A Study on Turkish Engineering Students' Beliefs about Language learning/Turk Muhendislik Ogrencilerinin Dil Ogrenme Inanclari Uzerine Bir Calisma

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

As indicated rightly by Chastain (1988), students arrive at their language class bearing a number of preconceptions that affect their attitude and performance in the class. These preexisting conceptions have to do with the speakers' previous experience, with the actual language classes, with the teacher, with language learning ability and also with complex set of attitudes and expectations that language learners bring to the classroom. These opinions may facilitate learning or inhibit it In short; a central role is attributed to learner beliefs. For example, Richards and Lockhart (1994) put forward that learner belief can influence their willingness to participate, their expectations about language learning, their perceptions about what is easy or difficult about a language and finally their learning strategies.

Chastain (1988), on the other hand, asserts justifiably that teachers' beliefs need also be investigated since their ideas might not match with those of students'. For instance, if students conceive of a language class as consisting primarily of studying grammar and memorizing vocabulary, the teacher might be more likely to accomplish the course goals if objectives and classroom procedures are clearly explained and justified at the beginning of the course as done in many parts of the world even today. Additionally, Horwitz (1987) correctly points out that it is always possible to find instances of student dissatisfaction whenever instructional activities are inconsistent with students' preconceived ideas about language learning. In such a situation, learners will lose confidence in the instructional approach and their ultimate achievement will be limited.

Considering their influence on many aspects of learning, the beliefs of learners and teachers need to be investigated in depth before the classroom procedures, activities and tasks are chosen. Inspired by Horwitz (1985, 1987, 1988), many researchers such as Brown (1994), Ellis (1994) and Hutchinson (1987) have investigated the roles of teachers and learners in language learning and stated that learners, as well as teachers, have their own attitudes and beliefs which are likely to influence the way they set their roles and within these roles, beliefs and attitudes deeply influence the whole educational process. Thus, on the basis of these claims and findings, the main concern of this study hopes to expand previous understandings by analyzing of 70 freshmen students of the Electric-Electronics Engineering Department and of 28 instructors of English language at Dumlupinar University.

Aim of the Study

The aim of this study is to find out what beliefs about language learning Turkish students at Dumlupinar University (DPU), Engineering Faculty have and whether there are significant differences between their beliefs and those of their teachers'. Further, knowledge of student and teacher beliefs can play a facilitative role for learning through establishing pedagogic parameters.

The following research questions form the basis of this study:

1. What are the students' and their teachers' beliefs about language learning at Engineering Faculty in DPU?

2. Do the student' and teachers' beliefs match? If there is a significant difference between the students' and their teachers' beliefs about language learning, then research hypothesis which is in fact the null-hypothesis will be rejected. Otherwise, the null-hypothesis will be supported to the conclusion that students' and teachers' beliefs concerning language learning match.

II--Review of Literature

Stern (1983:339) regards learner characteristics as one of the determiners of the learning process and learning outcome. Several learner variables such as age, sex, cognitive variables, affective factors, and personality have been previously considered as irrelevant for the attainment of proficiency. However, at the present state of research findings, all these and more of learner characteristics and traits can be regarded as relevant to language learning. …