Manuel Jiménez Raya
Over the past decade, cognitive strategy instruction has emerged as an important issue in educational psychology and second language acquisition research and methodology. However, this does not mean that it has been incorporated into the language curriculum on a large scale. In my opinion, this is largely due to the fact that cognitive instruction is not easy to implement and, what is more, the results are only perceptible in the long run, because cognitive instruction consists of showing learners procedures that take some time to master. Nevertheless, they are essential because they reflect the processes used by people who are successful in learning a foreign language.
Popular beliefs about the innate nature of learning capabilities are also another factor contributing to this apparent reluctance to apply insights from cognitive psychology or cognitive (information-processing) accounts of second language acquisition and instruction. In fact, when language teachers are asked about the factors determining academic success, language learning strategies (if mentioned at all) receive considerably lower priority in comparison to other learning factors. This is due to a number of things, among which I would highlight a lack of information regarding what cognitive instruction, or learning how to learn, entails, and also a lack of information regarding methodological considerations about how to incorporate it into language learning instruction. The contribution of a cognitive perspective to foreign language instruction is its added focus on the thinking process, and the relationship between mental processes and performance, all of which help learners to become increasingly empowered. At this point, it is important to remember that learning depends entirely upon the mental activities of the learner. What the teacher does is relevant insofar as it affects the student’s mental actions.