Autonomy In Learning

"Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education."
-- Bertrand Russell (Mathematician/ Philosopher)

"Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire."
-- William B. Yeats (Poet)\

"A liberal education... frees a man from the prison-house of his class, race, time, place, background, family and even his nation."
-- Robert M. Hutchins (Educator)

"The aim of education is to enable individuals to continue their education. The object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth."
-- John Dewey (Philosopher/ Educator)


The purpose of this article is to provide the foreign language (FL) instructors with various effective methods on how to motivate their students, engage them in learning and create an enjoyable classroom environment in which every student can succeed and achieve higher proficiency. The paper is framed with the Self Determination Theory (SDT) and its implementation in the FL classroom (Deci& Ryan 2002). Recommendations will be provided to the FL teachers on how to support the students' three psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness (Connell& Wellborn 1991), in order to create enjoyable and relaxed classroom environment that can support the students' learning and promote the highest level of academic achievement in FL instruction.

The importance of teaching culture and using authentic materials in teaching Arabic as a foreign language (AFL) will be discussed thoroughly within this paper. The" Ten Commandments for motivating language learners" (Dornyei & Csizer, 1998, p. 215), and the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Fisher 1978) will be discussed. I will give a specific example of how implementing SDT motivated the students of class# 108 and helped them to succeed and achieve higher proficiency levels in AFL instruction at ME II at the Defense Language Institute (DLI).


The word motivation is derived from the Latin verb "movere" which suggests the idea of movement. Motivation is something that keeps us moving and helps us to complete tasks according to Pintrich and Schunk (2002). According to Ryan and Deci (2000), to be motivated means to be moved to do something. Motivation plays a crucial role in the students' learning. It can lead students to increase their effort and energy to learn and to improve their performance. It also leads students to be persistent and take initiatives. Many educators agree that motivating the foreign language (FL) learners is extremely necessary and essential in the learning process. Many studies found that there is a strong direct correlation between motivation and academic achievement. From my experience as a FL instructor, I've found that a great deal of the students' success in learning the language is due the motivational strategies adopted by the instructors not the teaching strategies. I believe that all FL instructors should take motivation in their consideration when they instruct and when they plan for instruction. Throughout this paper, I will discuss different methods to motivate FL learners and engage them in learning. The main focus of this article will be on teaching Arabic as a foreign language (AFL) as it is one of the most needed languages nowadays although it is one of the less commonly taught languages (LCTL) in the United States.

Significance of This Article

In January 2006, President Bush introduced the "National Security Language Initiative" aimed at increasing the number of American students learning foreign languages, particularly "critical need languages" such as Arabic (Taha, 2007). Molloy (2007) indicated that there is a huge shortage and deficiency of Arabic linguists within the US federal agencies. The federal government invests thousands of dollars in every student who is learning Arabic language within 63 weeks of instruction at the Defense Language Institute (DLI); in return to meet the big demand of proficient Arabic linguists who can protect U.S. from terrorism. The AFL program is equipped with the latest technologies in the world, such as a tablet PC and an I-pod provided to each student and each instructor in addition to providing each classroom with a smart board, as technology is considered an effective mean of motivating FL learners. The DLI adopts the most recent educational trends. The DLI are trained on the heist levels and encouraged to pursue their higher educational degrees.

