English language is really considered as a significant language since it has been used for communicating worldwide. Therefore, learning English is very common in many countries and language learning styles, especially reading styles are learned differently by students in globalization. More importantly, language learning styles are the core factors that help decide how the students learn a foreign language. In the article by (Rebecca, 2003), a foreign language is a language studied in an environment where it is not the major vehicle for every day communication and where input in the language is classified.
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In an article by Mulalic et al. (2009), students learning styles have been unnoticed as an irrelevant module in the learning process. Apparently, once lecturers become aware that different students learn various styles, they try to accommodate those learning styles in the classroom. When looking into lecturers’ teaching practices, it is possible to understand that the majority of the lecturers are not sensitive with their students learning styles. The problems occur when lecturers are not aware of the significance to create and explore learning styles.
In second language teaching or learning situations for academic goals, especially in higher education in English universities which make far-reaching use of academic materials written in English, reading is vital. Surely, without reading proficiency, second language readers cannot achieve at levels they study. Consequently, successful reading in a second language is important. Also, professional in second language education should take into consideration with approaches which can develop the learners’ reading skills. Interactive approaches to reading are crucial for recognizing the complicated nature of reading, specifically when it happens in a second language and culture (Carrell, Devine & Eskey, 2000).
In the beginning of 1970s, researchers became aware that learning strategies, styles, and personal characteristics could have significant influence in language acquisition. Michael O’Malley and Anna Chamot and their colleagues conducted a lot of learning strategies (reading, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary, etc) and grouped them into three main categories. The first category was metacognitive strategy, which included organization, comprehension, and evaluation in gaining knowledge. The second category is cognitive strategy, which emphasized in learning assignments and its applications. The third one was socioaffective strategy, which focused on interpersonal interaction and social-mediating activity (Brown, 2000).
In a globalized world, reading serves as a primary medium for information transmission and communication. Beneficially, reading improves cognitive capacity, sharpens critical thinking ability and enhances problem-solving skills, and it may even transform the development of individuals. Stanovich (1986) suggested that good readers will read more and read better while poor readers read less, and in turn obstruct further growth in reading ability.
Since English language has been introduced in Cambodia, EFL students’ learning styles have adapted to the language acquisition. In the past students were likely to get knowledge through listening to the teachers while teachers lacked specific training about teaching methodology. In the study by (Nguyen 2001), the learning style of Cambodian students is typically memorization at the expense of realistic purpose. Consequently, they would rather learn grammar and reading than on listening and speaking. Specifically, most Cambodian learners feel more comfortable and enjoyable with having things which are written on the whiteboard in order that they can write them down and study at home. Hopefully, students hope to get handouts of summaries or lecture outlines. Furthermore, some Cambodian learners reveal that they face a lot of pressures of how to adapt the new cultural environment and how to get on with their peers in class. Some feel lonely because the ways they dress or talk are so different.
As for the case of EFL Cambodian classrooms, Keuk (2009), found that most teachers use practical habitual teaching methods such as vocabulary translation from second language to first language. As a result, students are taught to remember chunks of English language with mainly focused on grammar and vocabulary.
1.2 Research Problems
Without recognizing proper learning styles, particularly reading styles students seem not to achieve better results in their academic performance and their English proficiency seems to be slow. Furthermore, students are less likely to improve their language acquisition very quickly, as they do not know the effective learning reading skills. In spite of the variety of academic courses which the EFL undergraduate students take in English, and the tough efforts universities and lecturers apply to develop students’ language skills, the students’ language performance, unfortunately, has been tedious. This could be recognized to the diverse learning styles and habits which are used by students in studying English, including preferring having things written on the whiteboard to listening to the lecturers’ explanation, nervousness of speaking in classroom, preferring working individually and personally to working in pairs or groups, and translating the words they do not know into their own language while reading the text. Frequently, encountering new words in reading is common for learners, especially L2 learners. It may not obstruct the general understanding of the text, but if too many words are not known, then intellectual capacity might suffer a lot. Pedagogically, most of the lecturers practice traditional teaching method, grammar translation method form first language to second language while teaching English language. The final noticeable problem is that large classes pose some significant challenges in class room setting and reduced effectiveness of classroom management.
