Reading in foreign language teaching and learning

Hausarbeit, 2002

34 Seiten, Note: 2




2.2.1 Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
2.2.2 Interest and Intrinsic Motivation
2.2.3 Flow - Experience
2.2.4 Results on Learning
2.3.1 Definition of Learning Technique and Learning Strategy
2.3.2 Reasons for teaching learning techniques
2.3.3 Learning Techniques according to the Types of Reading

3.1.1 Didactical Basics
3.1.2 Communication skill of Reading
3.1.3 Dealing with texts
3.2.1 The teacher as coordinator and facilitator
3.2.2 The teacher as manager and organizer
3.2.3 The teacher as instructor
3.2.4 The teacher as investigator and researcher




When learning a language, reading is one of the most important skills students need to acquire. In order to screen this importance, this research paper focuses on reading comprehen- sion dealing with it as a process, with the relation of motivation as well as interest and reading comprehension, and lastly, with learning techniques and strategies concerning reading com- prehension. After having given an overview of the theory of reading comprehension, this pa- per wants to transfer the essential key thoughts into language teaching and learning in school.

1 Introduction

Reading comprehension as information processing is a steady act of meaning construc- tion. There are various reading situations, for example, in every-day life, school, work, leisure, self-education. There are three different functions of reading. First, one might read to get in- formation, for instance, to figure out with the help of a manual how a video recorder works. Second, reading because of psychological-emotional driven incentives, for example, reading a novel that one is interested in. And third, one might read to acquire a foreign language.

Thinking of the question about what can be read, a multitude of reading situations might be enlisted. Here are just a few examples: one can read any kind of book, magazine, newspaper, manual , subject specific and scientific literature, medical instruction leaflets as well as letters and even any signs.

Generally, in leisure time one tends to read out of personal interest. In contrast to that, in school, students often read about topics in which they are not actually interested. Both situ- ations describe two different incentives for reading: 1) reading because one is interested and 2) reading because one is forced. These points already include two different kinds of motiva- tion for reading. For example, while reading Harry Potter self-driven motivation based on one’s own interest keeps one reading, even if the last pages are not entirely understood. The other kind of motivation for reading can be seen in the following situation: imagine you are trader’s secretary and your boss tells you to get the contract signed by a Japanese trading part- ner. Now, as an excellent secretary, you are going to try hard to impress this trading partner with some Japanese vocabulary. In this situation, your motivation is externally driven.

Considering these two examples, prior knowledge plays an important role to which extent the reading process is fertile. Reading comprehension is higher when a greater store of prior knowledge can be referred to.

Latest research has shown that German students lack reading literacy compared to the international standard. Therefore, teachers have to observe their students’ existing learning techniques and strategies in order to recover obvious gaps by providing further and more appropriate learning techniques and strategies.

This paper wants to enlighten the above introduced topic more closely. The first part of the second chapter deals with the explanation of the process of reading and reading compre- hension, followed by introducing the term of motivation and its connection to reading com- prehension whereas the third part of this chapter (2.3) takes a closer look onto the terms of learning techniques and strategies. The following chapter is considered with reading in school as a practical approach. Therefore the demands of curriculum, the role of the teacher and last, the transfer of reading comprehension techniques into every-day life and school are regarded more closely.

2 Reading and Reading Comprehension

“Reading is perhaps the most thoroughly studied and least understood process in edu- cation today” (Clarke, 1984, p. 114). According to Barnett (1989, p. 38), reading comprehen- sion is an invisible process. It is a skill which has to be acquired and learned consciously. This acquisition takes a long period of time in primary school (Hermes, 1998, p. 229). Further- more, it is developed gradually and has to be practiced regularly (Grabe, 1991, p. 379).

To give a general overview to the topic, some more aspects and terms have to be con- sidered and explained in detail. The first part deals with the process of reading comprehension and is followed by the part which enlightens the relation of motivation and reading under- standing. Reading techniques and reading strategies will be explained in the third and last part.

2.1 Reading Comprehension as a Process

Generally, comprehension might be defined as “the building of a mental model of the meaning of the text” (Oakhill & Garnham, 1988, p. 149). Therefore, comprehension is the process where new information is brought into interrelation with prior knowledge and thus gets elaborated on a higher level. With good comprehension one recognizes differences and similarities between new data and prior knowledge. (Finkbeiner, 1996, p. 92). Reading comprehension is an act of steady construction of meaning (Hermes, 1998, p. 230).