In spite of all the efforts of the allocated to the AFL program, there are still a considerable number of the students who fail to complete the course and are placed to earlier units, drop out or are removed from the program. A considerable number of the students, who complete the program successfully, still can't achieve the DLI target of 2+, 2+, and 2, ILR proficiency levels, on Listening, Reading, and Speaking skills. The average attrition rate at AFL is considerably high compared to other FL programs. Many findings in the literature attributed the high attrition rate in FL programs, in general, to the lack of the students' motivation. Motivation has been reported to be an influential factor in the rates of attrition that are experienced within language departments (Joynt, 2008). Academic amotivation, the inverse of academic motivation, is a noteworthy and widespread problem that can contribute to adverse educational results such as dropping out (Frederick, 2009, p. 2). Creating a classroom environment that is enjoyable to students and supports their learning can be challenging for instructors (Jones, Llacer& Newbill, 2009). I think that writing a paper to address variety of ways to motivate the AFL students would give insights to AFL and other FL teachers on how to motivate their students and engage them in learning.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation was identified by many educators and psychologists as extrinsic motivation (EM) and intrinsic motivation (IM). EM occurs when students are compelled to learn because of external factors such as money or grades; Gardner (1985) named it as instrumental orientation in which language learners emphasize job or educational opportunity. IM occurs when students are internally motivated to learn because learning brings them pleasure or because they feel that learning is important for them; Gardner named it integrative orientation in which language learners emphasize either meeting or conversing with a more diverse group of people, or as a means of better understanding other people and their way of life.

In order to explain the difference between the EM and IM, the following examples will be provided on each of them in the field of language learning. The immigrants who flow and start to live in a new community such as the United States are intrinsically motivated to learn English as a second language (ESL) because they feel it is important for them and it will make them feel competence when communicating with members of the new community. They would like also to feel part of this new community. In this case, English is considered a second language, not foreign language, to immigrants. Some people in the US are intrinsically motivated to learn a FL because they are planning to travel for vacation or business trips to the country of their target language or because they are interested in learning more about the people of that language and their culture. The DLI students are extrinsically motivated to learn foreign languages for incentives, rank or career advancement, or because it is a part of their duty. Learners, in general, are extrinsically motivated to receive good grades in the monthly or final exams, or to avoid failure; especially if failure can cause them any harm such as being removed from the course. I would like to take the chance to explain very briefly, the difference between teaching a foreign language and teaching a second language. A good example of teaching a second language is teaching ESL to the immigrants in the US and a good example of teaching a foreign language would be teaching AFL to American students at the DLI. The difference between the two cases is that the second language students are more motivated to learn the target language because they have the privilege of using the language they learn at school in the real world outside of school. The FL learners don't have that opportunity of utilizing what they learn with native speakers outside of school in real life.

Extrinsic motivational factors are, in fact, not motivating because they cause anxiety which, in turn, can cause lower proficiency or failure. Al-Aeraini (2004) conducted a descriptive study on 266 students to examine the relationship between motivational factors and language proficiency of learners of Arabic in selected American universities across the USA. Al-Aeraini found that the IM factors are more motivating than the EM factors and there are relationships between language proficiency and both the IM and EM factors. Intrinsically motivated students participate in activities because they enjoy or become interested in these activities. They also seek out challenges and novelty in learning and expanding their knowledge (Ryan and Deci 2000). In contrast, extrinsically motivated students participate in activities to receive grades or because they are afraid of failure.

After pointing out the difference between EM and IM, the question merged on the surface was which of the two theories of motivation need to be implemented in the classroom to engage the students in learning and to help them achieve higher proficiency, IM or EM. Threatening the students of failure or low grades can't bring good results. In the contrary, it causes anxiety. Interesting activities have to be designed to engage students in learning. Teaching in a welcoming, not threatening, attitude that can create enjoyable and relaxed class environment can achieve the goal of motivation and, in turn, higher proficiency. The idea of creating a relaxed and enjoyable classroom environment led me to shed the light on the Self Determination Theory (SDT).

Motivating FL Learners Using SDT

Although there are many theories of motivating FL learners, researchers have found that autonomy is the most effective theory to motivate FL learners (Deci and Ryan 1985, 1991). It is Deci and Ryan's SDT that will serve as the theoretical umbrella for this article. Implementing SDT can motivate the students intrinsically by meeting the students' psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Jones, Llacer, Newbill, 2009). Implementing the SDT can create a relaxed classroom environment in which every student can improve and achieve a higher proficiency level in FL learning. Often linked to the phenomenon of motivation is the area of self-directed learning. In many cases the intrinsically self motivated language student is the one who seeks opportunities outside of the classroom to practice his or her skills (Joynt, 2008).