In a study by Nuttal (1982), students ‘learning English seem to be slow due to the fact that they do not have opportunities to read a lot. Most of the class time is devoted to learning about the language, that is learning grammar and learning to read through translation. Students are taught in a traditional way. They approach their reading assignment by putting all their effort and concentration into the passages they read. They carefully read the passage word by word. When reading and encountering an unfamiliar word, they stop reading and look up the meaning of the word in a dictionary. This reading behavior not only slows down their reading speed, but also hinders their reading comprehension.
1.3 Objectives of Study
This study aims specifically to identify the learning reading of EFL undergraduate students in Cambodia. An additional aim of the research is to explore the affects and the outcomes of undergraduate students in learning reading in English as a foreign language.
1.4 Research Questions
This research aims to investigate the effective factors in learning reading skills in English as a foreign language. The following research questions can be formulated for the study.
Are there any differences in learning reading among Cambodian undergraduates?
Is there a correlation between learning styles and learning outcomes?
1.5 Significance of Study
As a part of educational development, this study is significant for four reasons. First, exploring students’ learning styles in reading in English in Cambodian higher education will help improve student’s language acquisition. Second, the study will shed light on the effective learning reading of EFL successful Cambodian undergraduates, which can be used as a model of learning reading in English. Third, this research will help to contribute to the usefulness of appropriate reading teaching and learning techniques in order to promote reading skills, particularly in EFL Cambodian context. In addition, from a methodological perception, it is also hoped that the findings from this study will be useful for providing second language reading and several strategies for reading comprehension based on Brown (2001). More importantly, the findings will help to develop the students’ capability of dealing with unknown words in their English vocabulary learning process, help to improve their reading comprehension, and conduct more beneficial suggestions for both English teaching and English learning.
1.6 Definition of Terms
In an attempt to better understand this study, some key terms are defined as follows.
EFL students’ learning styles mean techniques, behaviors, actions, habits and steps employed by learners learning English as a Foreign Language to improve and develop their different language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Moreover, the term learning style refers to the general approach preferred by the student when learning a subject, acquiring a language, or dealing with a difficult problem (Oxford 2001; Reid 1998)
Extensive reading refers to the improving well habitual reading, increasing knowledge of vocabulary and structure, and motivating a connecting in reading” (Richard & Schmidt, 2002: 193-194).
1.7 Proposed Chapter
This paper will be chronologically composed of five main chapters. Chapter one is the introduction, consisting of background of the study, researcher problem, research objective, research question, significance of the study, and definition of key concepts. Chapter two is literature review, which discusses on the problems and solutions of the study. Chapter three is methodology, which consists of research design, participants, method, instruments, tools data collection, data analysis, ethnical consideration, strengths and limitation of research. Chapter four is discussion and findings, presenting the findings related to the effective learning reading skills to make students learn effectively. Chapter five is conclusion and recommendation, summarizing the problems and findings of the study and suggesting some strategies to help improve the weaknesses. Moreover, these five chapters are followed systematically by references and appendices.
1.8 Conceptual Framework
Since English has become popular and international language for communicating, many learning styles are applied in a broader educational context in Cambodia. In Cambodian universities, students’ learning reading skills inside and outside the classroom are identified as follows: skimming and scanning, semantic mapping or clustering, previewing and predicting, strategies for reading comprehension, interactive reading model, three-part model of reading, extensive reading.
