Islamic Azad University
At Central Tehran
Faculty of Foreign Languages
A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE (TEFL)
The Relationship among EFL Learners’ Use of Language Learning Strategies, Reading Strategies, and Reading Comprehension
Dr. ABDOLLAH BARADARAN
Dr. MANIA NOSRATINIA
MAEDEH SALEHI ALAMDARI
The process I went through my MA course and composing this thesis helped me achieve many things. Thanks God for supporting me all the time. I feel also obliged to express my gratitude to a number of individuals whose contribution in assorted ways deserves special mention.
In the first place I would like to record my appreciation to Dr. Abdollah Baradaran for his supervision, advice, and guidance. I have been blessed to have such a brilliant mentor to help me navigate the thesis process.
My heartfelt thanks go to my reader, Dr. Mania Nosratinia, whose insightful remarks and inspiration were unequaled over the years of my course. I am indebted to her more than she knows.
I would also like to express my sincere and deepest gratitude to Dr. Hajar Khan Mohammad who took the burden as the referee for this study.
Words fail me to express my appreciation to my family, whose boundless love and continuous support and encouragement have always paved the way toward my dreams. My heart goes to my beloved simply perfect parents and this thesis is dedicated to them.
The purpose of the present study was to explore the relationship among EFL learners’ use of learning strategies, reading strategies, and reading comprehension. To fulfill this objective, 150 female EFL learners, between 25 and 42 years old, who were selected randomly from amongst those who were attending in upper-intermediate level of Safir language school were asked to take part in a piloted PET reading comprehension test and two questionnaires on Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL), and Survey of Reading Strategies (SORS). After discarding incomplete answer sheets, the acceptable cases were used in statistical analysis.
At first the PET was piloted and it was declared that it was reliable. Then the results from the main administration were analyzed to exclude the descriptive data; it showed that there was no skewness in the results. The next step was to test the hypotheses; in this regards, Pearson’s product moment correlation was applied and the outcome showed that the three hypotheses were rejected.
After analyzing the results it was concluded that the use of reading strategies has positive effect (r=0.93) on learners’ learning. Also it was shown that using learning strategies has a positive effect (r=0.61) on learners’ reading comprehension; construing that the reading strategies and language learning strategies have positive and high correlation with learners’ comprehension.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTSiv
LIST OF TABLESvii
LIST OF FIGURESviii
CHAPTER I: BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE1
1.2 Statement of the Problem5
1.3 Statement of the Research Questions6
1.4 Statement of the Research Hypotheses7
1.5 Definition of Key Terms7
1.5.1 Learning Strategies7
1.5.2 Reading Comprehension8
1.5.3 Reading Strategies8
1.6 Significance of the Study 9
1.7 Limitations and Delimitations11
CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE13
2.1 Introduction 14
2.2 Language Learning Strategies14
2.2.1 Categories of Language Learning Strategies15
2.2.2 Language Learning and Strategy use17
2.3.1 Types of Reading22
2.3.2 Components of Reading23
2.4 Reading Comprehension25
2.4.1 Theories of Reading Comprehension26
2.4.2 Definitions of Reading Comprehension27
2.4.3 Categories of Reading Comprehension28
2.5 Reading Strategies29
2.5.1 Definitions of Reading Strategies31
2.5.2 Categories of Reading Strategies32
2.5.3 Reading Strategies and Reading Comprehension33
CHAPTER III: METHOD36
3.3.1 The Language Learning Questionnaire38
3.3.2 The Reading Strategies Questionnaire40
3.3.3 Reading Comprehension Test41
3.6 Statistical Analysis42
CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS OF DATA43
4.2 Descriptive Statistics of the Pilot Study44
4.3 Descriptive Statistics of the Main Administration46
4.3.1 Descriptive Statistics of the Language Learning Questionnaire46
18.104.22.168 Memory Strategies48
22.214.171.124 Cognitive Strategies504.3.1.3 Compensation Strategies51
126.96.36.199 Meta-cognitive Strategies53
188.8.131.52 Affective Strategies54
184.108.40.206 Social Strategies56
220.127.116.11 Comparing the SILL’s Categories57
4.3.2 Descriptive Statistics of the Reading Strategies Questionnaire59
4.3.3 Descriptive Statistics of the Reading Comprehension Test60
4.4 Testing the Hypotheses61
