Field-dependent/independent cognitive style preferences of EFL learners in an implicit learning task from information processing perspective: A qualitative investigation

2019 IJRSLL – Volume 8 Issue 1


Hamed Mahvelati, Elaheh*
Abadan Faculty of Petroleum Engineering, Petroleum University of Technology, Iran (

Individuals’ field-dependent/independent cognitive style is regarded as one of the most important factors affecting second language learning. However, there is a paucity of attention towards its significant role in instructional planning. This study aimed to find out how learners with different field-dependent and field-independent cognitive tendencies approach the task of learning through an implicit planned focus-on-form teaching method from information processing perspective. More precisely, it was attempted to find out if individual field-dependent/independent cognitive style differences affect the three stages of information processing (viz attention, perception/encoding and memory) and consequently the learning outcome. Three qualitative methods, namely retrospective-reflective tasks, tests of intake and interviews, were utilized to achieve this aim. This is while the majority of the studies in the related literature have been quantitative to date. Thirty four Iranian EFL field-dependent and field-independent learners at intermediate level participated in this study. The results revealed that the particular characteristics of the field-independent learners led to their superior performance in the attentional processes in the sensory-memory stage, the storage of information in working memory, and consequently the recall and retrieval processes of short- and long-term memory. Such finding suggests that field-independent learners are better input processors and therefore more successful in the tasks demanding autonomous and active analysis of the input. Furthermore, the sub-findings emerging from the results accentuated the significant impact of learners’ field-dependent/independent cognitive style on the effectiveness of a teaching method in a learning setting. Some pedagogical implications are discussed.

Keywords: cognitive style of field-dependence; field-independent cognitive style; attentional processes; storage of information in working memory; recall and retrieval processes



*Corresponding Author