Research into reading strategies of native English speakers has concentrated on describing those strategies which are involved in understanding. A vast amount of research in first language reading and reading strategies has found that good readers are better at monitoring their comprehension than poor readers, that they are more aware of the strategies they use than are poor readers, and that they use strategies more flexibly and efficiently (Garner, 1987; Pressley, Beard El-Dinary, & Brown, 1992). For example, good readers distinguish between important information and details as they read and are able to use clues in the text to anticipate information and/or relate new information to information already stated. They are also able to notice inconsistencies in a text and employ strategies to make these inconsistencies understandable (Baker & Brown, 1984; Garner, 1980)
Since the late 1970's, many ESL researchers have also begun to recognize the importance of the strategies ESL students use while reading. Several empirical investigations have been conducted on reading strategies and their relationships to successful and unsuccessful second language reading (Hosenfeld, 1977; Knight, Pardon, & Waxman, 1985; Block, 1986; Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1995). Research in second language reading has also demonstrated that strategy use is different in more and less proficient readers, and that more proficient readers use different types of strategies, and they use them in different ways. In addition, strategy research has begun to focus on metacognition, knowledge about cognition. These studies have investigated metacognitive awareness of, or perceptions about, strategies and the relationships among awareness or perception of strategies, strategy use, and reading comprehension (Barnett, 1988; Carrell, 1989).
Moreover, in recent years, a great deal of research in L1 and L2 fields has been conducted on reading strategy training. Strategy training comes from the assumption that success in learning mainly depends on appropriate strategy use and that unsuccessful learners can improve their learning by being trained to use effective strategies (Dansereau, 1985; Weinstein & Underwood, 1985). Many studies have shown that reading strategies can be taught to students, and when taught, strategies help improve student performance on tests of comprehension and recall (Carrell, 1985; Brown & Palincsar, 1989; Carrell, Pharis, & Liberto, 1989; Pearson & Fielding, 1991). No research, however, has been done that relates to training reading strategies in an ongoing classroom reading program, particularly in an EFL reading classroom context.
The present study was motivated by the reading strategy training approach of Brown and Palincsar (1984). In their teaching approach, students were taught four concrete reading strategies: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. From the study, they found that the strategy training was effective in enhancing the reading ability of the students. Brown and Palincsar's (1984) study, however, was not conducted in an ESL/EFL setting. The subjects of their study were 7th grade native speakers of English, and the study was not carried out in a classroom setting: the teacher gave each subject individual training. In other words, like most reading strategies training studies, the study was not done in an ongoing regular reading class.
Therefore, the first objective of the present study was to investigate whether the training approach of Brown and Palincsar (1984) can be successfully adapted to an EFL university reading classroom situation. That is, it investigated whether the training method is effective in enhancing EFL tertiary students' reading comprehension ability. In addition, since this study was conducted in a university general English reading class where students' reading proficiency was mixed, the second objective of this study was to find out how students with different reading proficiency are influenced by the training method. Since the teaching method of Brown and Palincsar was tried with students whose reading ability is low, it was important to examine the effectiveness of the teaching method on students with intermediate and high levels of reading proficiency. Finally, among the three types of reading comprehension questions such as main idea, inference, and detailed questions, this study examined the types of questions which are affected by the training method.
The following specific research questions were addressed: "Does strategy training enhance EFL college students' reading proficiency?" If so, "How is the effectiveness of strategy training related to students' reading proficiency?" "Which types of reading comprehension questions are influenced most by the teaching method?"
The strategy training procedure used in this study was modified from the teaching approach of Brown and Palincsar (1984), which consisted of four concrete reading strategies such as summarizing (self-review), questioning, predicting, and clarifying. All of the reading lessons given in this study were conducted in Korean.
Prior to the training, the teacher and the class had general discussion about strategic learning and strategic reading. In the discussion, reading strategies and strategic reading were defined. The teacher explained and the class discussed why learning and practicing effective strategies is important. Through this discussion, the subjects were informed of the following points: first, strategies help to improve reading comprehension; second, strategies also help enhance efficiency in reading; third, students will be reading in the way that expert readers do; finally, strategies help students to process the text actively, to monitor their comprehension. The teacher used this type of discussion not just in initial class periods, but also on a recurring basis to make sure that students were aware of the importance and value of what they were doing.
In addition, the teacher clearly and explicitly explained the specific procedure of the training method and its benefit. Next, the teacher conducted pre-reading activities in order to activate students' background knowledge related to the topic and content of the reading passage. After that, the teacher asked the students to read silently the assigned section of the passage. In the beginning, the students were given enough time to read an assigned section of a passage; however, as time went by, they were gradually given less reading time.
When the students finished this task, the teacher modeled the following reading strategies: first, the teacher summarized the section of the passage; second, the teacher composed a couple of questions on the content of the section; third, the teacher predicted the content of the following sections; finally, the teacher critically evaluated the content for internal consistency and compatibility with prior knowledge and common sense, discussing the points that needed to be clarified. Although most lessons were focused on the four activities, the teacher sometimes modeled other strategies, which are also important in comprehending a text, when they were relevant to the passage: understanding rhetorical structures, guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words from context, skimming, etc. In modeling the strategies, the teacher read aloud the portion of the passage, and when she did so, she used the "think aloud" technique. The teacher always tried to provide concrete examples in order to show the students clearly which strategies are useful, how they are used, and why they are helpful.
