A Study on Relationship between Gender, Learning Strategies and Achievement among Iranian EFL learners

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Achievement in foreign language learning depends on a great number of factors such as gender, learning strategies, learners’ attitudes towards the target language, anxiety, school type and the like to name a few. Hence, this study intended to investigate the strategies used by EFL learners with the purpose of finding the degree and the domain of differences of the strategies used by different genders and disclosing the extent to which strategy use and achievement are interrelated. To this end, a related questionnaire as well as an S-test, were distributed among 445 first grader – senior high school learners from 17 high schools in Mashhad. The findings of the study indicated a significant difference between male and female students regarding using the learning strategies in the first place. As it showed, the learning strategies of Memory, Cognitive and Metacognitive are more frequently used by the females while social and affective strategies are more in males’ favor. Secondly, it was proved that female students are more successful than male students in foreign language learning. Consequently, being aware of this differences between strategies based on different genders will help both teachers and students to achieve more success in learning a foreign language. Therefore, teachers, according to the research findings, are recommended to use for their pupils the learning strategies they will need for better achievement.

Keywords: Learning strategies, S-test, EFL learners.

1. Introduction

English is currently the dominant communication means in every area of life, including science, business, entertainment, TV, internet and diplomacy in the world. Nowadays, English is considered as the most widely studied language in universities as foreign and second language around the world. As English is an international language, it is intensively taught and even many people are still trying to learn it all around the world. Oxford (1990) divided the learning strategies into two main categories – direct and indirect learning strategies- each of which includes three subcategories. The direct strategies include: 1) Memory Strategy, 2) Cognitive Strategy and 3) Compensation Strategy. Indirect strategies are: 1) Metacognitive Strategy, 2) Affective Strategy and 3) Social Strategy. Six major groups of L2 learning strategies have been identified by Oxford (1990). These categories are as follow:
  • Memory strategies such as grouping, imagery, rhyming, moving physically and reviewing in a structured way
  • Cognitive strategies such as reasoning, analyzing, summarizing and practicing (including but not limited to “active use of the language)
  • Compensatory strategies (to make up for limited knowledge) such as guessing meanings from context and using synonyms and gestures to convey meaning
  • Metacognitive strategies: for evaluating one’s progress, planning for language tasks, consciously searching for practice opportunities, paying attention and monitoring errors
  • Affective strategies: for anxiety reduction, self-encouragement and self-reward
  • Social strategies such as asking questions, cooperating with native speakers, and becoming culturally aware (Green & Oxford, 1995, pp. 264-265).
The main goal of this study was to explore the learning strategies of the learners, among three different types of schools. In addition, in this study the three school types were compared in order to shed light on the fact that whether SAMPAD students are more successful in S-test and have more achievement in learning English? And the final goal of the current study is exploring the learning strategy which is the best predictor of achievement among students in State, Private and SAMPAD schools.

Research Questions

RQ1. Is there any significant relationship between gender and achievement in learning English?

RQ2. Is there any significant difference between gender and use of second language learning strategies?

Scholars (specially postmodernist) believe that gender is a completely different concept from sex and it is not a biological fact at all (OktayAslan, 2009). According to Butler (1990), the concept of gender is brought into being when it is the matter of performance. Gender is therefore not something you acquire once and for all at an early stage of life, but an ongoing accomplishment produced by your repeated actions (Cameron, 2004). Although the words gender and sex both have the sense ‘the state of being male or female’, they are typically used in slightly different ways; sex tends to refer to biological differences, while gender refers to cultural or social ones.(Oxford dictionaries, Language matters, 2014). In the current study, the term gender is used following this conceptualization of gender which is defined as culturally constructed male identity and female identity, not the biological differences between males and females.

According to some scholars, women use learning strategies more often than men (Aslan, 2009; Dreyer & Oxford, 1996; Green & Oxford, 1995; Lan& Oxford, 2003; Tyers, 2001; Oxford &Ehrman, 1995). Božinović & Sindik (2011), Have found that that women use memory, cognitive and social strategies more frequently than men. The same result was obtained by Aslan (2009) “ The findings revealed that in all the domains of the subscales, females were superior to male students in using language learning strategies, which indicated a different result according to the previous studies”.

