O. Maximova

Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
Reading and comprehension of professionally-targeted texts is one of the most important skills for English for Specific Purposes (ESP) learners in the modern world where the role of cognitive capital, innovations, technologies, and knowledge sharing is still increasing.
Nowadays, developing reading skills is yet more important because of the latest trends in designing new formats of literacy and reading strategies. As of now, students deal with various types of texts: electronic, multimodal, non-linear, each calling for different skills and abilities. The differences in learners’ reading strategies between a conventional text, a screen text and a hypertext may be a significant factor changing the methods and approaches to reading skills (Calisir and Gurel, 2003).

Regardless of quite impressive number of studies, largely dealing with fostering foreign language reading skills in a computer-networked environment (Abanomey, 2013; Levine, Ferenz and Reves, 2000; Nuttal, 2007; Thomas, Reinders and Warschauer, 2013), there is still little consensus as to the proper learning environment where those skills may be enhanced by ESP learners. Moreover, the scholars lack information about the processes of electronic and Internet reading compared to conventional reading comprehension (Corio and Dobler, 2007).

Critical Pedagogy (P. Freire, H. Giroux, P. McLaren, and others) is an innovative approach to teaching, providing a student with an individual style of thinking and critical judgement enabling them to achieve a conscious and responsible role in the society. The methods of Critical Pedagogy (CP) deserve special attention regarding this. Critical approach to reading reveals the interaction between the author, the reader and the text; this said, the readers are regarded as active participants constructing their own meanings rather than passive recipients of information.

The long standing teaching practice has made the author to put forward a hypothesis that the CP approach might really provide a teacher with an insight into different patterns of reading skills development.

The report will outline the key components of the CP approach to improve reading comprehension of university students and the pilot study completed by the author to investigate the development of ESP reading skills and comprehension in a computer-networked environment in this framework. The approach was implemented through the pilot training focusing on observation and on the analysis how the students’ mind would advance and behave. The research methodology included the experiment where two groups of post-graduate students of Social Sciences and Humanities took part. The control group was engaged in traditional instruction. The experimental group has received critical pedagogy strategies training. Both groups were interviewed about their experiences and reading skills. The participants’ academic progress was measured in terms of their scores regarding midterm and final assessment. In the end of the course, both groups were exposed to reading comprehension tests in conventional (printed) and on-line formats. Students of the experimental group outperformed the other group.

The results indeed show that critical strategies have a positive impact on learners’ overall reading comprehension ability, and could contribute to reading skills development by fostering reading comprehension of both conventional and on-line texts.