E. De Bruyne, M. Valcke

Ghent University (BELGIUM)
In higher education, reading of academic texts is considered as an essential gateway to scientific knowledge. The use of reading strategies in the L2 literature has been recognized as an important solution to facilitate reading comprehension. In a previous study we determined a differential impact of reading comprehension strategy instruction (RCSI) on learning performance when studying academic texts with different difficulty levels. The research involved first year university students (n=181). They were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in two consecutive studies. Each study built on two research variables: L1 versus L2 and with or without RCSI (activation prior knowledge, define unknown concepts, develop graphical organizer). In the two studies, the texts varied in text difficulty. Students read a study text about “instructional sciences” in view of a performance test.

Though RCSI had a promising impact on learning performance for the less difficulty text, the effect of RCSI was not significant for the most difficult text; even after controlling for prior knowledge, time-on-task, experienced cognitive load and language proficiency. In contrast to the non-significant effect of RCSI, the main effect of language was significant on learning performance.

In the present study, we present the results of a qualitative analysis of the actual use of reading strategies. This analysis helps determining differences in reading behavior when coping with L1 and L2 text. This was done by analyzing the way students worked on their printout of the text (marking, underlying, adding keywords, notes, …). A scoring rubric was developed to track three types of explicit processing strategies (selecting, organizing, and processing information). The rubric scales also measured the “quality” of each specific processing strategy. Following research questions were addressed:
(1) Which type of processing strategies are used by students in the different research conditions? and
(2) Which type of processing strategy helps explaining differences in learning performance?

Theoretical and practical implications are presented to guide future research, theory development and practice.