4.4.1 Testing the First Hypothesis624.4.2 Testing the Second Hypothesis62
4.4.3 Testing the Third Hypothesis63
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS65
5.2 Procedure and Summary of the Findings66
5.4 Pedagogical Implications69
5.4.1 Implications for EFL Teachers70
5.4.2 Implications for EFL Learners71
5.4.3 Implications for Syllabus designers72
5.5 Suggestions for Further Research72
Appendix A: Learning Strategies Questionnaire82
Appendix B: Reading Strategies Questionnaire84
Appendix C: Reading Comprehension Test86
List of Tables
Table 4.1: Descriptive Statistics of the PET Reading Comprehension Test Piloting 45
Table 4.2: Reliability of the PET Reading Comprehension Test Piloting45
Table 4.3: Descriptive Statistics of the SILL Questionnaire Administration47
Table 4.4: Descriptive Statistics of the Memory Strategies49
Table 4.5: Descriptive Statistics of the Cognitive Strategies50
Table 4.6: Descriptive Statistics of the Compensation Strategies52
Table 4.7: Descriptive Statistics of the Meta-cognitive Strategies53
Table 4.8: Descriptive Statistics of the Affective Strategies55
Table 4.9: Descriptive Statistics of the Social Strategies56
Table 4.10: Descriptive Statistics of the SILL Categories Means58
Table 4.11: Descriptive Statistics of the SORS Questionnaire Administration59
Table 4.12: Descriptive Statistics of the PET Reading Comprehension
Table 4.13: Correlation between Reading Strategies and Reading
Table 4.14: Correlation between Language Learning Strategies and
Table 4.15: Correlation between Language Learning Strategies and
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 4.1: Score Distribution of the SILL Questionnaire48
Figure 4.2: Score Distribution of Memory Strategies50
Figure 4.3: Score Distribution of Cognitive Strategies51
Figure 4.4: Score Distribution of Compensation Strategies53
Figure 4.5: Score Distribution of Meta-cognitive Strategies54
Figure 4.6: Score Distribution of Affective Strategies56
Figure 4.7: Score Distribution of Social Strategies57
Figure 4.8: Score Distribution of Compensation Strategies58
Figure 4.9: Score Distribution of the SORS Questionnaire60
Figure 4.10: Score Distribution of the PET Questionnaire61
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
Reading is one of the most essential skills for every day interactions; practically, every portion of life comprises reading. Reading includes the activation of relevant knowledge and related language skills to exchange the information from one person to another. In this regard, one has to focus one’s attention on the reading materials and integrate previously obtained knowledge and skills to grasp the things someone else has written (Chastain, 1988).
Reading is similar to listening in that they are both receptive skills, during which readers decode the message of the writer and try to rebuild it (Rashtchi & Keyvanfar, 2010). Indeed, reading can be identified as a negotiation between the reader and the text or between the reader and the author. Throughout such an active participation, the reader tries to either personally decipher the text or recognize the author’s original intention.
It is worth mentioning that in fact, reading does not occur unaccompanied; rather, it always occurs within a social context for a particular motive. People might read a text, such as a manual, to get information on how to do something or how to use something. Besides, they might study textbooks and course books to learn something; Furthermore, they sometimes read the texts such as emails or messages in order to socialize with their friends. People also read the texts related to their daily life, such as reading a map to find the shortest itinerary to a particular destination. Constantly one reads for pleasure; some examples of reading for pleasure include reading a novel or browsing the internet. Finally, under some circumstances, reading might happen for a blend of intentions.
It is always recommended that the readers use reading to increase their general awareness of language as well as their world knowledge; for, reading is a skill that can be accomplished privately on one’s own velocity. Reading skill is far more momentous for EFL learners. It is crucial to a student’s success in school, and further, to becoming a lifelong learner.
Reading is also a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). Reading is a necessary tool for language acquisition, communication, and sharing information and ideas. It includes a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is affected by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitudes, and language community in cultural and social situations.
