An assessment of the effects of the use of self-selected texts from the World Wide Web on foreign language reading comprehension
AdvisorSmith, Karen L.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAn assumption of the Whole Language model of reading is that self-selected text use is beneficial to students' reading proficiency. This experiment tests that assumption, and broaches a hitherto unexplored aspect of the reading process, namely students' reasons for text selection. The 68 college-level Spanish foreign language students in this study completed two types of reading comprehension tests, multiple choice and retelling tests, which permitted an evaluation of the effects of self-selected vs. assigned text use on reading proficiency. In addition, they responded to two questionnaires. The first, administered during the second week of classes, elicited information about students' demographic characteristics, computer literacy, Spanish experience, and perceived language and reading proficiency. A second, weekly questionnaire asked about the texts students read from the WWW, specifically targeting text topic, sources of prior knowledge about the topic, and reasons for text selection. An analysis of variance found no effect on reading proficiency of the use of self-selected vs. assigned texts. However, students' scores were significantly lower on the posttest than the pretest in both groups, raising the issue of backsliding in reading proficiency. Chi squared tests of independence explored the existence of a relationship between text selection behaviors and reading proficiency level. However, no evidence of a significant relationship was present. Nonetheless, two reasons for text selection predominated for all students: interest in text topic, and perceived appropriateness of the text to the assignment. Prior knowledge of text topic did not play a significant role in text selection, however, indicating that prior knowledge and interest were not related in this study. The results of this study led to two conclusions that can guide researchers in future investigations of the reading process. First, the data suggest that reading is an open-ended process, beginning prior to the reader's first exposure to the text, and having a complex comprehension process that may continue indefinitely. Second, reading is a dynamic process which interweaves diachronic and synchronic factors, including variables which lie beyond the parameters of currently accepted definitions of reading. These perspectives and their interactions provide fertile ground for new areas of research.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching