Persistent and Potential Problems Preventing EFL reading comprehension of Saudi University Students
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1
Background of the Study 2
Reading as an Interactive Process 5
Rationale for the Study 6
Statement of the Problem 9
Aims of the study 10
Significance of the Study 10
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Research Questions 12
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
Language is a means of communication and, everyone learns a language to communicate from early childhood. Language is very important because it serves as a means for people to exchange their ideas, thoughts and feelings with each other.
Once a person learns a language, he/she becomes a member of a linguistic community. Since language helps a person to express their love, sadness, anger, and happiness, it has become a component of every culture in this world. For this reason, people from across the globe develop a deep rooted love and emotional bonding for their mother tongues. However, with the concept of globalization which has over taken the entire world, the need to communicate in a regular language has become increasingly important. The clearest example of this phenomenon is the acquisition of English Language, which has become a necessity for people across the globe in order to communicate with each other. This is because the English Language has become an international language and Lingua Franca which means a language which serves as a vehicular language, or a working language. Lingua Franca helps people with different mother tongues to communicate with each other.
The English Language enjoys a very significant status in the world being the international language of communication, however, the importance of another language can never be undermined or underestimated as every language hold a great value within itself and speakers of every language have a profound love for their native languages which renders a greater significance to any given language.
When pupils, whose native language is not English, embark on learning English as a foreign language, it becomes a challenge for them to acquire a command over the second language. This study will analyze the persistent and potential problems that are faced by Saudi Arabian university students while reading English as a foreign language.
Background of the Study
Over the years, research has proven that Saudi Arabian students face considerable trouble in reading and comprehension of English text. This acts a hindrance for them to remain abreast with the rest of the world in this age of globalization. The foremost thing to be considered is that when assessing the process of reading from the reader’s point of view should be the interest of the student in reading. It is commonly observed in EFL classrooms that teachers feel that the difficulty in linguistics in the supplementary material has less influence on the level of comprehension instead of relevance.
The pie chart above shows that 45% of the students says that reading is important because in offers us wide range of information. 25% of the students says that reading is important for better understanding, 20% says that it is important for general knowledge and 10% says that reading is important is important because it helps in speaking fluent English. 2. The graph below shows what types of books ...
By relevancy of the text, it is meant that the text which is related to the interests of the students, and which deals with the ideas of the circumstances that children and adolescents perceive as significant and meaningful to them in the EFL classroom setting. Interests are closely tied to the whole area of purpose as well as motivation for the process of reading (Klingner, Vaughn & Boardman, 2007)
It happens oftentimes that the traditional and structured exercises present in EFL reading material trivialize the purposive expression of reading. This is done by demanding from the students to seek or remember a great number of small items of information which simply present the narrow teaching absorptions of the writer of the material. For instance, concentrate on the troublesome points or to tap the chance for studies of vocabulary.
These types of exercises are not founded on any purposes an intelligent reader may in reality have in their reading passages outside the classroom. Outside of the classroom, the students might read their L2 text to practice their language skills or just for the purpose of pleasure, but more often for the acquisition of information. (Shopov, 2009)
Exercises which are meaningful, hence, should include discovering the particular facts about a subject. These subjects should either have distinct details like names and dates of elements pertaining to open-ended questions such as rationalities, examples, etc. And the essence of a passage by determining the viewpoint of the writer and holding a comparison from two sources, etc.
Once the purpose has been chosen, instructors can ascertain the skills that are required to be practiced and the texts which are appropriate for children and adolescents of ESL classes. For instance, if the pupils require being able to compare and contract two given arrangements of information, one skill, which is essential here, is to scan the text and the suitable text can be selected on the grounds of content which is comparable. (Shopov, 2009)
Reading Gendered Texts The idea of gender in this following passage is portrayed in a very extreme manner. According to this the first ever mistake on earth was made by a female, in this particular case Eve. Eve being the first ever female on earth, left the consequences of her mistake for all future generations to suffer. As far as the process of child birth is concerned, the author very directly ...