Information is stored in memory as propositions. Propositions are the smallest “meaning units”. They can be falsified or verified, and are linked together in a hierarchical structure. Furthermore, propositions refer to certain facts which are connected to each other according to situational experience. Thus, the meaning of a text is constructed by building up relations between mental representation and text propositions. (Dijk & Kintsch, 1978, 1983).

For a better understanding it is necessary to have a closer look on the one hand at top- down-processes and on the other hand at bottom-up-processes. The bottom-up-process is defined as the recognition of graphic symbols that represent certain phonemes. The readers recognize combinations of letters and learn orthographical regularities as well as rules concerning the interrelation between certain phonemes and graphic symbols. They identify words, phrases and on a higher level even learn to dissect sentences into meaning units. These processes, which are running while reading, are also called subskills. (Oakhill & Garnham, 1988, p. 68ff). In contrast to the bottom-up-process, in which understanding is derived only from the graphic structure, in reading as a top-down-process, reading comprehension is lead by prior knowledge and one’s own life-experience. Familiarity with a special topic and special vocabulary simplify the comprehension of the content. If prior knowledge is lacking, comprehension is more difficult. (Hermes, 1998, p. 230). Literal comprehension happens by bottom-up-processes, interpretation based on prior knowledge by top-down-processes (Grabe, 1991, p. 383). Both bottom-up and top-down-processes have to interact while reading to perceive the real meaning of a text (Hermes, 1998, p. 230).

Prior knowledge, which is the base for top-down-processes, is stored in propositional units. Several propositional units form schemata. There are different types of schemata such as the following: story schemata and cultural schemata. Story schemata contain, for example, the personal knowledge of the typical structure of stories and the constellation of characters within a certain type of text. (Dijk & Kintsch, 1978, 1983). Cultural schemata include the knowledge of social, material, and mental culture of language communities (Posner, 1994, p. 13). Not only for the interpersonal communication, but also for the understanding of foreign- language texts, it is essential to posses cultural schemata (Dijk & Kintsch, 1978, 1983).

According to Dijk & Kintsch (1983), three different levels of text comprehension can be distinguished. There is the literal level, the propositional level and the situative level. On the literal level which is the lowest comprehension happens on the text surface, which means reading word by word and only recognizes the grammar of the text. The reader is only capable of memorizing single words. On the propositional level, the reader is capable of un- derstanding beyond the text by listing parts of a text into hierarchically interconnected propo- sitions, namely macrostructures, which consist of several smaller microstructures. On the situ- ative level which is the highest the reader is not bound by the text and can integrate more sources of knowledge leading to more differentiated, elaborated, and interconnected under- standing of the text. (See Table 1).

Table 1: Model of the three different levels of text comprehension (modified after Dijk & Kintsch, 1983).

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These different levels of text processing can easily be perceived by a closer look on the different qualification of readers. Slow readers make an effort to read a text word by word. Comprehension is hindered or made almost impossible by the slow recognition of the mean- ing of the individual words. So, it often happens that the “processing memory” of the slow reader is overburdened. They are not able to construct meaning units, nor inferences, nor are they able to construct hypotheses. (Oakhill & Garnham, 1988, p. 120). The good readers who have already automated these so-called subskills are able to perceive bigger meaning units which are processed accordingly and integrated into prior knowledge. They can build up infer- ences and derive hypotheses about how the text could continue. For that, they rely on their pri- or knowledge in the fields of semantics, syntax, and discourse. (Hermes, 1998, p. 231).

2.2 Relation of Motivation and Reading Comprehension

2.2.1 Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation means that the reader has the desire to learn something. Put in other words, the person feels an internal drive to learn something in particular. In contrast to intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation is externally caused by compulsion, obligation, or environmental temptation (Krapp, 1996, p. 90). Only intrinsic motivation, which is also based on personal interest, leads to long-term learning success in school.

In the field of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, there is a more differentiated approach offered by Deci & Ryan (1985, 1991). Their “Motivational Theory of Self- Determination” postulates a continuum on the one hand of unambiguously externally driven motivation (extrinsic) and on the other hand of unambiguously autonomous (intrinsic) control of action. The more a person identifies himself with the learning content, the less the person is externally driven. To make this clear: the more the person is intrinsically motivated. Within their “Motivational Theory of Self-Determination”, Deci & Ryan distinguish between two different phases: 1. “Phase of Introjection” and 2. “Phase of Identification”. In the first phase, the individual carries out what is demanded from the external world because of expected rewards. In the second phase, the individual identifies itself with the learning task and therefore regards the task as valuable, independent of its instrumental function.

