An Exploratory Study of Learning Behaviors and Their Relationship to Gains in Linguistic and Communicative Competence


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191 Scopus citations


A questionnaire relating to presumed good learning behaviors was administered to 37 students enrolled in an eight‐week intensive course in English as a second language in preparation for graduate study in the United States. The answers to the self‐report questionnaire were classified according to the students' cultural background (Asian versus Hispanic) and field of specialization (professional engineering/science versus social science/humanities) and related to gains on four English language proficiency measures: linguistic competence; auditory comprehension; overall oral proficiency; and communicative competence, conceptualized here primarily as the ability to convey information. Analyses indicated that while the Asian subjects engaged in fewer of the assumed “good” learning behaviors than the Hispanics, they tended to make greater gains in linguistic competence and communicative competence. On the other hand, the Hispanic students made more progress in overall oral proficiency and in auditory comprehension. Examination of the relationships between specific behaviors and second language learning gains revealed an interesting split: Some behaviors were associated with conscious learning, while others were related to acquisition and gains in general communicative competence. Results indicate that caution in prescribing good learning behaviors is warranted. Considerable further research is needed to explain which behaviors are helpful for learners at various levels and to relate these behaviors to current second language learning theories. 1985 TESOL International Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-123
Number of pages21
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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