strategies than less proficiency students.
It is interesting to note here that the level of proficiency does indeed influence the
strategy employed by the individual learner but it is not the only factor to consider. The review
above indicates that cognitive and metacognitive strategies are popular with proficient learners
who use them purposefully. These strategy groups are used by learners to retrieve information, to
create mental linkages, and analyze and reason while learning. They are equally necessary skills
to perform successfully in learning. Generally, however, it would appear that the less proficient
the learner is the more s/he would rely on strategies that would help raise his/her level of
confidence in the learning. Strategies would include affective, social and compensation strategies
(Dreyer & Oxford, 1996; Nambiar, 1996; Kayad, 1998; Bremner, 1999, Lai, 2005, Park, 2005).
It is important to reiterate here that the studies mentioned above have all found that proficiency
does influence the learning strategies a learner employs in learning.
Learning Environments and Learning Strategies
Most learning strategy research has been done with learners from mainstream school and
university settings and as such the findings are also applicable to these environments. There are
however different settings where the learning conditions are varied because of a host of
difficulties like classes being too large (LoCastro, 1994), input-poor environments, or even
insufficient and untrained teachers (Kouraogo, 1993). It has been hypothesized that learning
environment does influence the use of learning strategies although no definite conclusions have
been made on the extent of the influence (Oxford, 1990; Rubin, 1975; Nuril Huda, 1998).
LoCastro (1994) examined the strategies successful Japanese learners of English used to
learn language in a large class environment. Using group interviews and the SILL, the study
found that when the students were in junior and senior high school, they were mainly interested
in passing the examination and employed memorization strategies to do this. In addition, they all
looked to the teacher for motivation because of the large class size. Interestingly, this idea that
the teacher is an important motivator in the classroom has emerged even in this study and many
studies involving Asian students. In university settings, however, the learners were motivated to
learn English because they saw it as a language of international communication: their passport to
Kouraogo (1993) discusses language learning strategies in input-poor environments,
which he defines as “language learning contexts where learners have little opportunity to hear or
read the language outside or even inside the classroom” (p. 167). Citing the examples of learning
EFL in Burkina Faso and French in US high schools, Kouraogo posits a lack of motivation and a
real opportunity to practice the language as major problems that may be found in many parts of
the world and argues that conscious learning is a crucial factor in these contexts needing
Mah (1999) investigated the learning strategies used by students from two different
learning environments in Malaysia—one where the medium of instruction was Bahasa Melayu
and the other where the medium of instruction was Mandarin. Mah?s study found that the
cultural background of the learner does determine to some extent the use of learning strategies.
The study found that the students did use different strategies although the number of respondents
was too few for any conclusive findings. As expected, rote learning and memorizing were
popular with the learners from the Mandarin speaking school background. This is because rote
learning is heavily practiced in these schools where learners are required to memorize times
tables, vocabulary, and stock phrases for communication. This study suggests that the learner?s
learning environment, both formal and informal, both in school and out of school, does affect the
learning of the language and, even more importantly, what strategies are used and how they are
The environment in which the learner learns does influence how the learner learns a
language. As discussed above, learners desire to learn a language is related to the value attached
to learning that language in society (Mah, 1999), how motivated they are (Lo Castro, 1994), and
what opportunities to practice are readily available to them (Kouraogo, 1993).
Ethnicity and Learning Strategies
Ethnicity is a variable that can influence a language learner?s choice of strategies (Hess &
Azuma, 1991; Hofstede, 1986; Reid, 1995) and has figured in much research in learning
strategies. Work done with Hispanic learners, for example, was popular in the United States
because of the increasing numbers of Latinos who migrated to the country. The one striking
finding that stood out from the research done with the Hispanics is that the level of proficiency
does affect the learner?s choice of strategies. Green (1991) and Green and Oxford (1993) found
that learners with a high level of proficiency used strategies more often than students with low
Egyptian learners, it was found could be trained to use strategies (Aliweh, 1989) and they
preferred metacognitive and memory strategies to cognitive strategies (Touba, 1992). Work done
with Thai learners also revealed that strategies were associated with proficiency (Mullins, 1992).
Davis and Abas (1991) inform us that Indonesian learners prefer using all the learning strategies
except affective strategies while Nuril Huda (1998) posits on the importance of culture in
learning strategy use. Malaysian learners like Indonesian learners also tend to avoid affective
strategies because they do not feel comfortable expressing their feelings and as such are inhibited
in some ways.
Sheorey (1999) found that Indian learners concentrated on strategies they perceived
useful to help them succeed in examinations; culture and educational background was an
important determinant here. Conversely, Chinese learners favor compensation strategies to
affective strategies according to Bedell (1993). It was also found that academic major did
influence learning strategies with those from humanities and social sciences using more
strategies than those from the sciences (Chang, 1990). Among the Japanese learners, ethnicity
seems to be a factor in determining learning strategy use (Phillips, 1991) while metacognitive
strategies appear to be popular with Korean students (Oh, 1992). Park (2005) investigated the
profile of strategy use among Korean high school students and found they were moderate
strategy users who preferred to use compensation strategies and memory strategies.
Closer to home, it was found that the more proficient Singapore learners used many
strategies frequently compared to the less proficient learners. It was also established that many
compensation strategies were popular with both proficient and less proficient learners suggesting
that these strategies may be instrumental in learning (Wharton, 2000, Lu, 2007). Similarly, Yang
(1993) posits that compensation strategies were rated highly with Taiwanese undergraduates.
Lan (2005) also found that EFL learners in Taiwan reported using compensation strategies more
frequently than any other strategy type.
The discussion on ethnicity and learning strategies above shows that the work is still
uncoordinated and in a state of early infancy. A great deal remains to be done to help put into
motion a concerted effort to study how different ethnic groups vary, if they do at all, in their
strategy use. The review of studies presented here does not offer any conclusive findings, but it
does make clear that ethnicity is a consideration in learning strategy use.
Age and Learning Strategies
Learners of different ages approach language learning in different ways owing their
significance to psychological and social differences between them. Age is an important factor to
consider but it is often overlooked in strategy research. Most learning strategy studies have been
with adolescents, especially undergraduates as well as adults (Oxford, 1996). Most learning
strategy studies with children have made use of observational data while those with adults relied
on self-report data. With observations social strategies tend to be most prominent while studies
with adults emphasize cognitive and metacognitive strategies. What causes this difference is not
clear because it could be either the age of the respondents or the methodology used.
Gunning (1997) found that successful beginning level ESL learners actually displayed a
different pattern of strategy use from unsuccessful learners. Successful learners were also seen to
be better in selecting strategies that were more effective and appropriate than unsuccessful
learners. This is expected because if a learner chose effective strategies, the chances of success in
learning are enhanced and this is a common finding even in studies involving adult learners.
Purdue and Oliver (1999) worked with bilingual primary school-aged children to explore
the relationship between affective factors and learning strategies. It was found that this group
preferred to use cognitive strategies while social strategies were not very popular. DeKeyser
(2003) hypothesizes that children and adults use different mechanisms for learning. Griffiths
(2003) conducted a study in New Zealand using the SILL with 348 students from a wide age
range from 21 different countries and found a significant difference between frequency of
strategy use between advanced level and elementary level students.
Age does appear to have an influence on how learning strategies are used by learners but
the findings from the studies reviewed do not point to any clear indication of how age impacts
the use of strategies.
Gender and Learning Strategies
Men and women have distinct characteristics, which they bring into the classroom, and
this relationship between gender and learning has been the focus of many studies and, although