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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1 Number 1 2014
Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1 Number 1 2014

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research

Volume 1 Number 1 2014
Volume 1
Number 1
2014
Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1 Number 1 2014

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, Available online at www.jallr.ir

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, Available online at www.jallr.ir

Table of Contents

Volume 1, issue 1, 2014

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary through Implicit Exposure: Non-lexicalized Words in Focus Mohammad Ali Heidari-Shahreza (pp. 1-11)

The Effect of Reading Anxiety and Motivation on EFL Learners’ Choice of Reading Strategies Abbas Ali Zarei (pp. 12-28)

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on Iranian EFL Learners’ L2 Reading Comprehension Nasrin Shams, Mansoor Tavakoli (pp. 29-44)

Vocabulary Acquisition and Lexical Training by Semantic and Thematic Sets in Persian Learners of English Mahnaz Allahverdizadeh, Nematullah Shomoossi, Farzad Salahshoor, Zohreh Seifoori (pp. 45-61)

A Critical Review of the Interactionist Approach to Second Language Acquisition Saeid Najafi Sarem, Yusef Shirzadi (pp. 62-74)

The Effectiveness of Ur Model in Developing Iranian EFL Learners’ Fluency and Accuracy in Speaking Khojaste Askari, Jahanbakhsh Langroudi (pp. 75-86)

Attitudes of Iranian Teachers and Students towards Internship Zabih Ollah Javanbakht (pp. 87-99)

Gender Differences in the Expression of Gratitude by Persian Speakers Atefeh Yoosefvand, Abbass Eslami Rasekh (pp. 100-117)

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 1-11 Available online at www.jallr.ir

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 1-11 Available online

The Development of Productive Knowledge of Vocabulary through Implicit Exposure: Non-lexicalized Words in Focus

Mohammad Ali Heidari-Shahreza

Assistant Professor, Shahreza Branch, Islamic Azad University, Iran

Abstract The researcher aimed at investigating the possible effects of first language-second language (L1-L2) lexicalization mismatch on the acquisition and retention of productive vocabulary knowledge. Non-lexicalized words were operationally defined as the L2 words lacking a lexically-equivalent translation in learners’ L1 (i.e. Persian). In other words, non-lexicalized words referred to those L2 words that required a longer string of L1 words to cover their essential semantic features. Ninety Persian-speaking EFL learners were exposed to 10 target words incidentally. Subsequently, they sat for a test of productive vocabulary knowledge immediately and after three weeks of delay. The results revealed that there were significant differences between lexicalized and non-lexicalized target words in the productive knowledge of associations. Therefore, it might be the case that non-lexicalized words were most likely to cause extra difficulty for EFL learners in the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge. Input enrichment and explicit instruction within a systematic vocabulary recycling program were recommended to acquire such words. Keywords: productive vocabulary knowledge, incidental acquisition, non-lexicalized words, translation equivalence.

INTRODUCTION

Vocabulary knowledge (or lexical competence) in L2 acquisition has received much more attention in recent years as a fruitful area of investigation (Hairrell, Rupley & Simmons, 2011; Meara, 2012). There is a growing consensus among SLA researchers that total language proficiency incorporates more than just grammatical competence or the traditional skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking to the effect that vocabulary knowledge is recognized as a core component of linguistic and communicative competence (Heidari-Shahreza, Moinzadeh, & Barati, 2014 a; Nation, 2013 to name a few). Scholars tend to view vocabulary knowledge as a multifaceted construct encompassing a range of interrelated sub-knowledges such as knowledge of orthography, parts of speech and knowledge of meaning and associations (see for

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example, Webb, 2007). Alternatively, some define vocabulary knowledge (or lexical knowledge) in terms of binary distinctions such as vocabulary breadth (or size) and depth, referring to the number of words learners know and how well they know them respectively (Heidari-Shahreza, Moinzadeh, & Barati, 2014 b; Webb, 2013). Likewise, Nation (2001) holds the view that knowledge of vocabulary consists of receptive and productive sub-knowledges in three main domains of form, meaning and vocabulary use. His view implies that knowing a word entails knowing its primary and secondary meanings (i.e., denotations and connotations of a word including associations with other words), spelling and syntactic functions (see also, Kieffer & lesaux, 2012). Within the perspective of vocabulary acquisition, both intentional (explicit) and incidental (implicit) approaches have been proposed and practiced (Rott, 2013). Despite ongoing debates on the way and the extent either approach should be implemented and their overall effectiveness, it is generally agreed that incidental vocabulary acquisition that is learning new L2 words while reading texts remains an important means of vocabulary development and reinforcement (Chen & Truscott, 2010; Hairrell et al., 2011; Rott, 2013; Webb, 2007). Reading (or written input) provides a rich context through which learners can acquire and complement different aspects of vocabulary knowledge, contributing to lexical competence both at the recognition level (receptive knowledge) and production level, productive knowledge (Heidari-Shahreza & Tavakoli, 2012).

Non-lexicalized words

Lexicalization is defined as how a language molds different concepts into words or lexical items (Heidari-Shahreza & Tavakoli, 2012; Paribakht, 2005). The point here is languages may have different ways of lexicalizing the same concept (Paribakht, 2005; Chen & Truscott, 2010). L1 lexicalization indicates the way learners’ L1 lexicalizes different concepts that might be different from that of their second or foreign language (Chen & Truscott, 2010). In this regard, L1-L2 lexicalization mismatch addresses the question of whether or not L2 target words have the same translation in learners’ L1 (e.g., Persian) Therefore, the L2 words which have a lexically equivalent translation are called 'lexicalized' while those words that need to be translated with a long string of words to cover their essential semantic components are named 'non-lexicalized' (Chen & Truscott, 2010; Heidari-Shahreza et al. 2014 a, b). The word ‘brunch’ in English, for example, does not have an equivalent translation in Persian and has to be paraphrased in several words as (a late morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch). Therefore, for Persian-speaking EFL learners, the word ‘brunch’ is considered a non-lexicalized (NL, hereafter) word. Whereas the word ‘book’, for example, is easily lexicalized into one single Persian word, ‘ ’. Hence, it falls into the category of lexicalized (L, hereafter) English words with respect to Persian.

REASERCH ON NL WORDS

Among the few studies with a special focus on NL words is Paribakht's (2005) seminal study in which she investigated the relationship between L1-L2 (i.e. Persian and

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English) lexicalization process and the inferencing behavior of 20 Persian-speaking learners while reading English passages. The findings revealed that while the participants made use of the same knowledge resources in inferencing both L and NL words, they had more difficulty in decoding NL words. Paribakht concluded that L1-L2 lexicalization mismatch might be to the detriment of learners' L2 reading comprehension and vocabulary development. Her study, however, did not explore how L and NL words were different in the acquisition and retention of different aspects of vocabulary knowledge.

To bridge this gap, Chen and Truscott (2010) using a modified version of Webb's taxonomy of vocabulary knowledge (2007), explored the incidental vocabulary acquisition and retention of 10 target words by 72 university students. They found that NL words could cause learning difficulty both immediately and after two weeks. It was further suggested that even an increase in exposure frequency up to seven encounters could contribute little to significant learning of NL words since, in their view, these words were "too difficult to learn from even seven encounters ". Their study, however, was limited in that, among other things, the position of the target words in the reading passages, their saliency and informativeness were not fully controlled.

Based on this study, Heidari-Shahreza and Tavakoli (2012) further investigated the same issue on 90 Iranian EFL learners using 10 English target words. They concluded that NL words caused learning difficulty mainly in semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge such as knowledge of meaning and associations. However, despite some improvements over Chen and Truscott's study, their study did not control for the potential cultural connotations of the target words.

Recently, Heidari-Shahreza et al. (2014a, b) in a series of studies investigated the acquisition and retention of L and NL words in relation to a number of factors such as exposure frequency and cultural loadedness employing Iranian EFL learners as their participants. The findings, in general, indicated that NL words could cause extra difficulty for EFL learners in the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge.

THIS STUDY

As the small number of studies on L1 Lexicalization in relation to vocabulary acquisition and the intricacy involved in the acquisition and retention of NL words implies, further research on this factor is needed. Hence, this study, through a quasi-experimental design investigated the incidental acquisition and retention of L and NL vocabulary by 90 Persian-speaking EFL learners. Furthermore, the researcher would like to know how any observed gains in learners’ productive knowledge were retained over a period of three weeks. Thus, retention is also taken into account by a delayed posttest. This study is part of a much larger project exploring, number of exposure frequency, L1 lexicalization and cultural loadedness.