Effective reading is not a process that every individual can achieve (Nunan, 1999). Rather, it is difficult to learn, especially for those who want to read texts in a second or foreign language. When learning a foreign language, reading is an essential skill to acquire in order to increase knowledge and exchange information (Chien, 2000; Dlugosz, 2000; Salinger, 2003; Huang, 2005). However, most English instructors still concentrate on correcting the learners’ grammatical mistakes or increasing their vocabulary. To improve learners’ reading abilities, the instructors must wisely consider effective strategies and supportive tools. In contrary, the instructors seldom teach learners how to effectively use learning strategies to improve their reading comprehension; consequently, learners cannot master the language skills effectively (Berkowitz 1986; Carnine and Carnine 2004; Chi, 1997; Griffiths, 2008; Rivard and Yore 1992; Tsao, 2004).
Strategies are defined as specific actions, behaviors, steps, or techniques that students (often deliberately) use to improve their progress in developing L2 skills. These strategies can facilitate the internalization, storage, retrieval, or use of the new language. They are also tools for the self-directed involvement, which is necessary to develop language skills (Oxford, 1990).
Learner strategies, as one of the most important categories of strategies, are specific attacks that learners make on different problems when receiving input or producing output. One type of strategies used by language learners is learning strategies.
Park (1995) defines learning strategies as “the mental activities that people use when they study to help themselves acquire, organize, or remember incoming knowledge more efficiently” (p. 35).
Also, it is generally accepted that among the strategies, reading strategies are one of the most beneficial ones that any reader can use for ensuring success in reading (Afflerbach, Pearson, and Paris, 2008). They are of interest for what they reveal about the way readers manage their interactions with written text, and how these strategies are related to reading comprehension (Carrell, Pharis, &Liberto, 1989). Emphasizing on the key role of reading strategies, Afflerbach, Pearson, and Paris (2008) characterize them as “deliberate, goal directed attempts to control and modify the reader’s efforts to decode text, understand word, and construct meanings out of text” (p. 15). These strategies range from simple fix-up strategies such as simply rereading difficult segments and guessing the meaning of an unknown word from context, to more comprehensive strategies such as summarizing and relating what is being read to the reader’s background knowledge (Janzen, 1996).
Taking the role of all mentioned strategies into consideration, each of these could be just as a piece of the puzzle. The correlation between reading comprehension as a target and any of these strategies on the one hand and the relationships between each pair of them on the other hand can provide us a more holistic yet precise approach toward reading.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Learning has different ways, and in the arena of learning there are strong learners and weak learners. It has been proved that good learners use more strategies more often and they monitor their process more; otherwise, it has been proved that weak learners do not use strategies or rarely use them (Hamdan, Ghafar, Johari Sihes, & Binti Atan, 2010).
According to Shang (2011):
“good EFL/ESL readers know how to use a variety of appropriate strategies to reach their learning goals in both retrospective and productive tasks, while less effective readers not only use strategies less frequently, but often do not choose the appropriate strategies for the tasks” (p. 20)
Many researches show poor reading may be a problem for EFL students, but it is not a hopeless one (Rubin, 1975 and Stern, 1975 cited in Griffiths, 2004; Fewel, 2010; Cohen, 1998). Like other skills, EFL students’ ability to read English rapidly and accurately depends upon careful instruction and purposeful practice, none the less, understanding what is written is a complex task for the learners, not knowing how to extract the meaning out of the words.
According to Sweet and Snow (2002), there are multiple springs of variance in the reading comprehension process and outcomes which is intensely affected by difference in reader capabilities. Among these variables, reading strategies are of great importance. However, Brantmeier (2002) stated “because of the wide variety of participants, tasks, and reading materials employed in studies that examine L2 reading strategies, it is difficult to compare results across studies” (p. 2). Furthermore, several readers still do not know how to use strategies to assist their understanding of a text (Lau & Chan, 2003).
In line with the discussion presented so far, this study seeks to investigate the relationship among EFL learners’ Use of Learning Strategies, Reading Strategies and Reading Comprehension.
1.3 Statement of the Research Questions
To fulfill the objective of the present study, the following research questions are proposed:
Q1. Is there any significant relationship between EFL learners’ reading strategies and reading comprehension?