If the purpose is to gather the information on a question regarding specific personal interests of a pupil, the background knowledge of the student, as well as their interest in the subject can aid the compensation for the linguistic troubles in the text. In both cases, the content present in reading passages might be more significant as compared to the linguistic structures. (Shopov, 2009)
Once the areas of interest and the purposes have been taken into account, the instructor ought to try to evaluate the background know-how which has been assumed by the writer during the process of writing the text. In accordance with the psycholinguistic model of the process of reading, when meanings are to be derived from the written language, the reader ought to furnish input which is semantic in nature which he has acquired from his prior experience.
According to the Schemata theory, the primary determinant of the know-how that a learner can acquire from reading the text, this knowledge is already possessed by the reader in his frame of reference (their schemata).
The process of understanding and comprehension involves the rapprochement of the schemata internalized by the reader as well as the message which is written.
For some aims, such as reading for pleasure, and in some of the programs, this is probable and has a high level of desirability. If the students are given the chance to choose their own materials for ESL learning they can select which ones are of interest to them. Moreover, they can select to which type of material they have sufficient frame of reference attached to make it easier for them to overcome linguistic difficulties. (Collier, 2009)
However, such self-selected reading is not suitable and does not prove to be practical in many situations. It is frequently the role of the instructor to make sure that there is a correspondence between a text and several learners in an ESL classroom arrangement. In these types of situations, there are various advances which depend upon the accessible facilities and the degree of command that ESL students have acquired over the English Language.
For adolescent, merely learning to read, many teachers propose that the usage of the “language experience advancement” is a convenient way. In this particular approach, the ESL class commences with an oral discourse on the shared experiences or any given topic of interest of the students. After which the students gladly comment on the subject which are transliterated by the language teacher. The following text is utilized to practice for the purpose of enhancing writing and reading skills. (Baker & Hornberger, 2007)
College students today spend less time studying. In order to succeed in college, it’s very important to dedicate your time to work hard. Some students do not use their time correctly to study because they get caught in other distractions. Bad grades in college are results of not spending enough time studying. The social media is a time consuming for the college students. Spending an exaggerated ...
One of the primary advantages of this approach is that the teacher is certain that the content being used in the classroom is strongly grounded in the experiences of the students .This is because the students have written it themselves. For adolescents, it is suggested that constructing their background know-how via cultural activities, activities involving pre-reading such as discussion, brainstorming or making predictions. (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005)
These kinds of researches demonstrate that the above mentioned activities help to improve levels of comprehension. At these degrees it has been suggested that teachers take into account the function in thematic units. This is to ascertain that the vocabulary and background know-how can be constructed with the passage of time and the context. (Shopov, 2009)
Reading as an Interactive Process
Various studies on EFL reading difficulty indicate that the formulas for readability do not furnish a sufficient theoretical account for teachers of EFL to use in the assessment of difficulty in text. It is certain that the vocabulary, length of the sentence, and the syntactical complexity are elements which must be taken into consideration when the EFL reading materials are being designed for Arab EFL students.
However, it must be remembered that they are only a part of the larger context and not an end in itself. This process also brings the learners to the task and not only the structures and vocabulary that students have learned in their EFL classes but reading motivates them and considers their interests, background know-how, outside experience, etc. Thus, reading is very important to learn any given language. (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005)
Rationale for the Study
When someone reads words correctly, it does not mean they can understand the meaning of the text. The reader must be able to think critically and go beyond its literal meaning and must be able to appreciate what the author is saying in order to grasp the meaning of the text. (Klingner, Vaughn & Boardman, 2007)
Reading means many things to many people. It can be one of the most rewarding, preoccupation of the individual his horizons and making it possible to partake of means accumulated experience and achievements through the ages. It is an active dialogue between the author and the other reader and it is the basic tool for learning in all subjects. It also plays a vital role in ones’ success in school. ...
In other words, reading is all about extracting information. It is not about the number of words that a student reads, but the amount of value can be comprehended from them. Therefore, reading comprehension is a crucial skill for success, in general, and in the educational sector, in particular. Students of English must be able to utilize the various strategies which are used to understand the required information in order to cope with learning English as a foreign language.