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The present study tried to answer three research questions:

1. Did the acquisition of non-lexicalized TWs differ from the ones that were lexicalized

in EFL learners' L1 (i.e. Persian)?

2. If so, which aspects of productive vocabulary knowledge were more involved?

3. Was there any significant difference between lexicalized and non-lexicalized TWs in

terms of retention after three weeks?

Participants

The population, out of whom the final participants were selected, were Iranian adult EFL learners. A call on voluntary participation was announced and 128 students expressed their interest to participate. They, then, took Oxford Placement Test (OPT) out of which 111 were identified as intermediate. Afterwards, the Vocabulary Levels Test (Nation, 1990), a widely-used size test and an appropriate measurement instrument for vocabulary knowledge was given (Laufer, & Goldstein, 2004). All participants scored 25 or more (out of 30) on 2000 level of the Vocabulary Level Test, with an average score of 28.2. As the third stage, the participants filled a sociolinguistic background survey through which it was assured that the final participants, among other things, had the same first language and amount of exposure to English. Due to a significantly different performance on the Levels test or their linguistic background, a few participants were excluded from the scope of thus study. Finally, 90 participants were deemed as sufficiently appropriate for this study. They were then, equally divided into three groups of participants, based on the number of encounters to TWs (i.e. E1, E3, and E7).

Materials and Instruments

Target words (TWs)

There were 10 target words (TWs, hereafter) which were equally classified into two groups: Lexicalized (L) and Non-lexicalized (NL).

They all together included four verbs, four nouns and two adjectives (see Table 1). To select the TWs, the researcher decided to prepare a small corpus of lexicalized and non- lexicalized words. In so doing, after a call on participation, 40 university students who were native speakers of Persian and fluent in English volunteered to note down the appropriate words they encountered over a six-month period of reading English texts. Before embarking on that, the researcher held several meetings with them, to define and provide examples for L and NL words. Over these 6 months, three more meetings were held to make sure they were all on the right track. The assistants were also kindly asked to check their initial guess regarding the suitability of a word against well- established English as well as Persian dictionaries and ask other native speakers, if necessary. All collected words were also accompanied by one example of its use in an

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authentic context. As the outcome of this cooperation, more than 1500 words were gathered (mainly verbs, nouns, adjectives and few adverbs). The researchers checked these words once more that resulted in excluding a few ones. Afterwards, based on the difficulty level, conceptual familiarity and word frequency, 10 words were deemed as final TWs. It is worth noting that selected TWs were assured to be unknown to all the participants at the time of the study, based on a checklist.

Table1. Selected target words

Lexicalized(L)

Non-lexicalized (NL)

explain (v)

elope (v)

flee (v)

giggle (v)

annoyance (n)

lounge (n)

masterpiece (n)

brunch (n)

stubborn (adj)

smoggy (adj)

Reading passages

On the whole, the participants read 13 reading passages. These passages were of two types: Main reading passages (M) which each contained all 10 TWs once and distracter passages (D) which despite the same length (more or less 250 words) and difficulty level, did not contain any of TWs. Based on the design of the study (i.e. one, three or seven encounters to TWs), seven main passages were composed by the researcher and two native English teachers. The other six remaining distracter passages were taken from a reading textbook at intermediate level (Kirn& Hartmann, 2002) only for the participants to read the same number of reading passages regardless of which experimental group (i.e. E1, E3 or E7) they were in (see Table 2).

Table 2. Distribution of reading passages

Group

Distribution of Main and Distracter passages

exposure

E1

E3

E7

D 1

M

M

1

1

D 2

D 2

M 2

D 3

D 3

M 3

D 4

M

M

4

4

D 5

D 5

M 5

D

D

6

6

M 6

M 7

M 7

M 7

1

3

7

Vocabulary post-test

To have a better picture of the learners' vocabulary knowledge after exposing to TWs, as in Chen and Truscott's (2010) study, a modified version of Webb’s (2007) test of vocabulary knowledge was used. The multifaceted focus of this test allowed for assessing different aspects of productive vocabulary knowledge (see Table 3).

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Table3. Types of productive vocabulary knowledge &respective sub-tests

No.

Knowledge measured

Test type

1 Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form (PO)

2 Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech (PP)

3 Productive Knowledge of Associations (PA)

Dictation Sentence construction Pragmatic association

Sub-test 1. Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form (PO)

To assess this aspect of vocabulary knowledge, a dictation test was used. The researchers played a recording of TWs by a native English speaker twice. The participants had 20 seconds to write each TW down. Since partial success in orthography can be attributed to phonological prompts rather than the treatment (Chen Truscott 2010; Webb 2007), any error in spelling whatsoever resulted in the item being marked as incorrect.

Sub-test 2. Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech (PP)

To measure the productive knowledge of parts of speech, the learners were asked to use the TWs in English sentences. Their sentences were considered as correct if the TWs were used in the grammatical functions they were expected. For example, the TW, 'lounge' needed to be a 'noun' in a given sentence to be scored as correct.

Sub-test 3. Productive Knowledge of Associations (PA)

As the title of the test suggests, here, the test-takers had to provide a word pragmatically associated with the TWs. Therefore, for the TW, 'lounge', for instance, an answer such as ‘room’ was correct. What is more, the participants were told not to produce grammatical associations.

Data collection

Phase 1: Reading passages

As mentioned above, there were 13 reading passages (seven main and six distracter texts). However, each group was to read only seven passages. Based on the design of the study, the first six reading passages in group E1were distracters. Therefore, they only read one main passage containing the TWs. Group E3 read three main and four distracter passages hence they had three encounters to the TWs. Unlike E1 and E3, group E7 did not read any of the distracters. That is, they read all seven main reading passages. Therefore, they had seven encounters to the TWs. It is worth noting that the seventh passage in all groups was a main passage and thus contained the TWs. Being so, all the participants had finished the reading phase an encounter to the TWs. This, in turn, blocked the effect of how recently they had seen the TWs.

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Phase 2: Immediate post-test

Upon having read the passages, the participants sat for the vocabulary post-test outlined above. Although the participants did not expect a vocabulary post-test, they were willing enough to take it. Each subtest was printed on a single page and the participants were told not to look back to the preceding subtests. There was no time limit on the submission of the answer sheets. Yet, the test-takers finished the test within an acceptable time range.

Phase 3: Delayed post-test

To check participants’ retention of any gained vocabulary knowledge from reading the passages, the participants again, take the vocabulary post-test after three weeks. There was no sample attrition and the test proceeded following the same procedure as the immediate post-test. In addition, as far as feasible, the participants' exposure to English usually via learning tasks or reading materials were generally considered by the researchers during these three weeks to control for any significant effect on their vocabulary knowledge.

Data analysis

To analyze the scores obtained from the participants in the three experimental groups (i.e. E1, E3 and E7) ANOVA and its non-parametric version Kruskal-Wallis were employed whenever normality requirement was not met. Moreover, Post hoc Tukey and Least Significance Difference (LSD) tests were used to discern significant effects (at p < .05). The same statistical procedure was run for the results obtained from the delayed posttest. In the next section, the results are presented in details.

RESULTS

Effects of L1 lexicalization in the immediate post-test

Based on the analyses of mean score differences between the groups, there was a significant difference only for group E7 on the Productive Knowledge of Associations (PA) test. These cases aside, no statistically significant differences between L and NL word scores were observed (see Table 4).

Table4. Comparison between L and NL words in the immediate post-test

Group

E1

E3

E7

Sub-test

L vs. NL

L vs. NL

L vs. NL

Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form

0.243

0.465

0.402

Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech

0.453

0.541

0.218

Productive Knowledge of Associations

0.279

0.468

0.003*

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Effects of L1 lexicalization in the delayed post-test

Based on the same statistical procedure, the mean scores for L and NL words were analyzed to discern how a three-week delay could make a difference in the observed results for the immediate post-test. As shown in Table5, the same significant differences were observed again in the delayed vocabulary post-test. The only exception was the PA test for group E7 where no significant difference for L and NL words on the delayed post-test was reached.

Table5. Comparison between L and NL words in the delayed post-test

Group

E1

E3

E7

Sub-test

L vs. NL

L vs. NL

L vs. NL

Productive Knowledge of Orthographic Form Productive Knowledge of Parts of Speech Productive Knowledge of Associations

0.530

0.223

0.489

0.587

0.876

0.323

0.119

0.273

0.334

Note: *= p < .05; L: Lexicalized; NL: Non-lexicalized

DISCUSSION

The primary purpose of the present study was to investigate the acquisition and retention of productive knowledge of vocabulary. Simply put, the study aimed at discerning how the acquisition and retention of non-lexicalized (NL) words would differ from lexicalized (L) words with respect to different aspects of vocabulary knowledge. A fundamental question of this study was whether or not NL words could possibly cause learning difficulty for EFL learners. In this regard, the findings of the study generally indicates that the main difference between L and NL words lies in the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge (as also concluded by Heidari-Shahreza Tavakoli, 2012; Heidari-Shahreza et al. 2014 b). That is to say, there were significant differences in the mean scores obtained by the participants for NL words in comparison with their L counterparts on the semantic subtests of productive knowledge of associations (PA) in the immediate posttest after seven encounters (i.e. E7). A complication to this general pattern of the semantic tests is that while the mean score differences between the two sets of vocabulary reached significance after seven encounters on PA test, in the delayed posttest (i.e. after three weeks), it was not the case with the this test. A possible explanation for this difference might be that PA test entailed mastery at production level not merely recognition. Furthermore, as Webb (2007) points out the receptive measure of vocabulary knowledge are slower to respond to "small gains of knowledge".

Another important question here is why significant differences were observed on the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge (i.e. association). While certainly further research is needed, it might be due to the active role of L1 in L2 lexical inferencing and meaning construction. The literature in this regard, suggests that the initial form-

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meaning linkage of an L2 word is mediated by the learners' L1 lexicon (Barcroft, 2002). That is, a new L2 form is initially attached to an already existing meaning in the learners' L1-based mental lexicon. During the process of lexical inferencing from a text, cognitively speaking, EFL learners seek for the best match in their mental lexicon for the new L2 word, based on the cues extracted from the context (see Jiang, 2004). As for an L word, the lexical equivalent is readily retrieved from a learner's L1-based lexicon since it is already existing as a 'lemma package' (as Paribakht, 2005 calls it). However, the process of lexical matching (or L1-L2 mental translation, so to speak) is deterred for an NL word because there is no existing or largely overlapping lemma (i.e. an appropriate match) for it in the mental lexicon. Therefore, given that EFL learners can extract the semantic features of an NL word from the surrounding text, they may not be able to fully acquire the meaning of that word since an NL word cannot trigger a corresponding lemma in the mental lexicon (Heidari-Shahreza et al., 2014 c; Paribakht, 2005). Therefore, it seems plausible why the participants were particularly less successful in the semantic aspects of vocabulary knowledge in acquiring NL words.

CONCLUSION

As the primary aim of this study, the researcher was particularly interested to explore the acquisition and retention of productive knowledge of L and NL words. L words, in essence, represented a large number of English words that could be easily translated to (or replaced with) their equivalents in the learners' L1 (here, Persian) with the same number of lexical items. NL words which were in fact a marked portion of L2 vocabulary, referred to those L2 words that required a longer string of L1 words to cover their essential semantic features. Based on this definition, the study focused on the acquisition and retention of 10 TWs (including L and NL words) through reading English texts by 90 Iranian adult EFL learners. The findings generally indicated that there were significant differences between L and NL words in the productive knowledge of associations (PA). These differences in the PA were most apparent when the participants had seven encounters to the TWs. As for the other aspects of vocabulary knowledge, this study did not bear any significant results.

The present study was limited in a number of ways. Firstly, it made use of a limited number of target words. The participants of the study were also only adult EFL learners of one Iranian university. The findings could be more generalizable if a larger bulk of target words with a more representative sample of participants including different age groups and proficiency levels were employed. Therefore, besides alleviating such shortcomings, the interested researchers may follow this line of research by investigating longer periods of vocabulary retention. Furthermore, adding qualitative measure of vocabulary knowledge helps the internal validity of research. Finally, there are other marked portions of vocabulary such as culturally-loaded words or collocations which as in NL words may be an area of problem for EFL learners. Hence, it would also be interesting to expand the scope of this study by taking such words into account.

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ACKOWLEDGEMENT

The researcher would like to thank the participants of the study and the volunteers who kindly helped in the collection and validation of the target words.

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Heidari-Shahreza, M. A., Moinzadeh, A., Barati, H. (2014a).The effect of exposure frequency on incidental vocabulary acquisition. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 14 (1), 43-55.

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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 12-28 Available online at www.jallr.ir

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 12-28 Available online

The Effect of Reading Anxiety and Motivation on EFL Learners’ Choice of Reading Strategies

Abbas Ali Zarei

Associate professor, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran

Abstract The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between reading anxiety and motivation, and the effect of reading anxiety and motivation level on the choice of global, supportive and problem solving reading strategies. To this end, 120 EFL female pre- university students were given three questionnaires: FLRAS, SORS, and AMQ. The findings showed a significant low positive relationship between reading anxiety and motivation. It was also found that motivation level influences EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies. However, no statistically significant differences were found among the effects of reading anxiety levels on the choice of reading strategies. Keywords: anxiety, foreign language reading anxiety, motivation, reading strategies

INTRODUCTION

There is little doubt that reading is one of the most useful skills, especially in foreign language contexts where access to foreign language is primarily limited to written language. Studies on L2 reading over the past few decades have shown that reading is an important source of input; however, it is also an anxiety provoking activity (Saito, Horwitz, & Garza, 1999). Previous research also indicates that successful and less successful readers make use of different reading strategies, and that factors such as age, learning style, motivation, anxiety, and so on can influence students’ use of learning strategies in reading comprehension (Yang, 2006). The investigation of language learning strategies has expanded our understanding of the processes learners use to develop their skills in a second or foreign language.

Several studies (Carreira, 2006; Miyanaga, 2007) have investigated motivation and language anxiety. However, little attention has been paid to the direct relationship between motivation and anxiety. Moreover, there are few studies on foreign language reading anxiety. In addition, there seems to be a paucity of research (specifically in the EFL contexts) on the relationships between reading anxiety, motivation, and the choice of reading strategies. In an attempt to fill part of the existing gap, this study aims at investigating the relationship between reading anxiety, motivation, and reading strategies.

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REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Anxiety

Language learning is an inherently anxiety provoking process. Horwitz, et al. (1986) define foreign language anxiety as a “distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process” (p.128).

Different types of foreign language anxiety have been identified including situation- specific anxiety, state anxiety, and trait anxiety, all of which can be either facilitative or debilitative. MacIntyre and Gardner (1989) note that situation-specific anxiety develops from negative experiences, particularly early in language learning. Giving a speech, taking a test, doing math, and using a second language are examples of situation-specific anxiety. Foreign language anxiety is a form of situation-specific anxiety (Horwitz, et al., 1986). State anxiety refers to an apprehension that is experienced at a particular moment in time as a response to a definite situation” (Amir Jahansouz Shahi, 2009, p. 22), whereas trait anxiety is related to a “generally stable predisposition to be nervous in a wide range of situations” (Zheng, 2008, p.2).

Language learning anxiety was – until quite recently – normally associated with productive skills. Today, there is an increasing recognition of anxiety in receptive skills; that is, listening and reading. One of the relatively less-explored types of anxiety is reading anxiety – a specific phobia, a situational type and an unpleasant emotional reaction toward reading which has physical and cognitive reactions (Jalongo & Hirsh,

2010).

In one of the few studies on anxiety in reading classes, Seller (1998) explored the relationship between language anxiety and reading anxiety among university students. 89 American university students learning Spanish as a foreign language took part in her study. Different types of instruments were used to collect data. Two scales were used to measure anxiety: the Reading Anxiety Scale (RAS), and the FLCAS (Howritz, et al., 1986). Free written language recall protocol scores and multiple choice test scores were used to measure comprehension. Also, a think-aloud interview was used to reveal strategies used by students during the reading process. To measure cognitive processes during reading, the Cognitive Interference Questionnaire was utilized. The findings showed a consistent inverse effect of language anxiety on the reading comprehension and recall. In other words, more highly anxious students recalled less passage content than their less anxious classmates. The analysis of think-aloud on the relationship between anxiety and strategy use in reading comprehension showed that anxious students tended to use more local strategies (i.e., focusing on vocabulary, attention to syntax and translation) than global strategies. In contrast, the students with low anxiety tended to equally use both local and global strategies. Moreover, the less anxious students utilized various types of metacognitive strategies than their highly anxious classmates.