The teachers can support the students' autonomy by reducing the teachers' control, holding the students accountable and responsible for their own learning and giving the students the freedom of choice over the classroom activities and materials that meet the students' needs, preferences and learning styles in order to help all students with all different learning styles and preferences to succeed (Jones, 2009). Supporting the students' competence is achieved by providing the students with effective review before tests, with positive and effective feedback, and with interesting tasks that are appropriate to the students' level and that can meet the students' psychological needs for competence. Supporting the students' relatedness is carried out by creating an interactive, enjoyable and relaxed environment in FL classrooms (Jones, Llacer, Newbill, 2009).

The SDT was tested in many fields including education and proved to be the most effective theory of motivation. Unfortunately, some instructors don't accept this theory because they prefer to follow the traditional way of teaching with the instructor as the center of instruction and the only decision taker. In my opinion, if we've kept teaching the students on our way and they are still not learning, we can try to give them more freedom to learn the way they believe it works for them. Off course, this doesn't mean that we will stop teaching, instructing or give guidance. I will elaborate more about this point later in this article when I talk about my classroom. Supporting the students' autonomy will help these students to acquire, besides the language, the learning skills and strategies that will help them to succeed in the course and become self independent after completing the course. One of the responsibilities of the Students Learning Center (SLC) at the DLI is meeting with the students upon graduation to teach them how to become self independent learners and continue learning the target language. SLC equip the students with the necessary strategies and website that can support the students' learning autonomy. I recommend strongly bridging between the students learning center (SLC) and the classroom teachers. This will help the teachers to recognize the importance of supporting the students' autonomy throughout the course by helping the students to develop their learning skills that would help them to become lifelong learners of the target language. I've used the term "autonomy" as an equivalent for all the sides of the "SDT" as autonomy is the center of this theory.

Motivating FL Learners Using Authentic Materials and Culture

Culture plays an important role in language learning. The 2007 report from the Modern Language Association (MLA) recommended that the goal of FL education should be trans-lingual and trans-cultural competence. The report highlighted the importance of both the cultural knowledge and linguistic competence to understand people and their communities.

Hussein Ali (2006) believed that finding out the orientations (initial motivation) of the AFL learners is very helpful and valuable for teachers, material designers, and program coordinators. According to Hussein Ali, orientation is the reason for studying a FL and motivation is a combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goals of learning the language plus favorable attitudes towards learning the language. It is important to think of the orientations as a prerequisite for motivation. Activating the initial motivation prior to learning the language makes the students responsible for their own learning.

Hussein Ali conducted a quantitative research study to investigate the initial motivation (orientation) of the Arabic language learners. The research was conducted on 120 students who enrolled in first and second year of AFL. The students were divided into two groups according to their heritage background. One group included the students of Arab and Muslim heritage backgrounds and the second group included the students of all the other heritage backgrounds. The results indicated that the AFL learners have three different orientations: instrumental orientations, identification orientations and travel and culture orientations. The research found that there are significant differences between heritage and non-heritage learners on instrumental and identification orientation. These results gave suggestions for course offerings, classroom instructions, retention and maintaining the students' motivation throughout the course. It was suggested that teaching the students about the Arabic culture from the first day or before the first day of instruction would motivate the students to learn the language. In addition, many educators agree that culture is one of the tools to understand the language. My suggestion is teaching the students something about culture before they start learning the language.

Joynt (2008) conducted a qualitative study that aimed to present the students' beliefs about the role that culture plays in language learning and to understand the students' responses towards the use of authentic multi-media materials. The study presented a relation between authentic multi-media materials and motivation based on Ryan and Deci's SDT (2000). Based on the results of the study, the authentic multi-media materials have a great impact on the students' cultural knowledge and their overall language learning experience. The results of the study suggested the importance of using authentic materials in the early stages of instruction (Joynt, 2008).