However, research has identified reading comprehension as being a highly complex process in which some learners experience much difficulty (Bergman, 1992; Pearson & Fielding, 1991).
Studies have proven that Arab students face various reading difficulties when they are taking EFL courses. There are four categories of problems which Saudi Arabian EFL students face when they read English (Farquharson, 2008).
These include problems related to the misunderstanding of the reading process; the troubles associated with the inadequacy in the use of English Language, difficulties linked to the differences between English and Arabic and problems related to the spelling and sound system in English (Farquharson, 2008).
In this study, we will stick to the reading difficulties that Arab students of EFL face in terms comprehending the text.
Learners of English as a foreign language routinely face various difficulties in reading comprehension. Some of these problems have been reviewed in the literature and were attributed to some reasons of struggling with, either the lack of one or multiple types of sources: such as reading proficiency (Nodoushan, 2003), prior knowledge on the subject domain or schemata (Carrell, 1984), and techniques of reading (Duke and Pearson, 2002).
Other studies highlighted teachers’ inability to meet students’ different learning styles in their teaching, primarily because Saudi Arabian students face difficulties to extract meaning out of the context of the reading material (Bernhardt, 1991).
Factors affecting the academic performance in English 11 of first year AB-English students of the School of Arts and Criminology Introduction Academic performance is one of the crucial areas of a learner’s life. Some learners may not be bothered if they progress or not, however, their parents are left with great distress if their children do not perform. This is because families, as well as the ...
Some studies showed that lack of topic interest (Schiefele & Krapp, 1996) is another reason for reading and comprehension difficulties among Saudi students studying EFL. Furthermore, inappropriate supplementary materials were reported to affect students’ reading comprehension, negatively (Farquharson, 2008).
Another identified reason for lack of comprehension and reading difficulties is poor pedagogical skills which have profound effects on the learning capacity of a student. . (Duke and Pearson, 2002) At university level as Alebsi (2002) revealed in her study in Saudi Arabia, that poor results in the pre-tests in both groups were related to a lack of training in reading comprehension skills, whether through inappropriate materials or poor pedagogy.
These challenges which ESL students in Saudi Arabia face in terms of reading comprehension and extracting meaning from the information given in text books work as barriers to success in learning in general, and in the educational process in particular in Saudi Arabia. The idea of conducting this study arose from my own experience as an educator and from lecturers’ complaints regarding student who “are unable to read effectively in a foreign language” (Susbielles, 1987, p.198).
Since it has become essential for everyone to be able to read, write and understand English in order to stay updated with the rest of the world in this age of globalization, I find the topic should be highlighted in the research. This is because this study could help teachers and educationists to ponder over and take appropriate steps to ameliorate the situation.
This, in turn, will attempt to help Saudi university students to read, speak and write English more fluently. This is important because research has also showed that English students in Saudi Arabia have been rated as poor readers of English as a second language, due to a lack of attention to reading skills (Al-Ebsi, 1997).
The problem, as mentioned earlier, is identified to be a grave one and needs to be addressed at a conceptual level so that the standard of EFL learning can be enhanced in Saudi Arabian universities. Hence, the current study is designed to explore the reading and comprehension difficulties that EFL students face in Saudi Arabia from different aspects and perspectives.
For the study, the researcher will use three different methods of data collection: questionnaire, interviews and observation. Thus, the findings of this study will provide more insight into the factors that might affect Saudi EFL reading comprehension.
Statement of the Problem
Reading problems are found among every group, but how and why this happens has not been fully understood (Snow, Burns, Griffin, 1999).
It has been observed that although given adequate instruction, a large number of students who should be capable of certainly well are not doing so, suggesting that the there are some lacking areas which have to be identified. In terms of Saudi context, Saudi EFL student have poor reading comprehension skills (Al-Sulaimani, 1990; Kondarge, 1991; Al-Ebsi, 1997; Alebsi, 2002; Awad, 2002).
Therefore, it is extremely important to investigate the reasons for the lack of reading comprehension ability among this particular population (i.e. Saudi EFL students).
