Academic journal article
By Egel, Ilknur Pekkanli
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal , Vol. 37, No. 8
The importance of acquiring competence in foreign languages and especially that of the English language at an early age was recognized by the 55th Turkish Government. Under the leadership of this government the Turkish Ministry of National Education (MNE) redesigned some education curricula including that for primary state schools. This curriculum, implemented in 1997, recognized English as an academic subject starting at grade 4 and continuing through to grade 8 with two lessons per week scheduled for grades 4 and 5, and four lessons per week for grades 6 to 8. Subsequently, in 2007, the MNE increased the state school grades 4 and 5 English lessons to three lessons per week. The programs for the teaching of English as a foreign language in private schools differ from one another because these schools have the Ministry of National Education's permission to implement their own language teaching programs as long as these programs are accepted by the Board of Education, one of the two main advisory bodies of this ministry.
The launching of English as a foreign language (EFL) program in Turkish primary schools resulted in a mass shortage of qualified teachers for early language programs. In order to rectify this situation the MNE appealed both to retired language teachers to come back to the workforce and to those people in other professions who had formal qualifications in teaching of the English language. Teachers who had retired as secondary school teachers had no experience in teaching younger children and those who had worked in other professions often lacked professional teaching support and in-service training. In the present study the aim was to find out whether or not the MNE's measures to rectify this situation had an effect on the shaping of the learning styles of the children receiving tuition.
From existing language teaching research it is known that learning styles can change as the child develops (Barbe & Milone, 1981; Ramirez & Castenada, 1974, as cited in Reid, 1987, p. 100). Based on this argument, in the following study the aim was to define the varying learning styles of EFL students in two primary schools located in the province of Bursa in Turkey and to establish whether or not there was a change in the learning styles of these students in the period from primary school grades 4 to 8. Another issue examined in this study was whether or not the economic conditions of the schools had an influence on the students' preferences in language learning styles.
An important issue with regard to language learning styles is that EFL teachers have the knowledge and skills to identify both their own teaching styles and their students' learning styles. If the teacher does not have this knowledge then clashes are expected--in other words style wars as Oxford (1993) calls it, or mismatching as Smith and Renzulli (1984) call it--and as a result the students' learning potential and attitudes towards English and learning in general are affected. This issue was also partly addressed in this study in that an attempt was made to see whether or not there was a match between the teaching styles of the teachers and the learning styles of the students.
Over the last two decades researchers have adopted various definitions for learning styles. "These definitions range from concerns about preferred sensory modalities (e.g., visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) to descriptions of personality characteristics that have implications for behavior patterns in learning situations (e.g., the need for structure versus flexibility). Others have focused attention on cognitive information processing patterns" (Smith & Renzulli, 1984, p. 45). In the present study a more general definition proposed by Smith and Renzulli whereby learning styles are defined in terms of the range of instructional strategies through which students typically pursue the act of learning.
Since this study involves children, one may ask the question: "Can children identify their learning style? …