The opposite results, e.g. Lee (2010) found that there is a significant difference in learning strategy use between male and female; that is, male tend to employ more strategies than female do. “Tran (1988) discovered that Vietnamese women use fewer language learning strategies than men. Tercanlıoğlu (2004) also found that male students used more language learning strategies”. This fact that females use learning strategies more frequently than males can be true considering the whole strategies. In other words, when it comes to subcategories of learning strategies, some strategies are used more frequently by males and some by females.

2. Methodology

2.1. Participants:

Sample of the study consisted of 445 first grade-senior high school students from 17 high schools, five State (3 all-girls and 2 all-boys), seven Private (4 all-girls and 3 all-boys) and five SAMPAD (3 all-girls and 2 all-boys) schools in Mashhad, Iran. Their ages ranged between 12 to 14 years old.

2.2. Instruments:

two research instruments were used: A) a scale for language learning strategy (SILL) survey and B) a test to measure the achievement in language learning (S-Test).

3. Results

3.1. Reliability of inventories and Normality of the data

The reliability of the language learning strategies subscales and also the schema test was assessed using Cronbach’s alpha. Chang (2002) reported Cronbach’s alpha of 0.96 for SILL. Tahmasebi (1999) also found Cronbach’s alpha of 0.77 for Persian version of SILL. In the current study an acceptable reliability was obtained reporting alpha value of 0.81 for Persian version of SILL.

3.2. Results of Data Analysis Regarding Research Question 1

“Is there any significant relationship between gender and achievement in learning English?”

In the current analysis, the Sig. value was .970, which was greater than .05. Therefore, variances were equal. It also provided the t value (t= 2.02) which is higher than 2 and the degrees of freedom (df=444). From the table above, it is also observed that significance was .043, which was lower than .05. Consequently, it can be concluded that the difference in S-test mean scored of males and females was significant; which indicated that females were more successful (M=55.02) than males (M=52.23) according to their S-test mean scores. To state differently females have a better performance in English language learning than males.

3.3. Results of the Data Analysis Regarding Research Question 2

“Is there any significant difference between gender and use of second language learning strategies?”

value of memory, cognitive, metacognitive, affective and social strategies are higher than 2 and sign value is lower than .05. So we can conclude that there is a significant difference between male and female students regarding using these strategies.

the mean of memory, cognitive and metacognitive strategies for female students is higher than male students while the mean of affective and social strategies for females are lower than that of males. To sum up, it can be seen that female students use memory, cognitive and metacognitive strategies more frequently than males, but male students use more affective and social strategies than females.

  • Aslan, O. (2009). The role of gender and language learning strategies in learning English, unpublished master thesis, Department of English Language Teaching.
  • Božinović, N. &Sindik, J. (2011). Gender differences in the use of learning strategies in adult foreign language learners. Metodičkiobzori journal, Vol.6, No, 1.
  • Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of the identity. New York: Routledge.
  • Chang, C. Y; Liu, S. C. and Lee, Y. N. (2007). A Study of Language Learning Strategies Used by College EFL Learners in Taiwan, Mingdoa University, Taiwan.
  • Dreyer, C. & Oxford, R. L. (1996). Learning strategies and other predictors of ESL proficiency among Afrikaans-speakers in South Africa. In Oxford, R. (Ed.),Language Learning Strategies around the World: Cross-cultural Perspectives (pp. 61-74). University of Hawaii Press.
  • Ehrman, M. E., & Oxford, R. L. (1989). Effects of sex differences, career choice, and psychological type on adult language learning strategies. The Modern Language Journal, 73, 1-13.
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  • Lee, J. J. (2010). Learning strategies associated with gender differences and strategy choices: A study of Taiwanese students in English medium program. Department of Applied English, College of Applied Languages, Ming Chuan University
  • Lee, C. K. (2010). An overview of language learning strategies, ARECLS, Vol.7, p. 132- 152.
  • Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. New York: Newbury House.
  • Oxford dictionaries, language matters.(2014). Oxford university press, New York.
  • Tyers, C. J. (2011). An Investigation into Language Learning Strategies Used by a Group of Japanese Learners of English. Kagoshima University, 289 – 301
  • Tahmasebi, A. (1999).Vocabulary Learning Strategies and Language Proficiency, Tehran: TarbiatModares University.

Journal source

Leyla Vakili Samiyan, Safir Danesh and Sama Foreign Language Institute Mashhad. A Study on Relationship between Gender, Learning Strategies and Achievement among Iranian EFL learners. Vol.12, 2015. Accessed on: http://www.iiste.org

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