Cambodian undergraduate students’ learning reading skills
Skimming and Scanning
Previewing and Predicting
Strategies for Reading Comprehension
Interactive Reading Model
Three-part Model of Reading
Metacognitive Knowledge and Self Monitoring
Teaching Second Language Reading Skills
The Affects of Students’ Learning Styles and Learning Outcomes
Reading involves a variety of factors which may have an impact on learners’ reading ability. Weaver (1988) defined reading as the process of constructing meaning through the energetic interaction among the reader’s existing knowledge, the information recommended by the written language, and the situation in reading context.
In a study by (Miller &Yochum, 1991; Donnell& Wood, 1999), maintained that the reading difficulties students face may be related to inaccurate knowledge of the reading process, lack interest and motivation, fluency, concept density, organization, and difficult vocabulary.
Heffernan (1999) as cited in Aqel (2006), determined that many studies on language learning styles applied and gained differently base on motivation and outcome, level of language , years of learning language, teaching methods, difficult content, and students’ background and sex. He also added that successful language learners use various styles in learning language, and the teacher can help in increasing learning styles through teaching strategies that probably help weak students to choose the appropriate learning styles for dissimilar educational tasks.
2.1 Reading Skills
2.1.1 Skimming and Scanning
In their book More Reading Power, Mikulecky & Jeferies (1996) stated that skimming and scanning are the two important strategies.
“Skimming is high-speed reading which can save students a lot of time. Students skim to get the broad idea or gist of a text or a book, the main topic, and some of the supporting ideas. Students should read the words which help them gain the sense of the passage. Also, teachers can train students to skim passages by giving those 30 seconds to look through a few pages of material, close their books and then tell you what they learned. More importantly, there are three effective strategies for skimming: (1) Read quickly as you can; (2) keeping in mind the reason for skimming; (3) be flexible while you are skimming the passage” (pp.132-133).
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“Scanning, however, is very high-speed reading. Students should have a question in their mind when they scan the text; they do not read every word, only the words which answer the question. Practicing scanning will help students learn to skip over insignificant words in order that they can read more rapidly. For example, teachers ask students to look for names, dates, to find a definition of a key concept or to list a certain number of supporting details. For academic English, scanning is absolutely essential. In general English, scanning is important in dealing with genres like schedules, manuals, forms, etc (pp.15-16)”.
2.1.2 Previewing and Predicting
Mikulecky et.al (1996), students should make a difference before they read. They can get some ideas about what they are going to read. As a result, they will start to process the information faster as well as they will be able to catch the ideas of the writer better. Even though it takes two or three minutes to preview and predict, those minutes are well invested. Later, they will find that they save lots of time in reading and improve comprehension. Here are the hints for previewing and predicting about language text: (1) read the title of the passage; (2) decide what sort of the text it is; (3) look at the organization of the text; (4) read very fast the first line of each paragraph or sub-division; (5) notice repeated names, numbers, dates, and words; (6) read rapidly the very last few sentences in the last paragraph.
2.1.3 Strategies for Reading Comprehension
Comprehension or reading strategies show how readers conceive of a task, how they make sense of what they read, and what they do when they do not understand. In short, such strategies are processes used by the learner to improve reading comprehension and conquer comprehension failures (Singhal, 2001).
In a second language study, Hosenfeld (1977) used a think-aloud procedure to identify relations between certain types of reading strategies and successful or unsuccessful second language reading. The successful reader, for instance, kept the meaning of the passage in mind while reading and skipped less important words but the unsuccessful reader lost the meaning of the sentences when decoded and seldom skipped unimportant words.
In an article by Youngmee Suh (2005), one of the helpful strategies for reading comprehension is to be aware of the purpose in reading. Teachers should direct students how to get information through reading, to follow directions to do a task, for pleasure, to get in touch with friends and classmates, to know what is happening around the world, to discover out when and where things are, and for being interested about a topic. Furthermore, clear recognition of the intention in reading something is necessary for effective reading. Doing this, we know what we are finding out and we are not disturbed by other information. Consequently, it is compulsory for English reading lecturers to make sure students know their purpose in reading something.
