A study of the effects of two reading environments on L2 readers' strategic behaviors toward unknown words
Sang Kyo Lee, The Ohio State University, United States
The Ohio State University . Awarded
This study explored effects of reading environments (computer-based and print-based texts) on L2 learners’ strategic behaviors in coping with unknown words while reading texts in English. Their perceptions of or attitudes toward their strategic behaviors (ignoring, inferencing, dictionary consultation, or etc.) in the two reading environments were also investigated. This study employed a mixed methods approach (quantitative and the qualitative) for data gathering. The participants in this study were 34 international students at the Midwest university.
The results showed that reading environment did appear to affect learners’ strategies for coping with unknown words, but the effect was not substantial. The learners employed more strategies in computer-based texts (CBT) than in print-based texts (PBT). In terms of the learners’ levels of vocabulary knowledge, the advanced group was influenced by the effect of reading environment more than the other two groups (intermediate and low). Although the effect of reading environment was almost negligible in the low group, the frequency of strategies employed by this group was far greater than the other two groups.
With regard to the participants’ academic level, there was more influence of reading environment in graduate students than undergraduate students. Graduate students employed strategies more frequently than undergraduate students across both environments. They also employed more strategies in CBT than in PBT. Interestingly, undergraduate students employed slightly more strategies in PBT than in CBT.
Likewise, although the difference was not substantial, reading environment did affect strategy use relative to L2 learners’ country of origin (Mainland Chinese, Koreans, and Taiwanese). Both Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese students employed more strategies in CBT than PBT. However, Korean students employed more strategies in PBT than CBT. Taiwanese students employed strategies more frequently both in CBT and PBT compared to the other groups.
The findings also revealed that regardless of the L2 learners’ level of vocabulary knowledge, academic level, and country of origin, dictionary consultation was predominantly employed followed by inferencing in dealing with unknown words across environments. However, there is some variance among and within the three categories in terms of the frequency of the use of these two strategies according to environment.
The interview data revealed that all the participants showed a strong preference for PBT over CBT when reading for academic purposes, rather than reading for pleasure, such as newspapers or magazines. However, there were contrary responses in terms of the participants’ perception of effects of reading environment. That is, some participants reported that their strategic behaviors were not influenced by reading environment, while others reported the opposite view.
Lastly, there was no great variance in relation to reasons for employing each strategy (ignoring, inferencing, dictionary consultation, or etc.) according to the participants’ level of lexical knowledge, student status, and country of origin. It was also found that many participants preferred a bilingual dictionary over a monolingual dictionary. However, some participants used either a monolingual dictionary or a combination bilingual/monolingual dictionary as well. Besides that, most participants used either an online dictionary or an electronic dictionary depending on its availability.
Lee, S.K. A study of the effects of two reading environments on L2 readers' strategic behaviors toward unknown words. Ph.D. thesis, The Ohio State University.
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