Culture and authentic multi-media materials need to be incorporated in any AFL program. The deficiency in AFL textbook at the DLI, in my opinion, is that it doesn't introduce the students to anything about the Arabic culture before Unit four, 5 months at least, of the starting of the course. The role of the instructors is to incorporate authentic multi-media materials and Arabic culture from the first day of the program. A greater emphasis should be given to cultural knowledge in the beginning of the course (Joynt 2008).I recommend surrounding the students, since day one of the program, with pictures, real conversations, video clips from different Arabic famous cities and capitals. I believe that doing so would motivate the students to persist in studying Arabic.

Looking at different FL text books, I've found that most of them introduce culture and authentic materials from the first page. For example when I studied French as a second language at the high school, the first picture was Eiffel Tower and the first dialogue was between a tourist who is visiting France and a guide who is showing the places of interest in France.

One day, I had a discussion with my colleagues at ME2 about motivating the students using authentic multimedia materials and teaching about Arabic cultures. Some teachers said although there are no authentic materials or any mention about the Arabic culture through the first few units, they let their students listen to Al-Jazeera for 15 minutes in the morning starting from day one. Well, there is nothing wrong with that but this is not the perfect solution for a number of reasons. The first reason is that 15 minutes exposure to authentic materials per day is not enough time. Second. Al-Jazeera focuses on reporting and analyzing news which is considered the proficiency levels 2 and 3 according to the ILR, which is not appropriate to the students' level during semester one. Third, the news reports focuses on certain topics that might not be interesting to every student. The students, in fact, need to watch videos of the social patterns of daily living of the target language. These videos are what I mean by authentic materials because they motivate the students to learn the language and enrich their cultural knowledge. In my opinion, students should watch authentic movies, real life situations, advertisements, television shows and real conversations among native speakers. The multi-sensory input generated by examples of authentic, native speech combined with the visual imagery of gestures and facial expressions typical of real-life communication are engaging and motivating to learners which, in turn, facilitates students' comprehension of the language used (Ishihara & Chi, 2004). I believe that giving the students the opportunity to watch these kinds of authentic materials, not just the reporting facts, at least one class session every day, would motivate the students intrinsically and engage them in learning the language.

We have a great opportunity now at the DLI with one tablet PC for every student. This luxury will give the chance for each student to watch and listen to the topics of interest to each of them. In my classroom, I am keen to allow my students one of the afternoon sessions on daily basis for free study or research to expose the students to the authentic materials and Arabic culture. The students are provided with a list of websites and instructed to write reflections on what they watched during the free study hour. I would like to clarify something here. Free hour doesn't mean free of the teachers' guidance or help. It is free of the teachers' control over instruction and over the choices of the teaching materials. Off course, the students can do that by themselves at home but having this session at school, close to the help and guidance of native teachers will be more effective. The students will benefit from the teachers guidance, experience, knowledge of the culture and language. Reflecting on what the students watch and receiving feedback from the teachers will add more benefit to this free hour. This session will also meet the students' need for autonomy. Encouraging the students to be autonomous learners from the first day in the course will be beneficial for them in the future because they will learn how to be lifelong learners of Arabic language. The free session will also give each student the chance to work at his or her own pace and according to their own learning strategies if they have ones; and to develop new learning strategies and skills with the scaffolding of teachers. In addition, my students are encouraged to select over the materials and activities provided by the teachers. My suggestion is simply to provide the students with different activities, different role plays for instance, and ask them to do the one that matches their interest, preference or learning style. Psychologically, once the students choose the activity, material, or the task, they will be obligated to complete it, simply, because they've chosen to do so. This will promote accountability and the sense of autonomy in the students.

Before I shift to another point of my paper, I would like to summarize that increasing the FL students' knowledge about the target culture via authentic multi-media materials would motivate the students intrinsically. And, giving the students the freedom of choice over the classroom activities and teaching materials will motivate the students intrinsically by meeting the students' psychological needs for autonomy and will help them developing learning strategies and skills that will help to achieve higher proficiency rates and become self directed learners, and in turns, lifelong learners. All those plans mentioned above were used with class# 108 graduated in February 2009 with 100% success rate. What made me believe that those strategies could be successful is that the students of that class praised those strategies in the end of course questionnaire and indicated that they succeeded due to those strategies. This convinced me to adopt the SDT with my current team (809) that will graduate in June 2010.