2.1.4 Interactive reading model
Whilst a reader constantly moves from a top-down approach to guess feasible meaning to bottom-up approach to prove all the details in interactive reading, interactive-compensatory model. Based on the study by Stanovich(1986), any stage functions interactively with any other stage. Readers are thought to increase the reading processes efficiently. In this model, less-automatic processes cooperate recurrently, and automatic processes activate independently. Therefore, reading difficulties are overcome by both interaction and compensation. According to Youngmee Shu (2005) stated that
“the reader brings information, knowledge, emotion, experience, and culture to the text. There are two types of schemata, content schemata and formal schemata. Content schemata include our knowledge about people, the world, culture, and the universe, however, formal schemata include knowledge about discourse structure such as illustration, cause-effect, or comparison are broadly studied because reading comprehension is a subject of developing proper, proficient comprehension strategies. Some of the strategies are associated with bottom-up processes and others with the top-down processes, each of which can be practically applied to classroom techniques”
2.1.5 Three-part Model of Reading
According to Song et.al (1999), there is a positive relationship between reading strategies and successful reading. Moreover, a reading class should be planned focusing on three-part model of reading with interactive activities. Lecturers should present different techniques to teach effectively reading in three various levels of reading, pre-reading, while- reading, and post-reading. Based on Youngmee Shu (2005) identified that
“In pre-reading level, schema of the text should be activated. Teachers often introduce a topic and ask questions about the text. Students skim the text for an overview of main ideas. Students ‘tune in’ to the context and topic of the text and consider how the while-reading activity will be done.
While-reading is for purposeful reading. Students work on certain facts or rhetorical devices to have a sense of purpose for reading”
2.1.6 Extensive Reading
In their book Extensive Reading in the Second Language classroom, Day and Bamford (1998) state the following characteristics for the Extensive Approach: reading as much as possible, book after book, where the meaning is the focus, students select their own readings, students cover a variety of materials and topics, students read for pleasure, information and general understanding, reading is its own reward, reading materials are within the range of the students’ linguistic competence, reading is individual and silent, reading speed is usually fast, reading teachers are guides and facilitators, and teachers are role models of a reader for students. This approach can be very beneficial and rewarding to student readers. Day and Bamford mention the following benefits: developing good reading habits, encouraging a liking for reading, developing structure and vocabulary, increasing general second language competence, developing automaticity, enhancing background knowledge, improving comprehension skills, and promoting confidence and motivation.
In an article by Ming-yueh Shen (2008), reading extensively is to expose students to a great amount of reading materials, enhance students’ reading fluency, and develop a good reading habit.
2.1.7 Metacognitive knowledge
Metacognitive knowledge and self monitoring are the significant elements of fluent reading skills. Knowledge about cognition including knowledge about language, relating to identifying patterns of structure and organization, and using appropriate strategies to achieve specific goals (e.g., comprehending texts, remembering information). Connected with reading this will consist of recognizing the vital information in a text; adjusting reading rate; using context to deal with a misunderstood part; skimming portions of the text; previewing headings; pictures, and summaries; using search strategies for finding specific information; formulating questions about the information; using a dictionary; using word formation and affix information to guess word meanings; taking notes; underlining; and summarizing information. Monitoring of cognition regarding to recognizing problems with information presented in the texts or incapacity to accomplish expected aims. In addition, the ability to use metacognitive skills successfully is broadly recognized as a critical component of reading skills.