If one investigates the influence of external intervention on intrinsic motivation, one can point out two different aspects: the informing aspect and the controlling aspect. The informing aspect strengthens the feeling of internal control and thus raises intrinsic motivation. The controlling aspect, strengthens the perceived external control and so reduces intrinsic motivation. (Krapp, 1996).

2.2.2 Interest and Intrinsic Motivation

The term “interest” is ambiguous. It describes a positive attitude towards a topic, state of curiosity, or last but not least, a state of alert attention. In recent research, the term interest is used more unambiguously. The essential common agreement the authors use is: interest is a person’s particular relation towards a subject. The subject can be, for example, a book’s content, a topic of discussion, specific learning material, or a special field of work. However, interest is always subject specific. In other words, the learner’s interest and the subject are interdependent.(Krapp, 1996, p. 92f).

The “Person-Subject-Theory of Interest” according to Krapp (1996, p. 93f) points out three main aspects: emotion-related valence, value-related valence, and the intrinsic component of interest. Emotion-related valence means the learners associate positive feelings with particular contents of activities and actions. Since these activities have been experienced as positive, learners create the same positive attitude towards similar actions to come. Moreover, value-related valence is given when the learners allocate a high positive value to the learning engagement itself and the subject in particular. So they identify themselves with the subject’s content and the learning situation. Intentions resulting from personal interest are fully internally accepted because they correspond with the attitude, expectation, and values of the self-concept. In this context, the term “self-intentionality” is used as well. Krapp (1996) speaks of the intrinsic component of interest if the individual feels free from external pressure when realizing its interests. This explains why even a strenuous effort while learning something is experienced as satisfying, pleasure-giving, exciting, and thrilling. Individual interests are the decisive sources of intrinsic (learning) motivation. Individual interests build the prerequisite for the achievement of intrinsic motivation, and therefore learning determined by interest does not need (extrinsic) incentives. Intrinsic motivation has an impact on deeper conceptual learning.

2.2.3 Flow - Experience

Deci and Ryan (1985, p. 29) describe the flow-experience as “some of the purer instances of intrinsic motivation”. That means it is the state of highest intrinsic motivation. According to Csikszentmihalyi and Schiefele (1993, p. 210), as well as Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi (1988), there are four main characteristics of the “Flow-Experience”:

- Focussing of attention: During Flow the person fully concentrates on the task at hand.
-Self-Oblivion: During Flow thoughts concerning oneself reduce to a minimum; the individual forgets about any worries and self-doubts.
- Power of action: During Flow the person is feeling capable and powerful. It is a feeling of having control over the situation.
- Fusion of action and awareness: During Flow the person and the action become a unit.

While attention is included in Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow, other theorists see the category of attention in more detail. Hidi (1990, 1994) states that actions controlled by interest are mainly directed via automated and effortless controlling systems, and therefore burdens the cognitive processing much less than consciously directed attention. Interestoriented learning actions are more effective than wilfully initialised ones.

2.2.4 Results on Learning

There are studies which evaluate learning success by measuring test performance, for example, marks in school, exam results, and any certificates. Studies about the relation between interest and immediate learning effects, for example, the quality and quantity of the acquired structure of knowledge, are less common (Krapp, 1996, p. 94). This is understandable because of higher complexity and time-consumption.

These studies have shown that the correlation between interest and performance depends on gender. For instance, boys in general are more interested in science than girls, and the older the age the higher the correlation for this becomes. While boys concentrate more specifically, the smaller interest-performance correlation regarding girls might be explained by their more adaptive behaviour. This may mean that their willingness to make an effort in any subject regardless of their personal interest is higher. (Comber & Keeves, 1973; Kelly & Smail, 1986).

As mentioned above, age is another variable to the interest-performance correlation. With older students, one can find a higher correlation between interest and performance. This is explained by three different hypotheses. First, over the years a selection of those students who are able to follow their interests takes place. Second, interest and performance influence each other positively the longer they meet. The third explanation is based on the growing stability of personal interest in regards to time.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 34 Seiten


Reading in foreign language teaching and learning
Universität Kassel  (Anglistik)
The Interaction of Interest and Strategies in EFL Reading
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
1760 KB
Reading, Interaction, Interest, Strategies, Reading
Arbeit zitieren
Andreas Hohmann (Autor:in), 2002, Reading in foreign language teaching and learning, München, GRIN Verlag,


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