Q2. Is there any significant relationship between EFL learners’ use of language learning strategies and reading comprehension?
Q3. Is there any significant relationship between EFL learners’ reading strategies and use of language learning strategies?
1.4 Statement of the Research Hypotheses
Based on the above-mentioned questions, the following null hypotheses were stated:
H01. There is no significant relationship between EFL learners’ reading strategies and reading comprehension.
H02. There is no significant relationship between EFL learners’ use of language learning strategies and reading comprehension.
H03. There is no significant relationship between EFL learners’ reading strategies and use of language learning strategies.
1.5 Definition of key Terms
1.5.1 Learning Strategies
According to Oxford (1989) Learning strategies are defined as “Steps or operations used by learners to learn more effectively, that is, to facilitate acquisition, storage, retrieval and use of information” (p.251).
In this study, Learning Strategies are operationally defined as the scores candidates obtained on the Persian version of Oxford’s “Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL)” questionnaire. It is a Likert-Scale questionnaire (ranged from always=4, usually=3, sometimes=2, and never=1) with 50 questions. The range of acceptable scores is from 1.5 to 3.8 the time needed to answer the questionnaire was 40 minutes.
1.5.2 Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is a “process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language” (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002, P. 11). Reading comprehension is operationally defined in the study as the participants’ obtained score of a test excerpted from reading comprehension parts of PET Practice Tests developed by Quintana (2003). The test consists of six reading comprehension passages followed by four or five multiple-choice reading comprehension questions on each, lasting 30 minutes to answer. Regarding 30 questions in total, and one point for each correct answer, the maximum achievement score could be 30.
1.5.3 Reading Strategies
Reading strategies are defined as the behavior that a reader engages in at the time of reading and that is related to some goals. In other words, “They are ways of accessing text meaning which are employed flexibly and selectively in the course of reading” (Carter & Nunan, 2001, p. 225). In the present study, reading strategies are operationally defined as the participants’ yielded scores on the Persian version of 30-item questionnaire of the Survey of Reading Strategies (SORS), developed by Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002) in a Likert-scale, where the candidates’ responses to the questionnaire were scored by counting 1 for “never” to 5 for “always”. The allocated time to this questionnaire was 30 minutes.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Corresponding to plenty of studies, the researcher’s main focus is on three variables, namely reading comprehension, reading strategies and learning strategies. Novelty and importance of the topic were the main impetus of the researcher to delve into this arena to see if there is any relationship between these variables in Iranian EFL learner’s context.
Although many studies have focused on reading comprehension strategies and revealed how significant these strategies are in developing reading comprehension, it seems that in Iran’s EFL context this issue has not received enough attention. A few studies have been conducted concentrating on the importance of language learning strategies among EFL language learners but the significance of reading strategies and the purpose of reading have not been the issue. (Zare, 2013)
Reading strategies assist the reader not to pay much attention to details but to get the overall message which is in fact the main purpose of the reading comprehension; in addition, many research findings have already demonstrated that strategy use will lead into improved language proficiency generally or in a specific skill area. Therefore, it is of great importance for language educators to pay attention to their students and train them to employ strategies as frequently as possible. (Zare, 2013)
All those who have experienced Iran EFL context will presumably assert that reading strategies instruction is a neglected point in English teaching and learning. (Zare & Davoudi Mobarake, 2011)
Since the pioneering work carried out in the mid-seventies (for instance by Rubin, 1975; Stern, 1975) there has been an awareness that language learning strategies have the potential to be “an extremely powerful learning tool” (O’Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Kupper, and Russo, 1985, p.43). In spite of this awareness, and in spite of much useful and interesting work having been carried out in the intervening years (nearly a quarter of a century), the language learning strategy field continues to be characterized by “confusion” and “no consensus” (O’Malley et al, 1985, p.22) while Ellis (1994) comments that the language learning strategy concept remains “fuzzy” (p.529).
Raising students’ awareness regarding the learning strategies might make them not only more prepared for learning but also more logical about the learning strategies they use. Reid (1995) states that developing an understanding of learning environments “will enable students to take control of their learning and to maximize their potential for learning” (p.25). In this regard, it is expected that the findings of the current study bring this major issue into a better and clearer stage and help language learners and instructors improve teaching and learning process and achieve their goals.