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Another study introducing the construct of 'foreign language reading anxiety' was done by Saito et al. (1999). In their study, two aspects of foreign language reading were investigated which had great effect on eliciting anxiety: unfamiliar scripts of writing systems and unfamiliar cultural materials. They developed the Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) to measure the anxiety level of 383 students. Foreign Language Class anxiety Scale (FLCAS) (Horwitz et al., 1986) and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) were used to measure the students' classroom anxiety and reading anxiety, respectively. They found that despite the intuition of teachers, reading in a foreign language is anxiety provoking to some students. Moreover, the study showed that reading anxiety is distinct from general types of foreign language anxiety. It was also found that increasing students’ reading anxiety levels leads to the decrease of students’ final grades. However, they could not ensure “whether anxiety is the cause or effect of the difficulties observed” (p. 215), though they speculated that “the participants experienced anxiety as a result of actual difficulties in text processing rather than the reading difficulties stemming from anxiety reactions” (p. 215).

In another study, Zhang (2000) also explored the anxiety of 155 Chinese intermediate students in ESL reading classes. Zhang used FLRAS (Saito et al., 1999) and informal interviews as instruments. He added three items to the original FLRAS questionnaire to elicit participants’ demographic traits. The findings with respect to the interview suggested that several factors affect both male and female ESL readers’ apprehension; factors such as students’ lack of L 2 proficiency, cultural knowledge, the changed learning context and their teacher’s diversity effect. It seemed study-abroad context was the major challenge for ESL learners. Results, with respect to the FLRAS questionnaire and the three added items also showed that “female and male students experience different degrees of anxiety in study-abroad context” (p. 31); moreover, reading ESL turned out to be anxiety-provocative in a study-abroad context.

Brantmeier (2005) examined the effect of students’ anxiety level on reading comprehension tasks among 92 students enrolled in an advanced level Spanish grammar and composition course. In his study, the anxiety questionnaire was modified according to FLCAS (Howritz et al., 1986) into three categories representing different dimensions of L 2 reading and anxiety: general L 2 reading; L 2 reading and oral tasks, and L 2 reading and written tasks. Besides the reading selection, the written recall, and 10 multiple-choice questions, along with a background questionnaire were used to collect data. It turned out that students at advanced levels of language instruction did not show reading anxiety but expressed anxious feelings about the readings in the upcoming literature courses.

Chen (2007) investigated the relationship between cognitive test anxiety and reading anxiety on Taiwanese college students’ performance in reading. 81 Taiwanese advanced EFL students participated in this study. FLRAS (Saito et al., 1999), Cognitive Test Anxiety Scale and Reading Performance in multiple choice form, fill-in-the-black and

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reading comprehension tests were used as instruments. Findings indicated a high correlation between test anxiety and reading anxiety.

To sum up, most of the above studies have shown that foreign language reading anxiety is a construct that is related to, but distinct from general foreign language anxiety (Saito et al., 1999; Sellers, 1998). Additionally, foreign language reading is an anxiety provoking skill, but it varies depending on students’ level of proficiency, target language, gender, the context of study (Saito, et al., 1999; Sellers, 1998; Zhang, 2000; Brantmeier, 2005), and so on.

Motivation

Motivation is one of the most appealing, multi-faceted, influential and complex factors in the learning process used to explain individual differences in language learning (Lim, 2007; Jahansouzshahi, 2009). Motivation is of “particular interest to L 2 or FL teachers, administrators and researchers, because it can be presumably enhanced in one specific learning context but weakened in another learning context” (Yuanfang, 2009, p. 87). There is little doubt that motivation can greatly facilitate language learning process (Arnold & Brown, 1999).

Motivation is influenced by a “combination of many factors including effort, desire, and satisfaction with the learning situation. Different types of motivation have been discussed in related literature including integrative, instrumental, intrinsic, and extrinsic motivation. Several studies have investigated motivation and foreign language anxiety, but there are few studies on the direct relationship between the two. In one such study, Carreira (2006) examined motivation and foreign language anxiety of 91 EFL sophomore Japanese university students to determine which types of motivation best predict the students’ foreign language anxiety. Two questionnaires on motivation for learning EFL and foreign language anxiety were used to collect data. Carreira found that students with practical reasons to study English and intellectual satisfaction tended to have lower levels of foreign language anxiety.

Another research on the direct relationship between motivation and foreign language anxiety was done by Cheng (2006) to examine the effects of differentiated curriculum and instruction on the teaching of English as a foreign language to university students in Taiwan. The results revealed that differentiated curriculum and instruction improved EFL learners’ motivation and interest levels in comparison to the students who were taught in the teacher-directed lecture model. In addition, she found that using differentiated curriculum and instruction did not lead to a substantial decrease in anxiety level in comparison with the teacher-directed lecture model.

As to the relationship between motivation and reading, Yang (2006) studied 120 sophomore ESL students on two types of motivation, integrative and instrumental, and found a significant relationship between motivation and reading strategy use. She found

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that integrative motivation relates to social/affective strategies positively while instrumental motivation correlates with cognitive strategies negatively.

Another study in relation to reading strategies and motivation was conducted by Kolić- Vehovec, Rončević, and Bajšanski (2008). They conducted this study to identify motivational components of self-regulated learning and reading strategy use in university students on the basis of goal orientation patterns. 352 undergraduate Croatian students participated in this study. The Components of Self-Regulated Learning (CSRL) and the Strategic Reading Questionnaire (SRQ) were used to collect data. The results showed that different goal orientation groups had different reading habits. It also turned out that groups with high mastery orientation had more adaptive motivational profile and more adequate reading strategy use than groups with low mastery or/and high work-avoidance orientation.

Reading strategies

The importance of learning strategies in language learning is undeniable. By strategies, Rubin (1975) means the techniques, actions, behaviors, devices, or steps which a learner may use to acquire knowledge. Several taxonomies of learner strategies have been proposed, often with a degree of overlap. Oxford’s (1990) and O’Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Russo, and Kupper’ (1985) taxonomies are two of the more well- known examples. Oxford’s (1990) divides strategies into two main classes, direct and indirect, which are further subdivided into six connected and supported groups. They include cognitive, mnemonic, metacognitive, compensatory, affective and social strategies. O’Malley et al. (1985) divide learning strategies into three main subcategories: metacognitive, cognitive strategies, and socio-affective strategies.

In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to different types of strategies and their effects on language learning. Reading strategies are one example of such strategies. Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002) suggest that learners’ awareness of reading strategies will help them improve reading comprehension. They developed Survey Reading Strategies (SORS) as a simple and effective instrument for assisting students to have better developmental awareness of their reading strategies, for helping teachers assess such awareness, and for serving students to be “constructively responsive readers” (p. 2). The SORS measures three broad categories of reading strategies: global reading strategies, cognitive strategies, and support strategies.

Several experiments have also been conducted in this regard. Sheorey and Mokhtari (2001) examined the differences in the reported use of reading strategies when reading academic materials by 302 college students (150 native-English-speaking. and 152 ESL students). Results revealed that: First, both native speaking and ESL students were aware of almost all of the strategies included in the survey. Secondly, both groups, regardless of their reading ability, reported using cognitive, metacognitive, and supportive strategies. Thirdly, both native speaking and ESL high-reading-ability

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students reported using a higher degree of usage for cognitive and metacognitive strategies than lower-reading-ability students in receptive groups. Lastly, it was reported that the native speaking females use a significantly higher frequency of strategies.

Zhang and Wu (2009) measured the degree of metacognitive awareness and reading- strategy use of 249 Chinese senior high school EFL students in a quantitative study. They used the survey of reading strategies (SORS) developed by Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002) to measure learners’ metacognitive awareness. Based on students’ average scores in English exams; they divided students into three proficiency groups (high, intermediate, and low). It was found that the students with higher English achievement benefited from global strategies. In addition, despite some teachers’ assumption that senior high school students know little about reading strategies, this study showed students at all levels “have knowledge of strategies at a moderate to high level” (p. 49).

Anderson (2003) investigated the online reading strategy use of 247 L 2 readers (131 EFL and 116 ESL learners) from Casta Rica and the United States. Results showed that the majority of strategies used by readers are often problem solving strategies. Also, it was revealed that EFL readers use problem solving strategies such as “reading rate, rereading difficult text, and pausing to think about what one is” more than ESL readers (p. 20). However, there were no differences in the use of global reading strategies or the supportive reading strategies between learners in EFL and ESL contexts.