A number of research studies in the Saudi context have affirmed that Saudi students have difficulty comprehending an English text. In this respect, Al-Sulaimani (1990) showed that most Saudi students have poor concentration and find it hard to participate in English discussions. The reason behind this is that they have a limited grasp of English concepts and they convert their goal from improving reading skills to just passing the exam.
In addition, Al-Sulaimani (1990) states that even the more able and motivated students have difficulties in reading ability due to the limited available time and the large number of students in classes who do not have a chance to practice English. Besides, Kondarge (1991) indicated that the main reasons for Saudi students’ low achievement in the English language are their lack of reading comprehension skills.
Moreover, unfavorable learning environments, traditional teaching methods, ill-motivated learners and badly designed English textbooks have contributed to the reading comprehension difficulties that Arab students, including Saudis, encounter in their English language learning (Awad, 2002).
Aims of the study
This study aims to explore the persistent and potential problems preventing EFL reading comprehension (i.e. the factors might cause problems in reading comprehension) facing EFL majors in Saudi Arabia. This will be carried out by exploring the theoretical constructs of instructional techniques and students’ learning through investigating what lecturers do when they teach the reading comprehension course; the study would focus on the following points:
1. To look into the problems encountered by Saudi university students in comprehension of English reading;
2. What is the significance of English as a second language?
3. To discover the specific reading comprehension difficulties that EFL students face in Saudi Arabia;
4. To assess the curriculum, supplementary materials and missing elements in the EFL reading courses regarding the skills of reading and comprehension;
5. To explore the relationship between what those lecturers do in the class and different reading comprehension problems encountered by students;
Significance of the Study
This study significantly contributes to EFL in general and to higher education in Saudi Arabia in terms of English language learning and the reading comprehension difficulties. These difficulties are faced by students of EFL which, in turn, creates a hurdle for them to embark on higher studies which requires extensive usage of English Language. Therefore, Saudi students lag behind in the fields if educational research due to various elements which create hindrance in learning English as a foreign language.
The current study has the potential to improve English language teacher education in a number of ways. For example, an understanding and analysis of the reading comprehension difficulties can significantly help in bringing about improvements in the reading instruction in Saudi EFL classes. This study may also serve as a reference for future EFL curriculum design for Saudi Arabian university students.
The study is significant for teacher and educators since it aims to provide implications for developing their reading syllabuses and methods of teaching reading comprehension. The study will also shed light on the importance of students’ needs, as this will enable teacher and educators formulate ways for satisfying these needs and conduct successful and memorable learning procedures. Moreover, this study will highlight developments in the academic achievement of students in other courses due to their ability to comprehend what they read.
At the level of educational research, the present study will make a meaningful contribution which can be summarized in two respects. First, it can serve as an example for further studies in education in terms of using the interpretive-constructivist research framework.
Accordingly, issues surrounding poor reading skill are worth investigating to contribute towards proficient teaching and learning careers for EFL university students in Saudi Arabia, who are serving the country’s ultimate development plans of creating adequate national human resources. Thus, the problem that this study is investigating is the persistent and potential problems preventing EFL reading comprehension of Saudi university students.
In addition, it will furnish ease for the curriculum planners’ and designers’ adopt different approaches to the teaching and assessment of reading comprehension and ameliorate the existing problems and fill the gap to make learning more competitive and holistic.
After extensive examination of the appropriate literature, a set of three guiding questions were derived to provide a framework for the development of the research design. These questions are stated below.
1. What are the troubles encountered by Saudi university students in comprehension of English reading?
2. What are the missing elements of the curriculum and EFL supplementary materials which create trouble for Arab students in reading English text in terms of comprehensibility and reading skills?
3. What is the relationship between the style of EFL teachers in Saudi universities and the different problems of reading and comprehension that students face?
4. How do Saudi lecturers perceive their teaching practices of EFL reading comprehension
5. How do Saudi students perceive the teaching practices of EFL reading comprehension?
6. How do Saudi EFL students and their lecturers perceive the EFL reading comprehension problems?
7. How do Saudi EFL students perceive the EFL reading comprehension problems?
8. How do Saudi EFL lecturers perceive the EFL reading comprehension problems?
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