d techniques of CSR, hoping to transform the traditional knowledge-based English class to a more communicative and humanistic learning context. By exploring the effects of CSR on Iranian EFL students, this study aimed to develop and test the effectiveness of focusing this strategy on enhancing the reading comprehension of students in Iran.
1.3 Statement of the Research Question
By considering the above-mentioned purposes, the following research question was formulated:
Q1: Does teaching Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR) have any statistically significant impact on EFL learners’ reading comprehension?
1.4 Statement of the Research Hypothesis
In order to investigate the above-mentioned research question, the following null hypothesis was stated:
H01: Teaching Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR) has not any statistically significant impact on EFL learners’ reading comprehension.
1.5 Definition of Key Terms
1.5.1 Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR)
Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) combines cooperative learning (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, 1989) and reading comprehension strategy instruction (e.g., Palincsar & Brown, as cited in Klinger, 2010). CSR was designed to promote content learning, language acquisition, and reading comprehension in diverse classrooms that include English language learners (Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, as cited in Klinger, 2010).
1.5.2 Reading comprehension
Reading comprehension is a “process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language” (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002, P. 11). Reading comprehension is operationally defined in this study as the participants’ obtained scores on a sample PET reading test (2004) contains 35 items each 1 point.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Due to the significance of reading comprehension in learning and assessing a foreign language, many attempts have been done in order to determine and identify factors influencing in the complex process of reading comprehension. In particular, many researchers have been interested in understanding what good readers typically do or possess while they read (Block, 1992; Brantmeier, 2002; Burns, Erten & Topkaya, 2009; Heidari, 2010; Kondo-Brown, 2006; Lehr, Osborn, & Hiebert, 2005; Roe, & Ross, 1999).
Among the influential factors in reading comprehension, strategies are one of the most beneficial ones that any reader can use for ensuring success in reading (Heidari, 2010).
CSR is recommended because it is a set of four strategies readers can use to decode and comprehend as they read different types of texts (Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, as cited in Klinger, 2010).
The significance of this study is naturally two-fold: both teachers and learners can benefit from the results of this study. While teachers may contemplate applying the results of this study in their own practices, learners would also consider utilizing CSR in order to improve the way they deal with texts and reading materials which would bring about a higher degree of L2 learning.
1.7 Limitations and Delimitations
Like most research found in the domain of language teaching, this research encountered certain limitations which can pose inevitable restrictions on the interpretation and generalization of its findings. These limitations are listed below
1. According to Oxford (1993), there are some factors which could influence the choice of learning strategies. These factors include motivation, gender, cultural background, type of task, age, level of language proficiency, and learning/cognitive style. Because of practical limitations, it was impossible to examine the moderating role of other factors in the use of CSR in this study.
2. The experimental group received the treatment from the researcher herself because she wanted to make sure about the classroom procedure. Following Baumann, Seifert-Kessell and Jones (1992), this enhances the internal validity of the experiment but its external validity will diminish.
3. The age of the participants vary from 18 to 26. So, it seems that, the results of the study are not generizable to other age groups.
4. This study focused on the reading comprehension of intermediate level students, and it did not focus on the students of other proficiency levels because the learners at this level are only available for the researcher. Therefore, the results of this study may not apply to other age groups.
5. The rules and restrictions which exist in some language schools did not allow the researcher –herself being a female– to have male learners in her classes. Hence, the results of this research cannot be necessarily generalized to male EFL learners.
Regarding the delimitations of the study, the researcher can name the followings:
1. The focus of the study was only the reading comprehension not other language skills.
2. Among the different strategies in reading comprehension, CSR was chosen to be worked in the classes.
3. The participants were selected from among intermediate level. To justify the selection of intermediate learners in the study, it should be said that, according to Brown (2007), “Advanced learners are normally equipped with a high degree of learning strategies” (p.120), and elementary learners are not competent enough to participate effectively in this research study (120).
C H A P T E R II
THE RELATED LITERATURE
Considering the requirements of this research study, the review of literature will be allocated to the study of the following three general topics: “Reading”; and
“Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR)”.
Reading is considered as one of the most important skills which despite lots of research and due to its complicated nature sounds impossible to be described in a single comprehensive definition. According to Grabe (1991), simple definitions typically misinterpret complex cognitive processes such as reading. Aebersold and Field (1997) also note that “The act of reading is neither completely understood nor easily described. In the most general terms we may say that reading involves the reader, the text, and the interaction between reader and text” (P. 5). They further state that reading is what happens when people look at a text and assign meaning to the written symbols in the text.