Using Technology in FL Classroom

Using technology in the classroom is in accordance with SDT because it allows each student to work at his or her own pace and gives more freedom over choosing the material of interest. Using technology in teaching FL, in general, motivates the learners, engages them in learning and helps them to be autonomous learners who take the lead of their own learning. Klassen and Milton (1999) conducted a mixed method research study to evaluate the effectiveness of a multimedia-based English language program. The results of the research study indicated that the students who completed the course using the multimedia mode achieved significant improvement in listening skills compared to those who completed the course using the traditional classroom mode. The results of Klassen and Milton's research demonstrated positive attitudinal changes for the students who completed the course in a multimedia-enhanced mode of learning. I think that kind of attitudinal change is definitely needed in the AFL programs. Another result of using multimedia in teaching languages, according to Klassen and Milton, is that the classroom became more students' learning center and the role of the teacher became more facilitator than a center of the classroom instruction. The students became more responsible for their own learning and they were able to manage their own time. The students chose when and how often to take breaks.

The AFL programs are in a strong need for educational software and games to motivate the students to learn the language. One of the good software we have at the DLI is "Tell Me More". I encourage every Arabic instructor to instruct every student to use it, especially in semester one. Unfortunately, it is available only on the classroom computer not on the personal tablet computer so my students used to take turns to use the classroom computer to learn with this interesting and effective software. Shaalan (2005) described the development of similar and effective software that is used in learning AFL. The software is called Intelligent Computer Assisted Language Learning System for Arabic Learners (ICALL). The use of techniques, in learning Arabic language named Natural Language Processing (NLP), was explored in Shaalan's study. The techniques motivated the students intrinsically by encouraging them to produce language in various situations.

De-motivating Factors

After discussing some different motivating factors and effective ways to engage the AFL students in learning, I found it beneficial to discuss some de-motivational factors that hinder the students' learning and engagement and how to overcome these factors. AFL learners can be de-motivated for a number of reasons such as the students' low aptitude for learning languages, the US students' attitude towards Arabs and Arabic culture, the diglossia of Arabic language, and the listening anxiety and the lack of systematic approaches in teaching listening. You can add to these factors the teachers' control over the classroom instruction and activities, and the lack of competence the students feel due to the low grades they receive on their daily assignments and monthly exams. Some students don't feel competent due to the negative feedback they receive from their instructors or their peers. Others are de-motivated due to their lack of feeling of relatedness to the classroom because of the lack of the interactions among the students and the lack of the cooperative learning strategies. Cooperative learning strategies could cause the students to understand each other, learn from each other and explore each other's learning strategies.

Aptitude for Learning Languages

The students with low aptitude for learning languages can easily drop out if they are not motivated. It is the instructors' roles to motivate those students by helping them develop learning strategies and acquire learning skills. In addition to teaching the language, the students need to be taught how to learn the language. They can learn these skills from their teachers, their peers or they can get the chance to explore different learning strategies and discover by themselves which ones work best for them. You can simply pair one student with low aptitude with an excellent student. Give both students the same task or one activity. Ask the student who needs help to learn from the excellent one how he or she completed the task and what strategy or skill were used to complete it. This method will be more successful than just grouping the students based on their academic abilities. It will also promote the sense of relatedness and acceptance among the students and, in turn, will ensure a better classroom environment that allows every student to learn. Molloy (2007) attributed the shortage of Arabic linguists, especially speakers and listeners, to allowing students with low aptitude to be enrolled in the Arabic programs. In his article "The Ultimate Solution to the FL deficit in the United States", he showed how badly the government agencies need efficient linguists to listen to "the flagged conversations between suspected terrorists". The researcher stated that training individuals to a low level of proficiency is futile unless they continue to study the language and achieve a high level of proficiency. Molloy argued that the government agencies spend money to produce a large number of linguists to reduce the deficiency in the FL linguists. But, unfortunately, out of this large number of linguists, there are only a few proficient linguists. Molloy suggested that the teachers should provide the students with learning strategies that could enhance the students' listening and speaking proficiency. If the teachers don't know what strategies can serve the students best, students have to be directed to learn these strategies from their peers or explore strategies for themselves. From my experience as a FL instructor, I've noticed a radical proficiency improvement in all students, including the students with low aptitude to learn the language, due to adopting the SDT. However, the hypothesis that using the autonomy learning theory can reduce the attrition rate and help achieving a higher attrition rate in AFL is not tested or explored in the field of research yet. It will be a part of my academic research for my dissertation.

