A study investigating L2 text construction of meaning by Indonesian EFL university students: a mixed-method analysis

Ahsani, N 2018, A study investigating L2 text construction of meaning by Indonesian EFL university students: a mixed-method analysis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.


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Title A study investigating L2 text construction of meaning by Indonesian EFL university students: a mixed-method analysis
Author(s) Ahsani, N
Year 2018
Abstract In the context of Indonesia tertiary education, the teaching and learning of reading in second language (L2) is aimed at improving students’ reading ability to comprehend specific texts related to their fields of study (Dardjowidjojo, 2000) so that they can develop knowledge and become globally competitive graduates (Directorate General of Higher Education, 2008). However, L2 reading instruction has tended to focus on the explicit teaching of reading strategies on the grounds that a strong grasp of reading strategies would lead to better reading comprehension skills. Whereas such explicit teaching of reading strategies might benefit students, it is equally doubtful if it alone can adequately help them become proficient L2 readers. Previous research in Indonesia has also suggested that English language learning in Indonesia is characterized by a lack of teachers’ capacity in regard to the pedagogical and professional aspects, lack of students’ motivation and of adequate facilities especially in rural schools, and big class sizes (Madya, 2000; Yulia, 2014). In the same vein, research on the use of L2 reading strategies in Indonesia has mostly relied on questionnaires and semi-structured interviews to identify learners’ use of reading strategies. Such data collection approaches might be susceptible to the issue of validity as it relies heavily on learners’ accurate judgement and truthfulness in responding to questions. In addition, it provides little empirical evidence indicating learners’ use of reading strategies in processing L2 reading texts.

Therefore, this research seeks to expand L2 reading perspectives by acknowledging L2 reading as a complex process of knowledge construction involving cognitive, pedagogical and social dimensions of learning. It is a series of case studies of twelve English education students from three private universities located in Yogyakarta. It was conducted with a mixed-method analysis using the recall protocol as the primary data collection procedure. The quantitative data were drawn from the recall protocol, a specially designed grammar sensitivity test, the Burt word recognition test, and a questionnaire, while the qualitative data were gathered from interviews. The twelve students were selected out of thirty student participants by reviewing their recall using maximum variation sampling (Patton, 1990). Two students with the highest scores of successful recalls and two students with the lowest scores were selected from each university to make a total of six participants with high recall and six participants with low recall.

The research findings revealed different types of errors and sources of errors exhibited by the participants during the reading comprehension process. The types of errors found were omission, addition, replacement, mixing, and switching, whereas the sources of errors were syntactical difficulty, vocabulary difficulty, lack of knowledge of rhetorical structure, lack of previous knowledge, memory, lack of comprehension monitoring, L1 interference, and other factors. The different types of errors were understood to have reflected different cognitive strategies being exercised to comprehend the text while the different sources of errors reflected the difficulties prompting the use of those cognitive strategies. It was found that replacement of a word or phrase was the most frequently used cognitive strategy to deal with unknown vocabulary and syntactical structure. The finding aligned with the participants’ response to About-the-test Questionnaire which placed vocabulary and syntactical difficulty as the two most difficult areas of the text. It also aligned with the result from the correlational analysis of sub-independent variables which showed vocabulary, syntactical difficulty, and lack of knowledge of rhetorical structure as having a positive correlation with the number of units recalled with correlation coefficient at 0.675, 0.481, and 0.389 respectively. Similarly, the results from Grammar sensitivity test and Burt word recognition test confirmed such significantly positive correlations, meaning that the higher the grammar score, the more number of successful recalls by the reader and viceversa.

The findings also revealed that the students with high recall displayed a more skillful and creative deployment of various cognitive strategies resulting in more successful units recalled than those with low recall. Their recalls were characterized by a high level of representation of major ideas and a low level of representation of minor ideas, thus strongly indicating an exercise of interactive model of text processing. On the other hand, students’ low recall was characterized by a minimum level of representation of major ideas with equally a high number of isolated words and fragmented phrases. It was likely that they utilized not only fewer cognitive strategies, but also less successful deployment of those strategies, resulting in much fewer successful units recalled. The analysis of the students’ interviews strongly suggested that students with a higher level of self-motivation and out-of-class reading engagement generally scored a higher percentage of recall. By contrast, both students with high and low recall showed mixed perceptions about their reading class and their teachers’ teaching approaches. The interviews with the reading teachers revealed such themes as teachers’ unsettled identity, lack of proper knowledge of teaching reading and issues with the reading curriculum mandated by their respective universities. This was compounded by an overwhelming sense of disillusion on the part of the students with their reading teachers and class. Such a finding seems to confirm the generally perceived lack of English proficiency among English teachers at different levels of education in Indonesia.

This research concluded by recommending L2 reading teachers to pay more attention to the issue of content and quantity in L2 reading instruction. To help develop reading skill, L2 readers need to be exposed to a substantial amount of reading materials over an extended period of time. Likewise, the reading contents should also resonate with students’ interests and cultural resources. There is also a need view L2 reading skill development and teaching beyond merely a cognitive process of decoding texts and a transmission of reading strategy knowledge deprived of social context.The significance of students’ interest, identity, knowledge resources, cultural beliefs and values as well as agency need to be more acknowledged and incorporated into the design of a L2 reading curriculum in order to facilitate meaningful engagement for students. Further research into the possibility of helping learners take control of their own reading activities outside the class room is very much recommended to capitalize on the findings of this research as well as the possibility to integrate out-of-classroom learning into the L2 reading class curriculum.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics
Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
English as a Second Language
Keyword(s) meaning construction
L2 reading
Indonesian university EFL students
recall protocol
mixed-method analysis
cognitive process
reading strategies
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