The results of the present study are significant since through understanding the scenario of students’ strategy use, teachers can help students distinguish effective strategies from ineffective ones. Furthermore, Iranian instructors can apply these findings to develop more effective instructional methods for students in order to assist them cope with difficulty in reading English authentic expository texts and achieve higher levels of reading comprehension of those texts. Findings of this study may also be useful for the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, textbook developers, policy makers, syllabus designers, curriculum planners, and test constructors.
The researcher hopes that the outcomes of this research might be advantageous to understand the processes involved in reading. It might also suggest strategies for EFL teachers who are in search of the best methods to heal their teaching procedure, techniques, and resources in order to help their students develop habits of effective reading.
1.7 Limitations and Delimitations
Like any other research project, this study suffers from some limitations and delimitations which may pose inevitable restrictions on the interpretation and generalization of its outcomes.
1. Because of the rules and regulations of the Safir language school female teachers can only teach female classes. Therefore only female students were selected as participants in the study.
2. The researcher did not administer the questionnaires and the PET test in different sessions due to practicality problem and the high probability of losing some of the participants due to their absence in different sessions. Hence, doing the test and questionnaires consecutively might have influenced the participants’ responses to the questionnaires and PET test.
3. Since the participants under this study were all female adults with the age range of 25-42 and regarding the fact that different age groups have different motivations, attitudes, backgrounds, and personality features, findings of this study may not apply to younger or older learners.
1. The researcher narrowed down the focus of this study to students at Safir language school.
2. The participants of this study were deliberately selected from among upper-intermediate students at Safir language school, on the assumption that they have developed a variety of reading strategies and are aware of the type and the frequency of their use, as one of the main purposes of the study. There is no chance, however to bring senior students into the study as there was no possibility for the researcher to use their class time for the purpose of the study.
REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE
In order to meet the essential requirements of this research, the review of literature will be allocated to the study of the following three general topics: “Language Learning Strategies”, “Reading Strategies”, and “Reading Comprehension”.
2.2 Language Learning Strategies
Although there has been a great deal of research on language learning strategies defining those strategies is not clear-cut. While there is not great agreement between scholars’ definition, as stated in Griffiths (2004) “Skehan (1989, p.285) entitles strategies as “explosion of activity”, Wenden and Rubin (1987, p.7) state “the elusive nature of the term”, Ellis (1994, p.529) mentions it as “fuzzy”; and O’Malley , Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Kupper, & Russo (1985) believe that “there is considerable confusion about definitions of specific strategies and about the hierarchic relationship among strategies””.
Cohen (1998) claims language learning strategies are those processes which are consciously selected by learners and which may result in action taken to enhance the learning or use of a second or foreign language, through the storage, retention, recall, and application of information about that language. Generally, language learning strategies are beneficial because they make students autonomous, that is, students can be responsible for their own learning (Nation, 2001, p.222).
As mentioned in National Reading Panel’s report (2000) there are three fundamental themes within the arena of reading:
“First, reading is a complex cognitive process in which vocabulary development and instruction play a key role. Second, comprehension is an active thoughtful process often involving prior knowledge, and third, teachers need to better equip students with strategies that are linked to reading success” (Lawrence, 2007, p. 55).
Some scholars believe the choice of various learning strategies in learners is interrelated with their “cultural background, educational experiences, language learning goals, motivation, attitude, age, and gender variability” (Fewel, 2010, p. 160).
2.2.1 Categories of Language Learning Strategies
Considerable effort has gone into classifying the strategies that learners use. Two of the most commonly cited classifications are O’Malley and Chamot’s (1990) and Oxford’s (1990). The former is based on a three-way distinction between cognitive, metacognitive, and socio-affective learning strategies, whereas the latter is hierarchical, with a general distinction made between direct and indirect strategies, each of which is then broken down into a number of subcategories. Moreover, Oxford (1990) has developed versions of the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) to measure learners’ self-reported strategy use in both second and foreign language settings. Oxford classified strategies into two major categories: direct and indirect strategies.
