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Individual Differences in Task Engagement
Drawing on a model of Self-Regulated Learning, this study describes individual differences in learning behavior with special reference to goal setting and strategy choice. Thirty-eight high school students worked on a listening task which the instructor intended as a practice in understanding the storyline of the passage. The learners listened to the recording twice, and they reported their choices of goals and strategies for each trial separately. This study posed a methodological difficulty because, unlike the common type of strategy research which looks into strategy use over a relatively long period of time by having learners reflect on their past learning, this study targeted the thought process happening in a particular learning setting. Since the use of a rating scale was not appropriate for measuring strategy use in a situation-specific manner, a check-list was used instead. Thus, the data was binary. In order to quantify the binary data, correspondence analysis was used. This method of analysis made it possible to classify the learners based on the differences in goal setting and strategy choice. The results revealed that, although the learners worked on the same task, their choices of goals and strategies were divergent. As for goals, for example, some learners intended to understand every detail, and some others tackled the task as a practice in sound perception. Strategy choice was also diverse. For example, some learners tried to catch all the words while others skipped the parts they were not able to catch. These results point to the idiosyncrasy of learner thought. Based on the results, implications for classroom instruction are discussed. Learner thought is invisible, and teachers might tend to think that their learners work on tasks the way the teacher intends them to. However, as the results of this study show, it is not the case.