In one of the rare studies integrating reading strategies, anxiety, and motivation, Miyanaga (2007) investigated the relationships among reading proficiency level, reading anxiety level, perception of reading strategies, and reasons for learning English among 480 Japanese EFL learners in different majors. To collect data, four types of instruments were used: 1) a practice TOEFL, 2) FLRAS, 3) the Reading Metacognitive Questionnaire, and 4) the Reason for Learning English Questionnaire. Results showed that more proficient learners tended to exhibit lower degrees of reading anxiety in comparison with their less proficient classmates. Results also revealed a variation on reading proficiency scores and the degree of lack of confidence in reading on the basis of the reading anxiety levels. Miyanaga showed that even after eliminating the influence of reading anxiety, the high and low reading anxiety groups showed meaningful differences on four factors: lack of confidence in reading, difficulty with English sounds, difficulty understanding text organization and gist, and dictionary use as an effective strategy. That is, “independent of reading proficiency level, a linguistic variable, the degrees of confidence in reading and perceptions of the three reading strategies differed according to reading anxiety level” (p. 98).

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THIS STUDY

The present study aims at investigating the relationship between reading anxiety, motivation, and reading strategies. To be more specific, it intends to answer the following research questions:

1. Is there any relationship between EFL learners’ reading anxiety and motivation?

2. Does motivation level influence EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies?

3. Does reading anxiety level influence EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies?

METHOD

Participants

The participants of this study were 120 Iranian female pre-university students at Kosar Pre-university Center in Zanjan. The participantd age ranged from 17 to 18, had been studying English for at least 6 years in their guidance and high schools; so they had a similar educational background. This was to eliminate the possible effects of proficiency level on the use of reading strategies

Instruments

Three instruments were utilized in this study to collect data: FLRAS, SORS, and AMQ.

a) The Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) was developed by Saito et al.

(1999) to “elicit students’ self-reports of anxiety over various aspects of reading, their perceptions of reading in their target language, and their perceptions of the relative

difficulty of reading as compared to other language skills” (p. 204). It originally contains

20 items, but items 10 and 11 were eliminated on grounds of irrelevance. They referred

to new symbols and writing system of the second language, but all the participants in

the present study were familiar with English writing system. Items were based on a 5- point scale which ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.

b) The Survey of Reading Strategies (SORS) with 30 items in rating scale (5-point Likert

type) was made by Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002). This questionnaire was designed to measure students’ metacognitive awareness and perceived use of reading strategies when reading academic or school-related materials. The SORS measures 3 broad categories of reading strategies: Global Reading strategies, Problem Solving Strategies, and Support strategies.

c) Achievement Motivation Questionnaire (AMQ) was constructed by Hayamizu, Ito, and

Yoshizaki (1989), but was modified by Nam Jung (1996). He modified it to measure high

school students’ achievement goal tendencies, specifically in English classes. It contains

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The validity and reliability of the above questionnaires were already established by previous research. It should be mentioned that the present study used Abbasi’ (2008) translation of FLRAS as well as Zarati’ (2004) translation of SORS translation.

Procedure

Having selected the participants with the afore-mentioned characteristics, the questionnaires were distributed in three stages. In the first stage, the FLRAS was distributed among the participants. In the second stage, the participants were given AMQ. In the third stage, SORS was administered in the classrooms. The students were given 20 minutes to respond to each questionnaire. Having collected the required data, a correlational procedure was used to measure the correlation between anxiety and motivation. To answer the second and third questions, two separate Kruskal-Wallis statistical procedures were used.

RESULTS

The relationship between anxiety and motivation

The first research question sought to investigate the relationship between EFL learners’ reading anxiety and their motivation. To this end, a correlation procedure was used. Table 4.1 contains descriptive statistics for reading anxiety and motivation, including the mean, median, standard deviation, range, etc. Additionally, Table 1 summarizes the result of the correlation procedure. As shown in Table 1, there is a significant but low positive relationship between reading anxiety and motivation (r =.20, p = .028).

Table 1. Correlation between Reading Anxiety and Motivation

Reading

motivation

anxiety

&

Reading

anxiety

&

Pearson

1

.200 *

motivation

Correlation

 

Sig. (2-tailed)

.028

N

120

120

The effect of motivation on choice of reading strategies

The second research question sought to investigate whether motivation level influences EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies. To answer this question, students were divided into three equal groups of high, medium, and low level of motivation based on their scores on the AMQ questionnaire. Then, the Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see if motivation level influenced the participants’ use of reading strategies. To do this, the Kruskal-Wallis procedure was run three times to investigate the effect of motivation level on global, supportive, and problem solving strategies, respectively. The first Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of students’ motivation level on

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their use of global strategies. Table 2 contains the result of the descriptive and test statistics.

Table 2. Descriptive and test statistics for Motivation and Global Strategies

Motivation

Group

N

Mean Rank

Score

High

40

82.86

Mid

40

55.86

Low

40

42.78

Chi-Square = 27.699

Asymp. Sig = .001

Based on Table 2, the high motivation group has the highest mean rank (mean rank = 82.86), followed by the medium motivation group (mean rank = 55.86), and then the low motivation group (mean rank = 42.78). Additionally, Chi-Square value of 27.699 is statistically significant (p = .001). So, it can be concluded that there are significant differences among the three motivation groups in the choice of global strategies. To locate the differences among the groups, three post-hoc Mann-Whitney U test procedures were used. The following table summarizes the results.

Table 3. Post Hoc comparisons of Motivation and the use of Global Strategies

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

score

high

40

53.34

2133.50

Global

low

40

27.66

1106.50

 

Mann-Whitney U = 286.500 Sig. = .001

 

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

score Global

high

40

50.02

2001.00

mid

40

30.98

1239.00

Mann-Whitney U = 419.00

Sig. = .001

 

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

score Global

mid

40

45.39

1815.50

low

40

35.61

1424.50

Mann-Whitney U = 604.500 Sig. = .059

Table 3 shows that the mean of the high motivation group (mean rank = 53.34) is higher than that of the low motivation group (mean rank = 27.66). Also, the Mann-Whitney U result of 286.500 is significant (p = .001). So, there is a significant difference between these two motivation groups in the choice of global strategies. In other words, the students in the high motivation group use global strategies significantly more than their counterparts in the low motivation group. Also, the Mann-Whitney U value of 419.00 is statistically significant. This means that the students in the high motivation group use more global strategies than their classmates in the medium motivation group. However, the third Mann-Whitney U result of 604.500 is not significant (p = .059). So, although the students in the medium motivation group use global strategies more than the low motivation group, the difference is not statistically significant.

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The second Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of students’ motivation level on their use of supportive strategies. Table 4 presents the result of the descriptive and test statistics.

Table 4. Descriptive and test statistics for Motivation and Supportive Strategies

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

supportive

high

40

79.25

mid

40

56.98

low

40

45.28

χ 2 = 19.788Asymp. Sig = .001

The result shows that the mean of the high motivation group in the choice of supportive strategies is the highest (mean rank = 79.25), followed by the medium group (mean rank = 56.98), and then the low group (mean rank = 45.28). Moreover, Chi-Square value of 19.788 is statistically significant (p = .001). This means that there are significant differences among these three motivation groups in the choice of supportive strategies. To locate the differences among the groups, three post-hoc Mann-Whitney U procedures were run. Table 5 summarizes the results.

Table 5. Post Hoc comparisons of Motivation and the use of Supportive Strategies

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

supportive

High

40

51.81

2072.50

low

40

29.19

1167.50

Mann-Whitney U = 347.500 Sig. (2-tailed) = .001

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

supportive

High

40

47.94

1917.50

mid

40

33.06

1322.50

Mann-Whitney U = 502.00

Sig. (2-tailed) = .004

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

Supportive

Mid

40

44.41

1776.50

low

40

36.59

1463.50

Mann-Whitney U =643.500

Sig. (2-tailed) = .131

Table 5 shows that the mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank = 51.81) is higher than that of the low motivation group (mean rank = 29.19). Additionally, the Mann-Whitney U result of 347.500 is significant. So, there is a significant difference between these two motivation groups in the choice of supportive strategies. This means that the students in the high motivation group use supportive strategies more than their counterparts in the low motivation group. In addition, the mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank = 47.94) is higher than that of the medium motivation group (mean rank = 33.06). Also, the Mann-Whitney U result of 502.500 is statistically significant (p = .004). So, the students in the high motivation group use more supportive strategies than the students in the medium motivation group. When it comes to the

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comparison of mid and low groups, however, the Mann-Whitney U result of 643.500 is not significant (p = .131, but the medium motivation group has the higher mean rank (mean rank = 44.41) than the low motivation group (mean rank = 36.59. Thus, the students in the medium group use supportive strategies more than their classmates in the low motivation group, though not in a statistically significant way.

