Awareness in Reading: EFL Students’
Metacognitive Knowledge of Reading
Strategies in an Acquisition-poor
Lawrence Jun Zhang
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Although studies on L2 learning strategies are a major strand of second-language research, recent research interest has focussed on language learners’ metacognitive knowledge or awareness of strategies. Previous research has shed important light on the amelioration in L2 educational practices, but little researchis focused on EFL learners in input-poor environments. This paper reports on a study of 10 Chinese EFL readers’ metacognitive knowledge of strategies in learning to read EFL in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a typical acquisition-poor environment. The EFL readers’ metacognitive knowledge of strategies was analysed and interpreted from a broad metacognitive perspective within Flavell’s model (1987), which has been adopted in L2 studies by researchers such as Wenden (1991; 1998) and Goh (1998) to analyse learners’ strategies or their metacognitive knowledge of language learning. EFL readers’ knowledge of reading strategies was examined through analysing the mentalistic data (Cohen, 1996)obtained through retrospective interviews. The study found that the PRC EFL readers’metacognitive knowledge of reading strategieshad close links to their EFL proficiency. The results suggest that the available studies on PRC EFL readers have not adequately addressed the issue. Implications for learner training and recommendations for further research are also explored.
It is comforting to see that research into language-learning strategies has focused on identifying successful and unsuccessful strategies for language improvement both in the West (Cohen, 1996; Oxford, 1996; Vann & Abraham, 1990; Wenden & Rubin, 1987) and in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (Gu & Johnson, 1996; Wen & Johnson, 1997), but the available research into PRC EFL learners is disproportionate with the country’s foreign-language needs. Reading has not been given sufficient attention, particularly with regard to L2 readers’ metacognitive knowledge of how they conceptualise their reading processes for meaning-making. If strategies are understood as learners’ conscious efforts towards language improvement or comprehension (Bialystok & Ryan, 1985; McLeod & McLaughlin, 1986; Oxford, 1996), then this neglect needs to be addressed in order that L2 readers’ successful and effective reading strategies can be elicited and imparted to less successful readers.
Biggs and Watkins (1996) argue that Chinese learners are very often subjected to assertions which are not validated by empirical data. It is precisely because the PRC was out of bounds to Westerners for quite some time that empirical research into EFL learners in such an input-poor context is particularly sparse. Nonetheless, given that societies are different from one another in the amount of the target language input and in the literacy traditions that move readers towards excel0965-8416/01/04 0268-21 $20.00/0 LANGUAGE AWARENESS
© 2001 L.J. Zhang
Vol. 10, No. 4, 2001
Awareness in Reading
lence (Hvitfeldt, 1986; Parry, 1996), learners’ metacognitive knowledge of their own L2 reading comprehension processes in these societies should be viewed in relation to these latent learner and non-learner variables. As Abraham and Vann (1996: 2) also maintain, ‘in validation, we must look not only at the method of collecting data, but also, and more importantly, at how the data are interpreted, that is, what inferences are drawn from the results and how these inferences are justified, and what uses can legitimately be made of these interpretations’. Therefore, this study took a nativised approach and focused on exploring these learners’ metacognitive knowledge of strategy use in learning to read EFL. It was expected that when their metacognitive knowledge was...
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