A correlational study of metacognitive strategy training and students' learner autonomy in ODL institutions in China

Wei Xu
Zhejiang Radio & TV University

Hangzhou, China

Currently, open and distance education institutions have very large enrolments, with varied personal characteristics, which results in teachers having a heavy burden of individualized teaching. How to transfer appropriate learning strategies into distance autonomous learning and improve the learning outcomes is a 'hot' issue which has drawn extensive attention. There are many studies on learner autonomy and metacognitive strategies, but few of them are empirical studies with distance education students as the research subjects. This research therefore aims to find out whether metacognitive strategy training can improve learner autonomy, metacognitive strategy use and language achievement in distance education. The research questions were as follows:

1 Does metacognitive strategy training help to improve distance learners' autonomy?
2 Is there a positive correlation between metacognitive strategy training and distance learners' metacognitive strategy proficiency?
3 What is the correlation between metacognitive strategy training and distance learners' language proficiency?

The research, which involved both qualitative and quantitative methods, was carried out in the September to December 2013 semester. The quantitative study included questionnaires on learner autonomy and metacognitive strategy, and the CET-3 test papers that had been used in June 2010 and June 2012; and the qualtative investigation employed interviews. The respondents in this empirical research were 62 students of non-English majors from two classes of a distance education university. The computing class of 31 students served as the experimental group (EG) and received metacognitive strategy training; while the 31 students studying finance were treated as the control group (CG) and received routine distance English teaching. All the students in both the EG and CG groups received a a pre-test and a post-test to evaluate their differences; and four respondents from each groups were chosen for interviews before and after training to provide their feedback. According to the data and responses collected, the author was able to analyse and compare the significant differences between the EG and CG groups before and after the training.

The major findings were:

1 Metacognitive strategy training was effective in promoting learner autonomy.
2 There was a positive correlation between metacognitive strategy training and distance learners' metacognitive strategy proficiency, which can enhance learners' use of a metacognitive strategy.
3 Metacognitive strategy training was very helpful in improving learners' language proficiency.

An additional finding, which deserves pedagogical attention, was that a low-achieving subgroup made greater advances in their strategy and language proficiency than a high-achieving subgroup.