“The indirect strategies are those strategies limited to a supportive role without being directly related to the interaction of the language itself involving actions or processes which learners regulate, manage, and self-direct in learning. Strategies categorized within this group include metacognitive, affective, and social” (Fewel, 2010, p. 161).
• Metacognitive strategies are techniques used for organizing, planning, focusing, and evaluating one’s own learning (e.g., linking new information with an already-known one, seeking practice opportunities, and self-monitoring).
• Affective strategies are used for handling feelings, attitudes and motivation (e.g., lowering anxiety by the use of music, encouraging oneself, and discussing feelings with others).
• Social strategies are used for facilitating interaction by asking questions and cooperating with others in the learning process (e.g., asking for clarification, cooperating with others, and developing cultural understanding).
However, there are strategies that directly implicate learning the target language containing memory, cognitive, and compensation (Fewel, 2010). “Direct strategies directly involve the target language learners in the sense that they acquire mental processing of the language” (Oxford, 1990, p. 37).Oxford classified direct learning strategies into three main groups. Each of these groups approach language differently with various functions:
1. Memory strategies are used for entering new information into memory storage and for retrieving it when needed for communication (e.g., grouping, representing sounds in memory, structured reviewing and using physical responses).
2. Cognitive strategies are used for linking new information with existing schemata and for analyzing and classifying it. Cognitive strategies are responsible for deep processing, forming and revising internal mental models, and receiving and producing messages in the target language (e.g., repeating, getting the idea quickly, analyzing, and taking notes).
3. Compensation strategies include such strategies as guessing and using gestures. Such strategies are needed to fill any gaps in the knowledge of the language (e.g., switching to the mother tongue, using other clues, getting help, and using synonyms).
2.2.2 Language Learning and Strategy Use
Within the area of foreign language research, a number of studies indicate that learning strategies play a significant role in successful language learning. Politzer and McGroarty (1985) claimed that language strategies are associated with language acquisition. They may improve learners’ learning of the forms and functions, which are required for comprehension and production. Moreover, learners utilize strategies to aid the acquisition, storage, and retrieval of information.
Anderson (1991) realized after strategy lessons in different contexts, adult second language learners conducting various abilities used similar strategies. In his report Anderson claimed teaching a comprehensive range of strategies, concluding that successful readers knew which strategies to use in given contexts and how to use them successfully with other strategies (cited in Lawrence, 2007, p. 57).
In the 1970s, researchers first noticed the significance of individual variations in language learning. Different researchers have studied factors related to choice of language learning strategies (e.g., Ehrman, 1990; Oxford &Nyikos, 1989). These factors include the degree of metacognitive awareness, gender, level of language learning, the language being learned, affective variables (e.g., attitudes, motivation, and language learning goals),personality type, learning style, career choice, aptitude, number of years of language study, and language teaching methods. Some researchers tend to distinguish successful learners from less successful learners based on the metacognitive strategies (Oxford, 1993). Yang (1999) found that Taiwanese university students’ self-efficacy beliefs were strongly related to the reported use of learning strategies, especially functional practice strategies. Cohen (1990) referred to learning strategies directed at the language skill of vocabulary learning, although this is clearly an aspect of linguistic knowledge. There are also a number of other problems. For instance, there is uncertainty about the precise nature of the behaviors as learning strategies due to different researchers (Seliger, 1984; Stern, 1983).Still arguments continue as how to define learning strategies. Macaro(2006), for example, defined learning strategies as cognitive and rejected the view that they can also be considered in terms of overt behavior.
The MBTI is one of the most popular and most well- researched personality tests used today. Around the world, 2-3 million people take the test every year. Therefore, it has been translated into at least 16 languages, and it has its own on-line academic journal devoted exclusively to it. Currently, the most promising application of MBTI research is in education. Some researchers have investigated the effects of personality types measured by the MBTI on strategy use. Ehrman and Oxford (1989), for example, conducted a survey exploring the relationships between personality types and strategy use on the SILL. Extroverts were found to use two categories of strategies (affective and visualization) more frequently than introverts. Introverts, on the contrary, made a greater use of strategies for searching /communicating meaning than did the extroverts. They also indicated that (a) intuitive people used four strategy categories (affective, formal model building, authentic languageuse, and searching for /communicating meaning) more frequently than sensing people, and (b)feeling-type people, compared with thinkers showed a greater use of general study strategies. Wakamoto (2000), in a study conducted on 254 Japanese college students, also found that extraversion on the MBTI was significantly correlated with functional practice strategies and social-affective strategies, while, introversion was not correlated with any preferred use of SILL strategies..