Attitude towards Arabic Language and Culture

Some of the AFL learners have negative attitude towards Arabs, Arabic language and Arabic culture, simply, because they lack the knowledge about the Arabic culture and language due to the stereotype or the negative images of Arabs and Arabic culture that persist in the media. The linguistic issues have to do with the complexity of the sociolinguistic nature of Arabic language such as "diglossia". Ryding (1994) discussed the issues that have impeded the development and progress of teaching AFL focusing on the attitudinal and linguistic issues. Ryding stated that negative affect and anxiety are central pedagogical issues for teaching AFL. Reducing the affective barriers is an essential task facing any Arabic teacher, and must be taken into consideration in methodology and materials. Affect and anxiety are increasingly recognized as critical issues in FL acquisition (Phillips 1992; Young 1991). The most important thing to accomplish in the AFL classroom is to reduce those negative affective barriers that hinder the students learning of the language. This helps the students to learn in a healthier and more positive environment.

Ryding suggested using teaching approach called "community language learning" (CLL) which offers one of the most effective classroom methodologies for FL learning and teaching. Ryding confirmed the importance of reducing or eliminating the anxiety and negative affect that hinders the students' learning of the Arabic language to ensures a healthy and positive learning atmosphere. To achieve that, teachers could adopt a CLL teaching approach; a methodology for FL teaching. Ryding sees that this methodology applies very well to Arabic because of the negative affect factors facing American learners who learn the Arabic language.

The good relationship between the teacher and the students are very essential in fostering this type of desirable community and reducing the negative affect and anxiety. FL teachers should consider themselves as models for the language and culture they teach. Teachers should learn about their students' culture also. Teachers should watch their own conduct and behavior in the classroom because certain behavior could reinforce the negative affect and stereotype. In addition, things that cause anxiety should be avoided. An example of a teacher's behavior that can cause anxiety is when the teacher solicits the right answer for his question from the rest of the students when a specific student fails to give the right answer. This causes the student who gave the wrong answer to feel inferior and not competent.

Another methodology was suggested by Ryding is the natural approach and the concept of comprehensible input which means that the students develop receptive skills before they produce language. Ryding suggested that the students should be exposed to the language but without requesting from them to produce language before allowing them the time to be familiar with the new language. This way, the anxiety will be eliminated when teachers don't ask the students to produce language in the first few weeks as they don't have input. Scheduling speaking sessions during the first few weeks of the AFL program or assigning writing a paragraph during the very first few weeks would cause anxiety and sense of failure. Teachers should also have some knowledge of the ILR levels so they don't teach materials that are way higher to the students' level. Materials should be appropriate to the students, level. Challenging materials should be input plus one (I+ 1) and not I+ 3. I also encourage teachers to teach from time to time materials that are only I or I-1 to review the old subjects and reinforce the sense of competence in the students in the same time. An example for that is allocating one or two hours weekly for lower levels in semester three. Another suggestion for teachers is to instruct in the teaching mode not the testing mode all the time. Quizzing the students on vocabulary they've learned a few minutes ago is not going to help the students. Further, I'd like to request cancelling the sound and script test and the speaking test of unit one. The idea behind that is reducing the anxiety in the beginning of the course, and teaching the students and helping them to learn the new language before testing them.