Finally, the third Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of students’ motivation level on their use of problem solving strategies. The result of the descriptive and test statistics is summarized in Table 6.

Table 6. Descriptive and test statistics for Motivation and Problem Solving

Motivation group

N

Mean Rank

Problem

high

40

79.16

Solving

mid

40

58.30

low

40

44.04

χ 2 = 20.789 Asymp. Sig = .001

A brief look at Table 6 makes it clear that much like the result of the two previous strategies, the mean of the high motivation group in the choice of problem solving strategies is the highest (mean rank = 79.16), followed by the medium group (mean rank = 58.30), and then the low group (mean rank = 44.04). In addition, Chi-Square value of 20.78 is statistically significant (p = .001). So there are significant differences among these three motivation groups in the choice of problem solving strategies. To locate the differences among the groups, three other post-hoc Mann-Whitney U’ test procedures were run. Table 7 presents the results.

Table 7. Post Hoc comparisons of Motivation and the use of Problem Solving

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

Problem Solving

high

40

52.02

2081.00

low

40

28.98

1159.00

Mann-Whitney U = 339.00 Sig. = .001

 

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

Problem Solving

high

40

47.64

1905.50

mid

40

33.36

1334.50

Mann-Whitney U = 514.500

Sig. = .006

 

Motivation

group

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

Problem Solving

mid

40

45.44

1817.50

low

40

35.56

1422.50

Mann-Whitney U = 602.500 Sig. = .056

Table 7 makes it clear that the mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank = 52.02) is higher than the low motivation group (mean rank = 28.98). Besides, the Mann- Whitney U result of 339.000 is statistically significant (p = .001). Thus, it can be concluded that the students in the high motivation group use problem solving strategies

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more than their counterparts in the low motivation group. It can also be seen that the mean rank of the high motivation group (mean rank = 47.64) is higher than that of the medium group (mean rank = 33.36). Also, the Mann-Whitney U result of 514.500 is significant (p = .006). So, there is a significant difference between these two motivation groups in the choice of problem solving strategies. That is, the students in the high motivation group use problem solving strategies more than their counterparts in the medium motivation group. However, although the medium motivation group has the higher mean rank (mean rank = 45.44) compared to the low motivation group (mean rank = 35.66), the Mann-Whitney U value of 602.500 is not statistically significant (p =

.056).

The effect of reading anxiety on choice of reading strategies

The third research question sought to investigate whether or not reading anxiety level influences EFL learners’ choice of reading strategies. To answer this question, similar to the second question, students were divided into three equal groups of low, medium and high reading anxiety levels based on their scores on the FLRAS questionnaire. Then the Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see if reading anxiety level influences the participants’ use of reading strategies.

The first Kruskal-Wallis procedure was used to see the effect of the students’ reading anxiety levels on their choice of global strategies. The following table contains the result.

Table 8. Descriptive and test statistics for Reading Anxiety and reading Strategies

Anxiety

N

Mean Rank

Global

low

40

60.04

mid

40

58.04

high

40

63.42

Chi-Square = .492 Asymp. Sig = .782

Anxiety

N

Mean Rank

Supportive

low

40

62.28

mid

40

64.80

high

40

54.42

Chi-Square = 1.945Asymp. Sig = .378

Anxiety

N

Mean Rank

Problem

low

40

58.91

Solving

mid

40

59.48

high

40

63.11

Chi-Square = .346

Asymp. Sig = .841

Table 8 shows that none of the Chi-Square values is statistically significant. In other words, the choice of reading strategies is almost similar in the three groups.

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DISCUSSION

The findings of the present study show a significant, though low positive relationship between reading anxiety and motivation. This is contrary to the findings of Miyanaga (2007), who found no statistically significant relationship between reading anxiety and motivation. Neither did Carreira (2006) find any significant correlation between motivation and foreign language anxiety, which is a distinct, but related construct.

One reason for such findings may be the participants’ gender in the present study, which included only female students. Previous studies show that females are more anxious (Elkhafaifi, 2005; Zhang, 2000), and more motivated (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997) than males in language learning. So, it may naturally be inferred that since the participants were both anxious and motivated, there must be a positive relationship between the two constructs. Moreover, the participants in the present study were pre- university students who were getting ready for their university entrance exam, which is a really high-stake exam in the context of Iran. Competition may have pushed them to study hard strengthening their motivation. At the same time, the university entrance examination may have made them feel more anxious. Therefore, when both reading anxiety level and motivation level are high, the positive correlation between the two traits seems natural and conceivable.

As to motivation and reading strategies, as the results indicate, motivation levels have a pervasive influence on students’ choice of reading strategies. The obtained results showed that all the motivation groups used all reading strategies, but the students in the high motivation group performed significantly better than the other two groups in overall strategy use. These findings are in line with a number of studies (Shokrpouris & Fotovatian, 2007; Zhang & Wu, 2009; Lau & Chan, 2003) showing that highly motivated students use various strategies more than their classmates. It seems that highly motivated students have intentionally and carefully planned techniques in their reading to aid comprehension. The findings of the present study lend support to those of Oxford and Nyikos’ (1989) findings that learners who are highly motivated to learn a language are likely to use a variety of strategies. The results also support Lau and Chan’s (2003) findings, which indicated significant differences between good and poor readers in their strategy use and reading motivation. They found that good readers scored higher than poor readers in using all reading strategies, especially in using sophisticated cognitive and metacognitive strategies.

The findings of the present study also corroborate those of Sheorey and Mokhtari (2001). They report that both U.S and ESL students are aware of almost all of the strategies in the survey. Additionally, students with high reading abilities tend to use a higher frequency of metacognitive and cognitive strategies than their low-reading ability counterparts. Furthermore, some of the present study’s findings are in accordance with Zhang and Wu (2009), who reported that the high proficiency group performed better than their intermediate and low proficiency group classmates in the

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use of global and problem solving strategies. However, they failed to find statistically significant differences among the three proficiency groups in using supportive strategies. The present study showed that the highly motivated students perform better than their counterparts in all strategies (global, problem solving, and supportive strategies).

On the other hand, the results of the present study are different from those of Shokrpour and Fotovatian’ study (2007). They showed that skillful readers use various reading strategies while poor reads seldom use strategies during reading the text. Poor readers are not familiar with the correct use of metacognitive strategies. In contrast with these findings, the present study shows that all students use all strategies, though in different degrees.

The present study found no significant differences in the choice of reading strategies of students with various degrees of reading anxiety. Chen, L’s (2007) findings are partly in line with those of the present study. Chen, L’s findings showed that there were no significant differences between low-anxiety readers and high-anxiety readers in choice of the overall reading strategies they used. On the other hand, Chen, L observed that students with higher levels of reading anxiety were less likely to use global reading strategies than supportive reading strategies. The high anxiety readers also used two of the supportive reading strategies more frequently than their low anxiety group classmates did. These findings are in contrast with the present study’s findings indicating that the high anxiety group tended to use global and problem solving strategies more frequently than supportive strategies. The observed discrepancy between the findings of the present study and Chen, L’s study might be attributable to the fact that the present study found a positive relationship between reading anxiety and motivation while Chen, L’s findings showed that students with a low level of anxiety were more motivated in English reading.

The results of the present study also contradict Miyanaga’s (2007) finding that anxious students used global and local strategies less than low anxiety students. Miyanaga reported that students with high level of anxiety tended to use bottom-up strategies, to look up words in the dictionary, and to be in difficulty with grasping the organization and the gist of the text, while the present study indicated that there were no significant differences in the strategy use of learners with different anxiety levels.

The findings of the present study are also in contrast to those of Sellers (1998), who strongly believes that anxiety causes some differences in strategy use. Sellers’s findings showed that more anxious students recall less passage content than their less anxious classmates. Additionally, her finding showed that more anxious students use more local strategies such as focusing on vocabulary, attention to syntax and translation. On the other hand, less anxious students experience the text more holistically and use strategies like integrating information, rereading and attention to text structure and

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utilize both local and global strategies equally. Such results are in contrast with the present study.

One possible reason for such results may be partially attributable to the difference in the cultural and educational knowledge of the students in this study. It might be argued that different factors such as cultural and social distance, lack of local English channels, and no cooperation with native English teachers in Iranian high schools cause Iranian students to be less familiar with the English culture as an essential ingredient in English reading. So, it is not very surprising to find such students lacking cultural knowledge. Additionally, such results may be due to the proficiency level of the participants. The participants of the present study were EFL pre-university students who could be considered roughly pre-intermediate learners. Intuitively, proficiency influences reading anxiety levels and learners choice of reading strategies.