Since individual differences have been identified as variables influencing language learning outcome (Skehan, 1989; Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991); and as it was shown by the study of Marttinen (2008), the high percent of source of learners’ knowledge comes from teacher; Horwitz (1988) encourages teachers to discover the prescriptive belief of their own students.
Furthermore, in order to provide successful instruction, teachers need to learn to identify their students’ individual difference, and even they need to become more aware of how their teaching styles are appropriate to their learners’ strategies (Oxford & Cohen, 1992).
Recently some studies tend to concentrate more on individual differences in strategy performance (Toyoda, 1998; Oxford, 1992, 1993). In such related studies, it was shown for strategy instruction to be affected; it should take all the variables into account (Oxford &Crookball, 1989).
Since 1990s, there has been growing interest on how personality correlates to the academic performance. Personality has been conceptualized at different levels of breadth (McAdams, 1992), and each of these levels include our understanding of individual understanding.
Moreover, individuals are characterized by a unique pattern of traits, and some study shows successful language learners choose strategies suit to their personalities (Oxford &Nyikos, 1989). Several possible aspects of personality have been proposed over the years. However, those of extroversion/introversion and risk-taking are most frequently examined by research in second language acquisition (SLA). Skehan (1989) considers three crucial factors of language learning. They are:
• Risk-taking ability
He also argues that the latter two dimensions of personality have an affective influence on language learning, and claims that risk-taking together with extroversion-introversion can be associated with language learning. In the following sections, we will first define and then take a look at the different studies conducted to examine the relationship between the two factors and SLA.
As Al-Issa (2006) states “reading is a multi-leveled and interactive process in which readers construct a meaningful representation of text using their schemata” (p.41). While it has been known for some time that both content and formal schemata are necessary for a complete understanding of written texts in a reader’s first language (L1), and has been suspected to be true in a reader’s second language (L2) (Al-Issa, 2006). Many studies have investigated the effect of various reading methods and techniques on reading comprehension (Abdel-Rehim, 1995; ElNagar, 1994; Kitao, 1994; Fowler, 1993; Blue, 1992; Culver, 1991 and Wang & Qi, 1991).Some others aimed at improving comprehension and reading rate (Trent &Truan, 1997; Haberlandt, 1989 and Jacobson 1988). There are different types of reading comprehension distinguished according to the reader’s purpose in reading: literal comprehension, inferential comprehension, critical comprehension and appreciative comprehension. (Richard, Platt and weber, 1985, p.238)
Few studies have been conducted to show the importance of prior knowledge of the world on ESL/EFL learners’ reading comprehension. All of these studies emphasized the fact that the ability to understand a text is based not only on the reader’s linguistic knowledge, but also on general knowledge of the world and the extent to which that knowledge is activated during processing.
2.3.1 Types of Reading
There have been conflicting definitions of the term “extensive reading”. (Hedge, 2003, p.202) Some use it to refer to describe” skimming and scanning activities” others associate it to quantity of material. Renandya and Jacobs (1999) argue strongly for including extensive reading in the second language curriculum. There is now compelling evidence that extensive reading can have a significant impact on learner’s second language development. Not only can extensive reading improve reading ability, it can also enhance learner’s overall language proficiency (e.g., spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and writing). In addition, extensive reading, with its emphasis on encouraging learners to read self-selected, large amount of meaningful language, is in line with current principles for good second and foreign language pedagogy.
