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EFL College Students' Autonomous Learning at a CALL Self-Access Center with an Emphasis on Learning Styles
It is believed that self-access centers (SAC) serve as the best-known vehicle leading learners to autonomy by providing materials they can use on their own. Some studies investigated students’ perception, strategy use, and frequency of visit in relation to their autonomy development while few explored the potential influence of learners’ learning styles on their autonomous learning in SACs. The present study aims to suffice for the longitudinal observation of adult EFL learners’ autonomous learning in a CALL SAC and examine the extent to which learning styles correlate with their self-access learning, in terms of their program choices, frequency of visits, etc. Participants included 1,579 and 1,265 non-English-major freshmen from fall semester 2010 and spring semester 2011 respectively. They were required to fill in a ten-item online survey to assess the learning program they just used after each visit. At the end of each semester, they had to fill out a 23-item questionnaire to generally evaluate their learning in the SAC. Moreover, 440 students voluntarily took a 30-item learning style questionnaire at the end of spring semester 2011. Aside from quantitative data, qualitative data was also collected by interviewing 38 students and 32 students randomly selected by the SAC assistants from each semester. Findings showed that adult EFL learners held positive attitude towards acquiring English in the SAC, owing to its cozy environment, abundant resources, and feasibility of individualization. Participants also reported their improvements in listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary, critical thinking, evaluation skills, and western culture enhancement. Among them, betterment of listening comprehension was the most cited language gain and watching movies with subtitles appeared to be the principle mode for most learners to polish their listening in a rather relaxing and entertaining way. The most frequently-used and favorite learning program selected by those SAC visitors was accordingly the multimedia resources. Later, Pearson correlation and Kruskal-Wallis test were applied to probe into the relationships between autonomous learning and learning styles. On the whole, college students’ learning styles did not exercise significant influence on their autonomous learning in the SAC. No generally significant correlation between learners’ learning styles and their proficiency levels as well as frequency of visits was observed. In addition, students’ gender, fields of study, and program choices did not identify with specific learning styles, either. Based on the results, pedagogical implications and suggestions for the institution are presented.
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