CONCLUSION

The present study showed a low positive relationship between motivation and reading anxiety. This probably implies that for those learners who are motivated to read, reading automatically assumes a greater level of significance than in normal circumstances. The increased level of importance, then, influences the anxiety. On the other hand, the low correlation index might actually be due to a curvilinear relationship between the two constructs. This would mean that one of the assumptions of the Pearson Product Moment correlation may have been violated. At the same time, it may be concluded from the findings of the present study that the higher the motivation level, the more strategic L2 readers will become. However, reading strategies do not seem to be influenced by the learners' anxiety.

The above points, coupled with the areas of controversy between the findings of the present study and those of other studies, further fan the flame of interest, and are probably indicative of the need for further research in this area.

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Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 29-44 Available online at www.jallr.ir

Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 29-44 Available online

The Effect of Peer, Self, and Traditional Assessment on Iranian EFL Learners’ L2 Reading Comprehension

Nasrin Shams

PhD Candidate, University of Isfahan, Iran

Mansoor Tavakoli

Associate Professor, University of Isfahan, Iran

Abstract This study investigated the impact of peer, self, and traditional (or teacher) assessment on improving EFL learners' reading comprehension. To this aim, 77 Iranian students from a private institute were selected as homogeneous from a population pool of 102 volunteers based on their performance on a standard English proficiency test (Nelson, 2001). They were randomly divided into three experimental groups and subsequently exposed to the research treatment. The three groups received peer, self, and traditional assessment on second language (L2) reading comprehension. Then, the reading comprehension achievement test was given to the students in the three groups to find out their reading comprehension ability after the treatment. Statistical analyses of the results revealed that the peer-assessment group significantly outperformed the traditional assessment group in terms of L2 reading comprehension. The results also showed that that there exist no meaningful differences in the performance of the other two groups on comprehension measures. Hence, the findings of this study indicated that utilizing peer-assessment can be influential in language learning in general and L2 reading comprehension in particular. Results may also have important implications for foreign language syllabus designers and language instructors as well. Key words: peer-assessment, self-assessment, traditional assessment, L2 reading comprehension

INTRODUCTION

An essential feature of education is assessment and the significance and popularity of student-oriented learning demand alternative techniques of assessment to evaluate teaching and learning. Assessment sets the agenda more persuasively than any syllabus or course outline and it is “one of the most significant influences the students’ experience of higher education and all that they gain from it” (for more details see Boud & Associates, 2010, p. 1). In recent years, assessment has generally been seen as one of the key challenges in the field of learning. Assessment, in the broad sense, means “any methods used to better understand the current knowledge

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that a student possesses” (Collins & O'Brien, 2003, p. 29). According to Crooks (2001), assessment is “any process that provides information about the thinking, achievement or progress of students” (p. 1).

Because assessment is important in teaching and learning, every teacher should assess his/her students’ learning regularly. Some of the methods which teachers use to measure their students’ learning are paper and pencil tests, oral presentations, standardized tests, and question-and-answer activities. Therefore, teachers spend a great deal of their class time engaged in one type of assessment or another (Stiggins, 2001). On the other hand, assessment of students entails using a well organized system, namely tests, to make judgments about the students' achievement (Gronlund & Linn, 1990). While this type of assessment is a mainstay of educational programs educators and critics from various backgrounds have raised a number of concerns about its usefulness as the primary measure of students. There are many reasons for undesirability of traditional (or teacher) assessment in which student' knowledge is evaluated by one or two single scores. This element makes students rely on their memorization ability and reproduce these pieces of information from their memory on the exam to score high and after the exam this information disappeared. This traditional assessment distracts the students from meaningful learning. Also many other factors, among other things, distraction, anxiety and stress may influence students' performances.

Recent approaches towards assessment stress the learning potential of assessment (Taras, 2008). This is labeled as formative assessment and defined as “assessment that is specifically intended to provide feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning” (Nicol & Milligan, 2006, p. 64). Some consider this as a key quality of assessment and regard this as the “consequential validity” of assessment (Gielen et al., 2003). Consequential validity is put next to the two other traditional psychometric qualities of an assessment: reliability and validity. According to Messick (1994) consequential validity is one of the six aspects of his unified concept of validity.

Today, there are innovations in assessment procedures, where the change is from summative assessment to formative assessment. These innovations involve thinking of alternatives, which require questioning the learning process and using learning and assessment activities together rather than habitual testing applications. Alternative assessment asks students to show what they can do, that is to say, students are evaluated on what they integrate and produce rather than on what they are able to recall (Coombe et al., 2007). A large number of novel approaches of assessment have hence been suggested which meant to develop the integration of learning and assessment by enhancing the engagement of students in the assessment tasks (Sluijsmans et al., 2003).

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REVIEW OF LITERATURE

The literature suggests that students need to develop as independent learners in order to be successful in their higher education programs and also in their professional lives post-graduation. Boud and Falchikov (2007) have described the ability to evaluate one’s learning and performance as an essential part of “becoming an accomplished and effective professional” (p. 184). Similarly, Biggs and Tang (2007) argued that the ability to make judgments about whether a performance or product meets a given criteria is vital for effective professional action in any field. Tan (2007) also argued for “self- assessment development practices that can develop and sustain students' self- assessment ability beyond its immediate programme of study” (p. 115). However, part of this preparation for the future requires helping students to learn to continuously monitor the quality of their work during the act of production itself, so they can make improvements in real time (Montgomery, 2000). Two effective teaching and learning processes that can assist with the development of such judgment are self-assessment and peer-assessment, and the literature provides examples of how these processes have been used successfully in education.

Involvement of students in assessment can be organized in two ways: peer and self- assessment. 'Peer-assessment', as one of the main forms of alternative assessment, has gained much attention in educational learning and educational research. It is considered as an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status (Topping, 1998). It is "the process of having the readers critically reflect upon, and perhaps suggest grades for the learning of their peers" (Roberts, 2006, p. 80), and being judged for the quality of the appraisals made (Davies, 2006). Immediate support in the classroom, gains for both the assessor and the assessed, and being individualized and interactive are some benefits of peer-assessment to consider (Black & William, 1998).

Saito (2008) believes peer-assessment encourages reflective learning through observing others' performances and becoming aware of performance criteria. In general, peer-assessment seems to generate positive reactions in students, although some students have concerns and worries, it leads to the development of self- awareness, noticing the gap between one's and others' perception, and facilitating further learning and responsibility for it. In addition, focusing on peers' strengths and weaknesses can enhance students' learning, raise their level of critical thinking, and lead them to autonomy. According to Zhi-Feng and Yi Lee (2013), the students made positive modifications to their work with the help of feedback from others after participating in peer-assessment activities. Most of the students had positive opinions regarding peer observation.

Based on the new developments in learning theories teachers open up discussion of assessment with students; this is actually what presents a major challenge for assessment in 21 st century because it is putting demands on the teacher to obtain

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specific skills needed for this new, additional role. The process of learning should be assessed by more intense, interactive methods and that work should be undertaken in collaboration, either between teacher and student or a group of peers (Matsuno, 2009; Wikstorm, 2007).

Boud (1995) stresses that the assessment process shouldn't be thought only as an instrument to give students a diploma, but it should also be a process that leads up to student development and better learning conditions and applications. Such alternative views on assessment have given rise to new approaches like self-assessment It has been argued that 'self-assessment' serves as an effective language learning strategy to promote autonomous language learning because it encourages language learners to assess their learning progress and in turn helps them to stay focused on their own learning (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994; Chen, 2005; O’Malley & Pierce, 1996; Oscarson, 1997). The proponents of self-assessment strategies maintain that participating in self- assessment can help learners become skilled judges of their own strengths and weaknesses and establish realistic and attainable goals for themselves, thus developing their self-directed language learning ability (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994; Dickinson, 1987; Oscarson, 1997).