From the very beginning, students were encouraged to participate at whatever level they could though the teacher expected that familiarity with this process would take time. In the initial phase of the training, therefore, students were relatively passive observers. However, when the teacher felt that the students were capable of performing the four activities, she encouraged the students to participate in the four activities more actively. Some students successfully summarized a portion of the passage with or without the teacher's help; some students predicted the general content of the following paragraphs. From time to time, the teacher divided the students into groups of three or four and had each student in the groups alternately lead the activities. When the class finished reading one text, the teacher sometimes gave a summary writing assignment to students. The teacher also encouraged students to use the strategies outside the classroom so that the training could be transferred to other reading tasks. The remaining eleven reading texts were taught following the same procedure.
The means and standard deviations of the pre-test and post-test reading comprehension scores for each proficiency group are presented in Table 1. The means and standard deviations of pre- and post-test total reading comprehension scores suggest strong main effects for both independent variables (proficiency level and time of task). Compared with the pre-test total reading comprehension scores (M = 23.14), students' total reading comprehension scores from the post-test administered after the reading strategy training were significantly improved (M = 26.75).
Table 2 shows the results of 3 (proficiency levels) x 2 (time of task) ANOVA for the dependent variable, total reading comprehension score. The two-way ANOVA score of F = 24.60, df = 1, for the independent variable (Time of task), significant at the p << 0.05 level, confirms the power of the reading strategy training variable. Thus, in answer to the first research question, the result suggests that reading strategy training does enhance EFL college students' reading ability.
Reading Comprehension Total Score
|Source of Variations||df||F||p|
|II. Time of Task||1||24.60||0.0001*|
|Level x Time||2||4.35||0.015*|
|1. Low (Pre. vs. Post)||0.001*|
|2. Inter. (Pre. vs. Post)||0.014*|
|3. High (Pre. vs. Post)||0.23|
In order to test whether the gain scores of each proficiency group is statistically significant, the simple effects test was conducted. The results of the simple effects test show that while there are statistically significant differences between the pre-test and post-test scores of the low proficiency group and the intermediate proficiency group respectively, there is no statistically significant difference between the pre-test and post-test scores of the high proficiency group (See Table 2). The results suggest that although the high proficiency group gained scores from the post-test, the improvement is not statistically meaningful: it indicates that the improvement can happen by chance. Therefore, in answer to the second research question, it appears that the low reading proficiency group benefits most from the reading strategy training, followed by the intermediate reading proficiency group. The results also indicate that although students in the high reading proficiency group benefited from the training, the benefit was the least of the three groups.
The last research question of the present study was the following: "Which types of reading comprehension questions (Main idea questions, Inference questions, Detailed questions) are affected by the reading strategy training?" In order to answer the research question, separate analyses of variance were performed on each of three dependent variables: scores for main idea questions, inference questions, and detailed questions. Table 3 presents the results of 3 x 2 ANOVA for the dependent variable, main idea questions. The main effect for the independent variable, Time of task, F = 32.7, p << 0.0001, indicates that there is statistically significant gain in scores for main idea questions. It suggests that students were able to answer the main idea questions more correctly in the post-test than in the pre-test.
Main Idea Questions
|Source of Variations||df||F||p|
|II. Time of Task||1||32.17||0.0001*|
|Level x Time||2||2.55||0.08|
|Source of Variations||df||F||p|
|II. Time of Task||1||21.23||0.0001*|
|Level x Time||2||1.92||0.15|
|Source of Variations||df||F||p|
|II. Time of Task||1||1.5||0.308|
|Level x Time||2||2.98||0.15|
In addition, many L1 and L2 reading researchers have demonstrated that strategy use and awareness of reading strategies are different in more and less proficient readers, and that more proficient readers use various types of strategies, and they use them in more efficient ways (Block, 1986, 1992; Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1995). In this study, less able readers benefited more from the strategy training than more able readers; students who were in the low and the intermediate proficiency groups exhibited more improvement than the students who already had good reading ability prior to the training. This finding suggested that the students in the low and the intermediate groups might not be aware of the types and the value of reading strategies prior to the training, or might not utilize those strategies actively even though they may be aware of them, whereas the students in the high group might already know and utilize them efficiently. This may explain the reason why the amount of the gain made by the two groups was relatively greater than that made by the most proficient group. From these findings, it can be claimed that strategy training may be most helpful for less able readers although it still helps more able readers in enhancing their reading ability. Therefore, ESL/EFL reading teachers should make an effort to incorporate reading strategy training into their reading instruction.
Another finding of the study was that while students gained scores in main idea questions and inference questions, they did not gain scores in detailed questions. In other words, the strategy intervention had an effect on the improvement of students' ability to understand main ideas and to make inferences from given passages; however, it had no effect on the improvement of their ability to extract detailed information from the texts. Thus, it appears that the training procedure utilized in this study helps students' general understanding of given texts and their ability to make logical inferences based on the content of the passage. However, it does not seem to influence their performance on locating specific information in the passage.
Given that one of the most important goals of teaching reading is to help our students develop as strategic and independent readers, several suggestions for EFL reading teachers can be made on the basis of the findings of the study. First, strategies should be taught through direct explanation, explicit teacher modeling, and extensive feedback. In addition, students should never be in doubt as to what the strategies are, where and when they can be used, and how they are used. More importantly, they should be informed of the value and usefulness of strategies in L2 reading. Second, EFL readers, particularly less capable EFL readers, should be given intensive and direct strategy training for a long period. As Gaskins (1994) claims, teaching of strategies without direct explanation and explicit teacher modeling for a short period would not have a long-term effect on students and effectively help them develop as strategic readers. In conclusion, the results of the study suggest that foreign language reading pedagogy, especially for adult students in academic settings, would benefit from the inclusion of explicit and direct strategy training.
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Mi-jeong Song received her master and doctoral degrees in TESOL at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is currently a full-time lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature at Seoul National University in Korea. Her major research areas are reading strategies and EFL college writing.