The Affects of Students’learning Styles and Learning Outcomes
Since the learning of students is likely to accomplish the better outcomes, there are some effective learning styles and strategies are applied to students’ learning. As stated by Youngmee shu (2005):
“Bottom-up models are based on text- or data-driven operations. In bottom-up processing, the letters, words and language features in the text are decoded while reading, and through this process, readers understand intensive and local meaning of the text. The reader is considered as a scientist with a magnifying glass examining the details. On the other hand, top-down models are based on meaning- or conceptually-driven operations. The reader is compared as a person with an eagle’s eye view of a landscape below. Schema (prior) knowledge for prediction is an important operation for a reader to understand and infer the meaning of the text. More recent research on teaching reading has shown that a combination of top-down and bottom-up processing called interactive reading is important. The interactive model suggests that the reader constructs meaning by the selective use of information from all sources of meaning (graphemic, phonemic, morphemic, syntax, semantics) without adherence to any one set order. The reader simultaneously uses all levels of processing even though one source of meaning can be primary at a given time.”
Unlike the qualitative approaches, quantitative research is conducted to test the theory of natural setting (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2000). Since the intent of this study significantly is to identify the differences of learning reading skills of Cambodian undergraduate students, the researcher will use a cross-sectional survey research. The researcher will explore the learning reading styles of EFL Cambodian undergraduate students.
The target population in this study will be students in three private universities in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The simple random sampling will be employed in order to obtain information. The participants will be selected through the help of table of random numbers. The sample consists of 100 students, who are studying English Literature in those universities. Also, the researcher will choose 40 female and 60 male students. Before conducting interviews, the researcher will make an appointment and notify the reasons of visit to the Rector of University.
3.3 Research instruments
With the purpose of getting trustworthy information, the researcher will use written questionnaire and structured interview to obtain data from participants. The questionnaire will consist of 2 parts. In part 1, there are 42 Likert Scale items. The students will be asked to provide their responses about learning reading both inside and outside classroom. As for part 2, there are four open-ended questions, which a researcher will use to ask them to provide their answers based on their ideas. To ensure content validity, the researcher discussed the problem with the English language teachers who have had experience in teaching English. Reading test will be used to measure to outcomes of the students and questionnaire contains the common learning reading skill of students. Apart from this, interview will be utilized to get information about perception of students on a variety of students’ learning style.
3.4 Data collection
The pilot test will be distributed to participants before conducting interview. Prior to carrying out the interviews, the researcher will ask permission from university rector and students. The researcher expects interview will take 30 minutes and occur in the universities or outside the universities. The options for selecting site for interview will be provided for the participants because it helps reduce the participants’ difficulties. Moreover, the study objective will be verbally informed to participants before conducting interviews. The researcher might ask different participants to answer the questions based on their preferences. The students will be asked to provide their responses about the learning reading of EFL Cambodian undergraduate students based on their ideas.
3.5 Data analysis
After collecting data from the field setting, the researcher will identify any information about the number of members of participants who will not return the survey or response in any questions in order to prevent any respondent bias. The data will be carefully analyzed through SPSS in an attempt to explore scores, percentages and means of students’ reading skills. The scores of students will be converted into mean in order to compare students with students who use different styles of learning and their learning outcomes.
3.6 Ethical consideration
To successfully conduct this study, the researcher will take into consideration about some safeguards. First, the consent form will be given to the participants to sign if they really agree to join in the study. Second, the purpose of this study will be clearly informed to participants in order to build mutual understanding and rapport. Third, the researcher will profoundly tell the participants that their participation will be voluntary and stopping from interviews will be the participants’ choice. Finally, the researcher will keep data collected in secret place which no one besides researcher will have access to get it. Furthermore, I will bring together the names of participants but keep them confidential. Personal identifiers will be released to the public in a way that protects the identification of participants.
3.7 Limitation of research
This study is guided with the following limitations, which affect the generality of the finding. First, the study focuses three universities English students in Department of English. Second, the study may be limited in its analysis or generality as it will be conducted in three private universities, in which 100 students will be selected randomly. Third, since this study will mainly explore only important learning reading, some points might be ignored. However, the purpose of this study is not to provide the broad generalization but to explore the learning reading of Cambodian undergraduate students in three universities in Phnom Penh. Therefore, the above-mentioned compounding circumstances might limit understanding and evaluation; however, these are generally overwhelmed and controlled by the research design.
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