Enhancing the Reading Engagement of University English Language Learners: An Action Research Project
Lee, J. Y. V. (2015). Enhancing the Reading Engagement of University English Language Learners: An Action Research Project (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9327
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9327
Despite burgeoning research that has been conducted on the broad term “engagement” in the past decades, research into engagement in English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL) contexts remains scarce. Furthermore, in the English Language Learners (ELLs) context in Malaysia, where reading avoidance seems to be an issue, no research has specifically addressed reading engagement. This qualitative case study aims to increase student reading engagement through a strategy-based intervention, Comprehensive Approach to Reading Engagement (CARE), designed to engage ELLs with whom it was conducted under an action research paradigm. Another purpose of the study is to investigate the extent to which reflective practice and development as an action researcher would empower the practitioner in her professional development. Data were collected from 41 students enrolled in an intact university class for 36 hours; a duration of a semester. Six participants, each representing different engagement levels, were selected for close study. Data collected from the six participants in this study were obtained from multiple sources, including transcriptions of participants’ reflective reading logs; transcriptions of audio-recordings of group discussions and a group interview; transcriptions of audio-recordings of the researcher’s private speech during lessons; and the researcher’s reflective journal. Most of the data were qualitative, but some - such as the word count in logs, speech size, number of turns in discussion, and reading engagement scores - were quantitative. In the first phase of the action research cycle, students received explicit instruction and teacher modelling, and in the second phase, they worked more independently. The data were subject to a procedure of grounded analysis, and triangulated to achieve a thick description. The results showed that interactional opportunities such as retelling and group discussion supported four dimensions of ELLs’ reading engagement: behavioural, cognitive, emotional and agentic. From a sociocultural perspective, ELLs need one another to achieve engagement. Peer scaffolding, or collective scaffolding, in ways analogous to teacher scaffolding exemplified students’ agency. The findings of the present investigation showed that sustained silent reading, when effectively scaffolded, tended to have positive effects on ELLs. Evidence in the present study showed that growing engagement appeared to be attributed to Comprehensive Approach to Reading Engagement (CARE), which allowed ELLs to move along the reading pathways from initial engagement, to emergent engagement, and finally, deeper engagement with texts. As a means of examining the practitioner’s position and practice, action research revealed the teaching style and tacit knowledge of the practitioner’s everyday practice. As a reflective teacher, I moved along a continuum comprised of identifying a problem (students were disaffected with reading), developing a research design, collecting data, refining the procedures, analysing the data, and presenting aspects of the study in the public domain. The present case study can be related, rather than generalised, to similar contexts. The study can make an original contribution to an academic understanding of reading engagement and the teacher’s reflective practice in relatable contexts. These findings have important implications for practitioners and researchers; they suggest that neglecting the role of reading engagement could be the cause of missed opportunities to support ELL literacy development and students’ critical thinking stance. The present study also shows that developing reflective opportunities has evident consequences for teachers who are engaging in action research.
University of Waikato
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