Tavakoli (2010) argued that in self-assessment, students concurrently create and undergo the evaluation process, judging their achievement in relation to themselves against their own personal criteria based on their own objectives and learning expectations. Matsuno (2009) is of the belief that self-assessment can give students a chance to build up their experiences in language learning and this experience can motivate students to be more involved in the classroom because they feel that they have control in their own learning rather than just having the teachers tell them what they have to learn. It also provides an opportunity for English (as a foreign or second language) learners to monitor their own progress and take responsibility for meeting goals. Therefore, self-assessment brings autonomy for learners. Portfolio assessment that is one type of self-assessment also fosters learners’ autonomy that may contribute to enhancing motivation and language learning (Hosseini & Ghabanchi, 2014). Weisi and Karimi (2013) found a significant effect of self-assessment initiatives in enhancing the students’ willingness and ability to engage in self-assessment and in creating positive outlooks toward English language learning.

To conclude, peer and self-assessment are the alternatives in language assessment. In peer-assessment, according to Falchikov (2005, p. 27), students use criteria and apply standards to the work of their peers in order to judge that work". Building on the latter, in self-assessment students use criteria and apply standards to judge their own work. Both peer and self-assessment are expected to decrease the central role of the teacher in assessment activities. During the last decades, there has been an increase in the implementation of peer and self-assessment in higher education learning environments (Cheng & Warren, 2005; Glyn et al., 2011; Matsuno, 2009; Patri, 2002; Tavakoli, 2010; Weisi & Karimi, 2013; Wikstorm, 2007).

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In line with previous studies, although not aiming at reviewing and replicating the extensive literature on peer and self-assessment, the present study is conducted to shed light on the status of peer, self, and traditional assessment in Iranian classrooms where teacher-centered classes are the norm. Considering the importance of reading comprehension in an EFL context, the current study focuses on investigating the effect of these three types of assessment on Iranian learners' L2 reading comprehension.

Even though there are several ways for assessing reading comprehension in an EFL context, using peer and self-assessment for L2 text comprehension has not been appreciated at least in Iranian EFL classrooms. As a result, the need arises to study the effect of peer, self, and traditional assessment on the students’ achievement in comprehension of L2 texts. Some researchers report that there are several shortcomings and limitations among traditional testing methods. Traditional assessment involves the employment of paper-and-pencil tests and standardized tests to assess student's performance under time pressure. Typically, traditional or teacher assessment is used only to monitor students’ learning. Under this model, students who know are separated by those who do not know. In other words, traditional assessment creates a system that classifies and ranks students (Berlak, 1992, Stiggins, 2001).

In traditional assessment, generally the teacher alone has the power to make decisions about what is learned and how it is assessed and students do not participate in making decisions about what is important for them to learn or in determining how well they are learning (Heron, 1988; Sessions, 1995). But, the focus of alternative assessment is on developing real-world problem solving skills that will lead people to observe, think, question, and test their ideas (Herman et al., 1992). Alternative assessment embraces a democratic decision-making process (Heron, 1988). In contexts that use alternative assessment practices, students and instructors are co-learners, freely expressing and testing their ideas together.

There are many kinds of alternative assessment like peer-assessment, self-assessment, play-based assessment, conference assessment, and so on. The educational system in Iran is based on traditional or teacher assessment and rote learning. This traditional assessment is not authentic and does not demonstrate actual level of proficiency. In this study, peer, self, and traditional assessment were selected as tools and the skill be assessed is L2 reading comprehension. Reading is one of the four major skills in learning a foreign language and the one that provides the students with the best opportunity of being in contact with English after education. The teacher researcher's presupposition in this study is that students' difficulties in reading comprehension can be at least minimized if she uses peer and self-assessment for assessing of EFL learners because this way facilitates the learning process, enhances peer and self-directed learning, encourages learner's autonomy, raises learner's awareness about learning strategies, and improves learners' reading comprehensions ability. Therefore, the researchers try to investigate the effect of peer, self, and traditional assessment on the

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Iranian learners' L2 reading comprehension in order to have an empirical evidence of such an effect.

THIS STUDY

The purpose of this study is threefold: first, it attempts to investigate the impact of peer, self, and traditional assessment on EFL learners' reading comprehension ability; second, it aims to enable teachers and students to share the responsibility for setting learning goals and for evaluating progress toward meeting those goals; third, it may help students become peer and self-directed learners; teachers are no longer knowledge transmitters but mentors, facilitators and collaborators. Students can become active learners by taking more responsibility in learning and having more involvement in assessment. It may also help students to become realistic judges of their own performance, by enabling them to monitor their peer and own learning, rather than relying on their teachers for feedback. The goal is to compare peer, self, and traditional assessments with one another and decide which is more suitable and effective for the students in promoting L2 reading comprehension in an Iranian EFL classroom setting. According to the stated problem and the purpose of the study, the following research question is addressed:

Is there any significant difference between the three modes of assessment such as peer, self, and traditional in terms of their effects on EFL learners’ L2 reading comprehension ability?

METHOD

The present study was carried out in an EFL classroom. A quantitative research design was employed due to the nature of this research and the research question.

Participants

The population from which the participants were selected was 102 female EFL learners who were aged between 17-21 years old in a private English Language Institution in Isfahan. To assess their general language proficiency level, the standard test of Nelson (2001) was administered. The students' performance on the reading comprehension section of Nelson test was analyzed to ensure that they were homogeneous in terms of their proficiency level. Only the participants whose scores on this test fell between one standard deviation above and one standard deviation below the mean was selected as the sample of the study. Finally, 77 participants were qualified to be included in this study. Later, these homogenized participants were randomly assigned to three experimental groups who subsequently exposed to peer, self, and traditional assessment.

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Materials

Nelson test

In order to determine the general proficiency level of the participants and to screen them, reading section of Nelson test (2001) including 30 questions, was used for the selection of 77 intermediate participants. The individual scores on this section of Nelson were analyzed to ensure that they were of the same level of language proficiency. These three groups were almost equal regarding reading comprehension ability at the beginning of the study.

Achievement comprehension test

A 24 item multiple-choice test of reading comprehension following 4 reading passages (including the same title and the same key words and expressions but different in content from reading passages of treatment) was used as an achievement comprehension test for experimental groups to find out the learners' reading comprehension ability at the end of the treatment. The reliability and validity of the reading comprehension test were established. Four specialists in language teaching and testing were asked to review the test, and there was a general consensus among them concerning the content and face validity of the test. In order to ensure that the achievement test was reliable, KR-21 reliability method was used in this study, and it was 0.86.

Procedure

After the teacher researcher made certain that the participants form a homogenous sample, they were randomly assigned to three experimental groups. On the day of the exposure to the treatment, the experimental groups received peer, self, and traditional assessment on L2 reading comprehension. In the first meeting with the participants of experimental groups, the teacher researcher presented the idea of peer, self, and traditional (or teacher) assessment, the purpose, the basic components and the procedures of these assessments for each experimental group respectively. All groups were asked to read 4 reading passages in the class and answer its comprehension questions. Then, the peer, self, and traditional assessment process was subsequently done in each experimental group.

Reading Logs for each passage were used as peer, self-assessment tool for monitoring the reading comprehension and strategy use, questing students' progress over time, evaluating the reading passages, reflections about the various reading challenges students (peers or individuals) faced, the different approaches they experimented with, and summarizing the whole text into an appropriate reading strategy chart.

In order to depict the three groups' performance and to examine the effect of treatment (peer, self, and traditional assessment) on L2 reading comprehension, in the next

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session which was held seven days after treatment, the 24 item multiple-choice test of reading comprehension following 4 reading passages was used as an achievement comprehension test for each experimental group. It should be mentioned that the contents of reading passages of the achievement comprehension test were different from those of the treatment; however, they include the same title and the same key words and expressions.

Data analysis

The raw scores of the 77 participants were compiled for data analyses. Descriptive statistics were used to determine the mean and standard deviation of each group on the achievement reading comprehension test. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed to compare the groups on the basis of outcome measures at the .05 level of significance. ANOVA accomplishes its statistical testing by comparing variance between the groups to the variance within each group. A significant statistical finding would indicate that group means were significantly different from each other. In case of a significant statistical finding, there is a need to use a Post-Hoc test (Tukey, Scheffe, Bonferroni or others) to find exactly which groups differed from which other groups (Balian, 1994). In this research, because of a significant finding from ANOVA, Bonferroni test was used to find exactly which groups differed from each other. In other words, one-way ANOVA was employed to calculate the amount of variance between and within the three groups, and Post hoc test was run to determine whether the difference existing among groups was significantly meaningful for peer, self, and traditional assessment.

RESULTS

The research question concerned the effect of peer, self, and traditional assessment on improving EFL learners' reading comprehension. Table 1 represents the descriptive statistics and ANOVA results of the achievement reading comprehension test for three experimental groups.

Table 1. One-way ANOVA of the comprehe