About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 3469-3476
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain

FAILURES TO PROCESS SCIENCE MACRO-IDEAS IN ENGLISH AT UNIVERSITY: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY WITH SPANISH UNDERGRADUATES

Nowadays Spanish universities are facing the changes proposed by the European Higher Education Area. In that context, university students need a suitable level of English comprehension to put their knowledge into practice in the European Labour Market. To cope with this problem Spanish universities are beginning to offer some of there degrees in English. However, this effort will be worthless if university students show a lack of skills to understand the high level and specialized information provided at university due to an inappropriate level of English command.

This work presents an experimental study conducted in the Pre-service Teachers Faculty of Valencia in order to assess the university students’ possibilities of learning certain contents, as Science, in English. Our research questions are: Do Spanish university students have a suitable development of comprehension abilities in English? Specifically, do these students have the required comprehension monitoring abilities when they read science texts in English?
Comprehension monitoring is a very important metacognitive skill, not only for reading comprehension but also for the academic success in general. Some studies have proved that when some topics are studied in a foreign language, some comprehension monitoring skills are less efficient than in the mother tongue.

Comprehension monitoring skills operate at different levels according to Kintsch and van Dijk’s model of text comprehension. Understanding information implies building the Textbase (the semantic mental representation related to the text micro- and macro-structure) and the Situation Model (the referential mental representation involving previous knowledge). Thus, comprehension monitoring has to operate at these levels too. At university level scientific content is a set of subject-domain coherent and inter-connected ideas (theories, models) to be processed together in order to describe, explain and predict phenomena. Subjects have to process scientific information at macro-structural level to be aware of this relationship among several, coherent ideas. Failures in macro-structure processing will lead to a lack of understanding.

We use a set of three short texts about well-known scientific topics, having the same structure and similar length. Four mistakes were intentionally embedded in each text: two micro-structural errors affecting just one single idea and two macro-structural errors in summary sentences contradicting the meaning of crucial previous ideas. Students were asked to read these texts in order to judge their comprehensibility with pedagogical purposes. They were instructed to underline and codify absurd, incoherent, incomprehensible information or unknown words.
Our results show that even students with an intermediate or upper-intermediate level of English (B1/B2) found obstacles in controlling their processing of the macro-ideas in the experimental texts (44% to 94% of failures detecting the contradictory macro-ideas). It seems that students in this sample wouldn’t be prepared to study certain contents in English. If these results were replicated with other university students, formation in English would have to be revised to improve macro-structural processing. Otherwise, Spanish university students would have less promotion and mobility possibilities than the rest of European graduates.
@InProceedings{GOMEZLOPEZ2011FAI,
author = {G{\'{o}}mez L{\'{o}}pez, A. and Sanjos{\'{e}} L{\'{o}}pez, V. and Solaz Portol{\'{e}}s, J.J.},
title = {FAILURES TO PROCESS SCIENCE MACRO-IDEAS IN ENGLISH AT UNIVERSITY: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY WITH SPANISH UNDERGRADUATES},
series = {4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2011 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-3324-4},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {3469-3476}}
TY - CONF
AU - A. Gómez López AU - V. Sanjosé López AU - J.J. Solaz Portolés
TI - FAILURES TO PROCESS SCIENCE MACRO-IDEAS IN ENGLISH AT UNIVERSITY: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY WITH SPANISH UNDERGRADUATES
SN - 978-84-615-3324-4/2340-1095
PY - 2011
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2011
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2011 Proceedings
SP - 3469
EP - 3476
ER -
A. Gómez López, V. Sanjosé López, J.J. Solaz Portolés (2011) FAILURES TO PROCESS SCIENCE MACRO-IDEAS IN ENGLISH AT UNIVERSITY: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY WITH SPANISH UNDERGRADUATES, ICERI2011 Proceedings, pp. 3469-3476.
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