Over the past decades, subsequent research in the area of reading mostly focused on explaining reading from the perspective of the process and components involved in it. Chastain (1988), mentioned that as it is true for other skills, reading is a process involving the activation of relevant knowledge and related language skills to exchange information from person to person. He believes that reading is a receptive process in that the reader is receiving a message from a writer. Reading also is known as a decoding process, since language is regarded as a code and the reader must figure out the meaning of the message. In Goodman’s view (1967), “reading is a psychological guessing game in which the reader constructs, as best as he can, a message which has been encoded by a writer as a graphic display” (P. 135). He further states that reading is an ongoing process in which the reader selects the most productive language cues from the text to help him predict what comes next. Celce-Murcia (2001), maintains that, “reading as an interactive, socio-cognitive process involves a text, a reader, and a social context within which the activity of reading takes place” (P. 154).
The efforts to understand the process of reading have brought various models and views of reading. Th
e bottom-up model (Gough, 1972), the top-down model (Goodman, 1967), and the interactive model (Stanovich, 1980), are usually discussed in literature on reading.
2.2.1 Models of Reading
In “bottom-up” processing, the reader begins decoding letters, words, phrases, and sentences and finally building up meaning from this incoming text. Phonics would be one example employing “bottom-up” processing, where a reader learns letter/sound relationships, moves to decoding words, reading sentences and then focus on the meaning of a text (Reynher, 2008).
In “top-down” processing, the reader begins with higher-order concepts (general knowledge of the world or a specific situation) and full texts (paragraphs and sentences), and works down to the actual features of the texts (e.g., letters, words, phrases, and grammatical structures). Whole language would be one example employing “top-down” processing, where a reader constructs meaning for a text based on his/her prior knowledge (Reynher, 2008). The terms of “text-based” and “reader-based” are frequently used for “bottom-up” and “top-down” respectively. Regarding terminology of “top-down”, Urquhart and Weir (1998), indicate that:
the term “top-down” is deceptive, appearing to offer a neat converse to “bottom up”, a converse which in reality does not exist … .Given the somewhat misleading nature of the term “top-down”, we suggest that the related terms “text (or data)-driven” and “reader-driven” are more generally useful when describing the contrast between “bottom-up” and “top-down” (cited in Park, 2010, P. 11).
Interactive models posit interaction between “bottom-up” processing and “top-down” processing. Rumelhart (1985), states that reading involves both “top-down” and “bottom-up” processing. Stanovich (1980), points out that “interactive models assume that a pattern is synthesized based on information provided simultaneously from several knowledge sources … a deficit in any knowledge source results in a heavier reliance on other knowledge sources, regardless of their level in the processing hierarchy” (P. 63). Grabe (1991) points out that, interactive approaches refer to two different conceptions: general interaction between a reader and a text, and interaction of many component skills. Most second language researchers stress the general interaction of which the basic concept is that the reader constructs meanings of the text based on both the knowledge drawn from the text and background knowledge of the reader. In contrast, most cognitive psychologists and education psychologists stress the interaction of component skills, implying that reading involves both lower-level skills, such as decoding, and higher-level skills, such as comprehension.
2.2.2 Components of Reading
Identifying the components that constitute reading was another aim of researchers to define and explain the process of reading. They explored how the components explain individual differences in reading. There were attempts to break reading down into the components, and the results of these attempts helped us understand the reading process. Grabe (1991) summarized the components involved in the reading process as six general skills and knowledge areas: automatic recognition skills, vocabulary and structural knowledge, formal discourse structure knowledge, content/world background knowledge, synthesis and evaluation skills/strategies, and metacognitive knowledge and skills monitoring. These six components skills could be categorized into three broad concepts for successful reading as indicated by Phillips (1984): linguistic knowledge, cognitive skill, and general experience and knowledge of the world.
With more instructional aspects, the National Reading Panel (NRP) (2000), identified key components for development of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, text comprehension, and comprehension strategy. In identifying these elements, NRP recognizes that reading is a complex cognitive process and an active process requiring an intentional and thoughtful interaction between a reader and a text.
2.2.3 Foreign Language