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Determine the relationship between cultural background and use of language learning strategies.

Please address each point mentioned in the table below as following:
1. Do the required revision and changes in the attached thesis
2. Write in the table next to each point (in the blank space) the changes you have done: what did you do to address the mentioned point and the new page number in the thesis (to indicate that you have done the required revision)
Chapter 1:
Introduction P. 9: Objective 4 (referenced indirectly elsewhere as well) is to determine the relationship between cultural background and use of language learning strategies. I’m not sure how a study conducted in a single cultural context (Saudi Arabia) might be able to do this. … Now that have read the entire study, I understand that the focus here was not on any kind of cross-cultural comparison, but rather on making connections between Saudi culture and the LLSs of students in this context. I also recognize and appreciate the explicit reference to this issue/limitation in the Conclusion chapter (p. 263)—“it is not possible to control for the cultural background variable…”. Nevertheless, it might be worth pointing out early on that the focus here is not on making cross-cultural comparisons. Doing so will help avoid confusion and/or disappointment among future readers.

Chapter 2:
Literature
Review This chapter begins extremely broadly, at the very nature and notion of learning. The chapter then moves into a somewhat selective but nevertheless thorough and historical (but not always entirely up-to-date) account/overview of SLA theories. This approach strikes me as a bit odd, only in that the scope is so very broad. It’s not necessarily problematic to take such a broad perspective, but it is a bit unusual to me to do so, and at times this chapter reads like an intro to SLA textbook more than the literature review for a study. However, if there’s any place where one can take such liberties, I suppose it is a dissertation. (What a luxury!) The vast majority of the points in this chapter are perfectly agreeable and acceptable, if not standard. There are just a few issues that I wanted to bring up; they’re really just clarifications more than anything but I believe they are worthy of the time and attention needed to remedy them. (1) For example, on p. 27, the author states that “[SLA researchers] often assume that students perceive and interpret information equally.” She is attempting to argue in favor of the value of the cognitivist approach, which considers individual differences as well as universals. This struck me as an odd- if not simply incorrect—assertion. No particular mention is provided as to which theoretical approaches take this perspective, nor is a citation given. This is a small but important (and easily remedied) issue because I think it misrepresents different theoretical domains of SLA. At the very least, a citation and a specific mention of which theories take this approach should be provided. Ideally, though, I would suggest removing this statement and simply highlighting the prominence of the individual in cognitivist approaches.

(2) Another minor point I wanted to bring up appears near the top of p. 28, when the author claims that “With the past half century, … the majority of[EFL] teachers [have been] receiving training in contrastive analysis.” Again, I don’t know or believe that is true. (I actually hope it’s not!) And if the claim is going to be made, a citation is needed. I don’t know of any teacher training programs where CA is being taught currently.

(3) On p. 55, the author claims that “learning strategies represent the *best way to understand processes and outcomes…” (emphasis added). This appears to be largely a matter of opinion and is found, again, without citation. I would urge caution with such statements. In place of “best”, perhaps the author can use a more descriptive term such as “very useful”, “very informative”, or “very relevant”.

Lit Review, Section 2.3.1: This section discusses issues related to the many different definitions of strategies. I would suggest the author consult Tseng et al. (2006—in Applied Linguistics), which addresses this issue in particular. The discussion in this paper also introduces the related notion of self-regulation (from educational psychology, which is closely related to strategies but not often discussed in the context of SLA). I would suggest making reference to their paper and relating/distinguishing the notion of self-regulation to/from that of language learning strategies.

-starting on p. 66, regarding the relationship between proficiency and strategies use: The author reports that some studies have found a generally linear relationship between proficiency and strategies -that is, as proficiency increases, so does the use of strategies. On one level, this is intuitive in the sense that low-level participants may not have the cognitive resources to engage in strategies because all their focus is on their use of the target language. At the same time, we might also expect an inverse (negative) or perhaps curvilinear relationship here because high proficiency learners, if they really are of a high proficiency, should not need to employ many strategies. And in fact, other studies (e.g., Park, 1997, I believe) have found this kind of relationship between these two variables. I suggest the author recognize this possibility. Another, related distinction worth making is that of the types vs. amount of strategies being used at different proficiency levels, as mentioned in the Discussion chapter in the context of gender differences (e.g., p. 241). I expect that this issue will come up again in the analyses and results, so it would be best to raise it here in the lit review. This perspective may actually be useful in making sense of the results during the Discussion chapter, where the author notes that the
findings were “inconclusive”. This is also perhaps an area worthy of suggesting for future research.

