Developing the Language Learning Support Dimensions (LLSD) from research into second language acquisition and informed by the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI)

Pérez Cavana, Maria and Edwards, Chris (2014). Developing the Language Learning Support Dimensions (LLSD) from research into second language acquisition and informed by the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI). In: Krings, Hans P. and Kühn, B. eds. Fremdsprachliche Lernprozesse beobachten: - initiieren - steuern - begleiten. Bochum ( Germany): AKS-Verlag Bochum.


One of the abiding challenges for teachers is to improve ways of bringing learners into the subject and into study: enabling them to approach the particular modes of learning in ways that enhance their success. Both the literature and experience tell us that those studying a second language have some distinct and specific needs that are often not met. These have been described within a set of characteristics associated with the ‘Good Language Learner’ and have been identified and studied in numerous research studies in the field of second language acquisition over the last thirty years (Ehrman & Oxford, 1995; Dörnyei, 2005; Griffiths, 2008).

There are, of course, other ways of characterizing learners and their approaches to learning. One that has been developed and extensively trialed is the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI). Through a large evidence base this instrument has been demonstrated to be a robust indicator for assessing the relevant categories related to learning dispositions that can be developed to enhance capacity for learning. This inventory and its seven dimensions of learning power were developed and described in 2004 (Deakin Crick et al., 2004) and have been in constant use since.

When the seven dimensions of learning power within ELLI are considered alongside the characteristics of the Good Language Learner there appears to be common coverage. The focus of this paper is thus to explore the correspondence between these seven dimensions and the characteristics of the so-called ‘Good Language Learner’ (Rubin, 1975; Stern, 1975; Naiman et al, 1978). This paper considers the implications of the outcomes of this study particularly for empowering the new language learner.

This paper also describes an attempt to develop a tool grounded in research and useful to students beginning their learning journey in a second language. Whilst the theory of second language acquisition and learning develops becoming increasingly fine grained, the practical tools that students and their teachers have at their disposal to learn a second language are very thin on the ground. Through an exploration of two independently developed sets of concepts and ideas about learning this paper proposes a simple model that is intended to provide most effective support to second language learners, particularly at their early stages of taking up this challenge. The model does not intend to supersede or replace either of those it is based on. Rather, it intends to highlight the best areas to focus on for success through this initial stage of learning.

This paper is inspired by the original idea of the “Good Language Learner” studies that there are some characteristics, attitudes and strategy use of language learners that account for their success in language learning. It further integrates relevant findings and theory based constructs that Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research has produced over the last thirty years.

The proposed Language Learner Support Dimensions (LLSD) are framed in a learner-centered pedagogy and they aim at the development of relevant factors to increase the efficiency in language learning.
The Language Learner Support Dimensions (LLSD) are a facilitating instrument to:

1. Raise awareness of the factors that (positively or negatively) influence language learning

2. Enable individuals to reflect on their progress and development

3. Empower students to take control of their learning process
Language learning is a very complex process as clearly stated by H.D.Brown:
“Learning a second language is a long and complex undertaking. Your whole person is affected as you struggle to reach beyond the first language into a new language, a new culture, a new way of thinking, feeling and acting. Total commitment, total involvement, a total physical, intellectual, and emotional response, are necessary to successfully send and receive messages in a second language.” Brown, 2007, p.1.

While language learning materials – included the OU ones – deal with specific linguistic, cultural, and social aspects of a concrete language, other relevant aspects, such as emotion, motivation, dispositions, learner beliefs etc. are not taken enough into consideration. However the knowledge and awareness of these factors can make a difference in the experience and ability to learn a foreign language, in particular for new students.

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