Ryding suggested making the first few lessons of the course based on geographical and governmental content. This will help the students to be exposed to the correct and authentic pronunciation of the Arabic cities, leaders. The AFL course should start with listening. The students hear texts read and reread and can assimilate correct forms of pronunciation. Curriculum is task and proficiency based, centered on communicative functions rather than on grammar and rules. Ryding stated that implementing the approach of the formal spoken Arabic would help engaging the students in the Arabic culture. Most of the Arabic learners are very curious to learn about the Arabic culture and life in the Arab world. Teachers and the Arabic program should take this advantage and introduce the Arabic culture as well as the language from day one of the course. It is time to introduce Americans to their friends in the Arab world.

Listening Anxiety

Listening anxiety has a negative impact on the students' learning and performance in the AFL classrooms. Tindall (2008) stated that although listening is vital to academic success, it is rarely taught. Tindall conducted an exploratory study investigating classroom listening. The results suggested the students' need for a systematic approach to classroom listening. The major outcome of Tindal's study helped the students to develop classroom listening strategies.

Elkhafaifi (2005) conducted a study to examine the effect of the general FL learning anxiety on students' achievement in AFL course and of listening anxiety on students' listening comprehension. Elkhafaifi conducted his study on 233 postsecondary students of AFL and collected the data from two measures of anxiety and a background questionnaire. The results indicated that both listening anxiety and FL learning anxiety, although separate, have negative impact on students' achievement. The results suggested the importance of the teachers' roles in reducing or eliminating the students listening anxiety in order to improve listening proficiency and overall performance and, in turn, to help the students to feel competent.

O'Bryan (2009) in her article "Using a mixed methods approach to explore strategies, metacognitive awareness and the effects of task design on listening development" focused on the listening skill as it is the most important skill; out of the four skills: reading listening, speaking and writing, in learning a FL. O'Bryan's article focused on the importance of the students' listening strategy use and awareness over the course. The development and use of language learning strategies is very necessary in helping the students gain the tools they need to become more self directed learners. Development of listening strategies in particular leads to increased strategy use, more efficient management of the listening process and learner autonomy (Thompson & Rubin, 1996). O'Bryan's research can provide teachers with pedagogical model for what they should do in the classroom and how they can design listening tasks to help students choose effective strategies to use while learning. If the students are not learning by the strategies offered by the teachers, teachers should help the students to become autonomous learners and find their own learning strategies that work best for them.

O'Bryan conducted a mixed methods study on four students, out of 12, enrolled in ESL listening course. The course in which these students were enrolled focused on classroom listening strategies to be used while listening to the academic lectures. For instance, one of the listening used strategies was "think- aloud" protocol that gives the students the chance to voice their thoughts through a language task. This strategy gave the students the opportunity to use the FL. An interview was conducted to elicit the learners' own evaluation of how their listening comprehension changed throughout the course due to using the learning strategies. The results provided further evidence of the improvement of listening comprehension of the students who were encouraged to use listening learning strategies. The students were able to develop self efficacy and awareness and self assessment which all helped the students to be responsible for their own learning.

Struggling at listening comprehension at the AFL program at the DLI is an obvious pattern. O'Bryan's article gave suggestions that could help improving and enhancing the students' listening skills. The suggestions can be implemented in the Arabic Department at the DLI. In addition to that, enhancing listening reflects on speaking.


Motivation is very necessary for increasing the students' proficiency in all foreign language instructional programs including Arabic. Intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic motivation. Studies in the field of education indicated that there is a relation between intrinsic motivation and the students' achievements. There are many ways to motivate the foreign language learners such as incorporating authentic multi-media materials and culture in the curriculum, using technology, using educational software.

Self determination theory was found effective in teaching foreign languages. Autonomy is the center of the SDT. Supporting the students' autonomy equals supporting the students' freedom of choice over the classroom activities, tasks, studying materials, learning strategies and all the practices that are involved with the learning process. Autonomy should be accompanied with the teachers guidance and scaffolding. Removing anxiety and affective barriers is important in teaching foreign languages.

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