-Chapter 2 (Lit review): the literature review is very thorough in terms of covering relevant previous research. However, there are several areas where the chapter begins to read like an annotated bibliography than a cohesive synthesis of previous research. I found this to be especially the case in Section 2.4.2.1 (relationship between proficiency and strategies use). I suggest revising in a fashion that integrates and truly synthesizes findings, trends, and patterns across studies. The same issue resurfaces in the two sections that follow (2.4.2.2- gender; 2.4.2.3—cultural background) as well. More synthesis and combining findings across studies is needed.

Chapter
3 Repeating the background information at the beginning of this thesis was unnecessary. The argument for using mixed methods was unnecessarily long. In fact, if an argument for using mixed methods and semi structured interviews was felt necessary (and this is debatable), this might have read better as a separate “methodological issues” chapter. The description (again) of LLS should be removed – unnecessary repetition.

Chapter 3: I very much appreciate the author’s thorough consideration of mixed methods research. Such depth is not necessary, in my view, for a dissertation, but it doesn’t hurt either and can be informative for the uninitiated reader. Anyway, for the sake of completeness. I’d suggest including two recent references in applied linguistics, both of which have provided comprehensive treatments on mixed methods research in the field: Mashemi &Mabaii(2013—in MLJ) and Riazi & Candlin (20I4- in Language Teaching).

Chapter 3: The author mentions reliability and validity “scores” for the proficiency tests (STEP), but it’s not clear to me whether these values are for a more general population or from the actual sample. The latter is very much preferred, because reliability is always sample- dependent and cannot be assumed to be equal to other administrations, Please clarify and revise accordingly. Update: I see that this issue resurfaces in the Results chapter (pp. 123-174). I would suggest reporting the results of the reliability analyses in the Method section in the same section where the instruments themselves are discussed.
Chapter 4:
Results
Chapter 5:
Discussion
The discussion chapter did not always pertain to a discussion of the current findings. In addition, there are a number of times when the discussion seems to be more like a further presentation of results (e.g., 5.2.2). However, the discussion of the quantitative findings were acceptable and these should provide a model for any future publications. Further, the term “proper use” is problematic and must be changed throughout the thesis, similar the use of the word “proven” is a concern – it must be tempered. Overall, claims need to be made more tentative, such as through the use of mitigation, and this should be applied through the findings and discussion.
– p. 212, Discussion: The author here claims that the fact that metacognitive strategies were found to be the most frequently used implies that “metacognitive strategies are essential to the process of SLA”. It may be the case that metacognitive strategies ace essential to L2 learning, but these data do not and cannot show this. It could also be the case, for example, that metacognitive strategies impair L2 development, despite the fact that they are the ones used most by these learners. Please be careful of such interpretations and revise accordingly.

Discussion: As a general comment/suggestion in relation to interpreting the results, I would suggest that the author aim whenever possible to consider the participants’ self-reported use of strategy types in relative rather than objective, terms. For example, it can be misleading (and arbitrary) to claim that a score of, say, 3.5, is moderate (or low, or high). It would be more prudent and perhaps more useful and informative to describe these data in comparison to other strategy types, rather than in absolute terms.

pp. 237-238 and p. 268: It is useful and interesting to know which strategies are used and to what extent, by different EFL learners in Saudi Arabia. In Order for these findings to have strong implications for strategy instruction, however, we also need evidence that the strategies not currently being employed very highly would actually benefit their learning. This seems to be an assumption underlying the study and, in particular, its implications for pedagogy. I would suggest a bit more caution here in connecting the dots between (a) a lack of use of certain strategies and (b) the need to teach them. This issue is hinted at on p. 68, in the lit Review, when the author discusses strategies that were and weren’t found to be beneficial for L2 learning. Additional consideration is also merited in the Discussion.


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