ER is seen as offering many advantages (Day & Bamford, 1998; Krashen, 1993; Nation, 1997), some of which are as follows:
a) enhance language learning in such areas as spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and text structure
b) increased knowledge of the world
c) improved reading and writing skills
d) greater enjoyment of reading
e) more positive attitude toward reading
f) higher possibility of developing a reading habit
In intensive (or creative) reading, students usually read a page to explore the meaning and to be acquainted with writing mechanisms. Extensive Reading (ER) differs from intensive reading. In intensive reading, students normally work with short texts with close guidance from the teacher. The aim of intensive reading is to help students obtain detailed meaning from the text, to develop reading skills such as identifying main ideas and recognizing text connectors and to enhance vocabulary and grammar knowledge. It is important to note that these two approaches to teaching reading –intensive and extensive reading should not be seen as being in opposition, as both serve different but complementary purposes (Carrell and Carson, 1997; Nuttall, 1996).
More Recent research on teaching reading has shown that a combination of top-down and bottom-up processing (interactive reading) is almost always a prior ingredient in successful teaching methodology because both processes are important (Nuttall, 1996 cited in Brown, 2000).
2.3.2 Foreign Language Reading
For many students if not all, reading in a foreign language is a different experience in comparison with the same process in their first language which may even result in less understanding. Now the question is that whether reading problem in a foreign language is simply a problem of knowing words and grammar of that language or it is a problem of reading ability (Alderson, 1984). Regarding the question, Alderson (1984) asserts that the reason students cannot read adequately in English is that they cannot read adequately in their native language in the first place. Jolly (1978) also claims that success in reading a foreign language depends on one’s first language reading ability rather than the level of the student in the second language. He states that reading in a foreign language requires the transference of old skills, not the learning of new ones; therefore, the reason why students cannot read in a desirable fashion is that they either do not possess the old skills or because they have failed to transfer them (cited in Alderson, 1984).
Yorio (1971) takes a contrary view. He believes that the problems of second language readers are due to lack of familiarity with the new language, and this inadequate knowledge of the target language prevents them from using the essential textual cues in reading. In this view, interference from the first language makes the problem of second language reader even more complex.
In a more elaborative approach Celce-Murcia (2001) states that L2 readers generally have weaker linguistic skills and more limited vocabulary than do L1 readers. They do not have an intuitive foundation in the structures of the L2, and they lack the cultural knowledge that is sometimes assumed in texts. L2 students may also have some difficulties recognizing the ways in which texts are organized and information is presented, leading to possible comprehension problems. At the same time, L2 students, working at least with two languages, are able to rely on their L1 knowledge and L1 reading abilities when such abilities are useful. L2 students often come to class with a range of motivation to read, different from many L1 students’ motivation. Also differences between EFL and ESL settings result in different reading outcomes. These differences play major roles in establishing goals for reading instruction and specifying the levels of reading ability that constitute successful learning in a given curriculum.
2.4 Reading Comprehension
Most researches on reading now focus on the effective reading strategies that increase students’ comprehension. Guthrie (1996) argues that most researchers study a single cognitive strategy, rather than conducting a long-term study of multiple strategies. As Guthrie puts it:
Engaged reading is based on motivational and cognitive characteristics of the reader who is intrinsically motivated, builds knowledge, uses cognitive strategies, and interacts socially to learn from text. These engagement processes can be observed in student’s cognitive effort, perseverance, and self-direction in reading.
It is the teacher’s responsibilities to motivate reading by selecting the appropriate materials and especially for those at the early stages of learning. Guthrie and Humenick (1996) performed a meta-analysis of studies that manipulated several aspects of intrinsic motivation support for reading. These findings suggest that “meaningful conceptual content in reading instruction increases motivation for reading and text comprehension”. This motivation-supporting practice showed that students who were provided choice of text performed higher on reading tasks than those with no choice. The third practice was using interesting texts. This conforms to Hedge’s proposal that in selecting task texts, teachers should seek interesting texts and consider variety of topics. Readers’ interest can be revealed by setting “a reading interest questionnaire” where students check the fields that suit their interest, i.e. short stories, thrillers, science fiction, etc. Since “each learner will have different strengths to build on and different weaknesses to overcome”(Hedge, p.205).
2.4.1 Theories of Reading Comprehension
Bottom-up processing: in this processes, readers first recognize a multiplicity of linguistics signals (letters, morphemes, syllables, words, phrases, grammatical cues, discourse markers) and use their