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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Academic second-Language reading comprehension through interaction Grenier, Alain


Teachers and learners will agree that one of the basic skill requirements expected from all college students - whether they be first language (LI) or second language (L2) students- is the ability to read academic documents to deepen, supplement and build upon their knowledge of specific course contents. On the assumption that reading must lead to comprehension and that without comprehension there is no reading as such, in this instance, the main challenge for college-age students lies in achieving a reasonable degree of comprehension of academic texts. Thus, for all readers in an academic context, and for L2 readers in particular, there exists a need to develop 'reading for understanding' and 'reading to learn'. The corollary challenge for teachers lies in fostering comprehension in their students through instruction. Studies in L2 reading have shown that a primary goal of L2 reading instruction should be to help students develop as strategic readers. For the purpose of this study, strategic and interactive L2 reading instruction and practice were integrated into a series of regular content-based discussion tutorials at the university level. The participants - 41 in total - were all Japanese students taking part in an eight-month academic exchange in Canada, and were divided into treatment and comparison groups. In the comparison group, an approach to tutorials mostly based on discussions of course content was used. In the treatment group, course reading materials served as the basis for content discussion, and participants were led to develop strategic reading approaches as they processed text with the help of the instructor and of reading guides. The researcher was primarily interested in finding out if the use of interactive reading strategies in class could transfer into quantitative improvements in terms of receptive vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension. The Vocabulary Levels Test and the academic reading component of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) were used in pre- and post-test conditions to measure any change. Issues of interest in assigned course reading materials, of strategy knowledge and use, and of L2 reading perception on the part of the participants, were also examined and compared across the groups, using questionnaires and student interviews. Beyond the mere comparison of quantitative and qualitative data, the study provides the teaching community with an opportunity to reflect upon some of the major issues related to L2 reading in an academic context. Although the students in the treatment group reported an initial interest in L2 reading, a good comprehension of what proficient reading actually entails, a progress in both reading comprehension and vocabulary, the usefulness of interactive reading for the comprehension of course content, and more interest in course readings than their counterparts from the comparison group, results quantifying progress in receptive vocabulary and comprehension of academic texts suggest that the pedagogical treatment based on interactive reading had inconclusive effect. The results highlight the complexity of the reading situation in terms of its linguistic, pedagogical, and socio-cultural components, as well as the need to acknowledge the crucial role of readers' development over time.

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