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Online peer-reviewed Journal for Teachers

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World)

English for Specific Purposes World

ISSN 1682-3257

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World) Home    Information   ESP Encyclopaedia    Resources    Contacts

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2. READING STRATEGIES

2.1 Defining Reading strategies

Reading strategies have been defined as specific, problem oriented actions or techniques that can be either conscious or unconscious or automatic. Reading strategies vary from reading behaviours such as skimming a text to get the general idea, scanning a text for a specific piece of information, making contextual guesses about the meanings of unknown words, skipping unknown words, making predictions, confirming inferences, identifying the main idea, rereading, to strategies such as activating prior background knowledge and recognizing text structure. Lack of consciousness of many strategies and mental processes, by the learners, causes some difficulties in researching this field. Some reading strategies are observable and others are not. Asking questions can be observed by another person, but a mental comparison or question to oneself is not directly observable (Wendon, 1987).

Some researchers (Chamot 1987, OMalley and Chamot 1990) conducted a series of L2 strategies and grouped them under three broad headings: cognitive, metacognitive and social affective strategies. Rubin (1987) presented a typology of strategies in which she identified three types of strategies: Cognitive, Metacognitive and Social strategies.

Using Oxfords (1990)categorization, strategies for reading are called direct, cognitive and compensation strategies. Under direct, cognitive strategies she lists skimming and scanning to get the idea quickly; using general rules and applying them to new target language situations; analyzing expressions by breaking them down into parts; analyzing elements of the new and first language; translating concepts or structures from one language to another. Apart from direct strategies, which involve the new language directly, Oxford (1990) has introduced another category of strategies: indirect strategies, which include metcognitive strategies such as focusing, planning and evaluating.

Metacognitive knowledge refers to the readers awareness of how they make meaning and how they monitor their own understanding as they read. Metacognition has been defined as having knowledge (cognition) and having understanding control over and appropriate use of that knowledge (Tei Stewart, 1985). Thus, it involves both the conscious awareness and the conscious control of ones learning. Hyde and Bizar (1989:51)wrote that Metacognitive processes are those processes in which the individual carefully considers thoughts in problem solving situations through the strategies of self planning, self monitoring, self regulating, self questioning, and self reflecting. Metacognitive readers recognize when something does not make sense and they take appropriate action to do something about it

2.2 Developing reading strategies

A foreign language course for EAP (English for Academic Purposes ) students aiming at developing reading skills would not deal with only the mechanical skills of reading, but it should deal with developing the mental abilities involved in the reading process. In order to develop reading skills and reading strategies, reading research would be directed towards the mental processes embodied in the workings of the human mind when the various types of reading skills are in process. We should approach reading comprehension with scepticism and critical attitude, as the insights that have been achieved into behaviour and mental function are limited (Chomsky, 1970:3).

In a review of strategy training studies, Carrell (1996) has identified the range of metacognitive elements (declarative, procedural and conditional) utilized in many of the studies. Metacognitive awareness appears to be a key in proficient reading: it is not simply a matter of utilizing productive strategies but of doing so consciously (Devine 1993). This entails knowledge of strategies for processing tests, the ability to monitor comprehension and the ability to make the necessary adjustments to strategies. Effective readers are able to monitor and adjust strategies according to their purpose for reading and the type of text they are reading (Block 1986).

Moreover, a number of training studies (Carrell 1985; Hudson 1988) indicate that readers can be trained to utilize a range of strategies, to gain metacognitive awareness, and to monitor comprehension. Specific strategic reading behaviours can help develop metacognitive knowledge. Some other researchers (Garner 1994, ONeill, 1992) argue that mapping, note making and summarizing are effective in helping students develop metacognitive abilities..

In conclusion, the writers statethat the development of reading (strategies) awareness is a very important element of the reading process. In order to develop global ability of reading skills, it is assumed that students would be trained to develop reading comprehension throughout the year. Reading strategies can be changed or taught so both instructors and students can benefit by becoming aware of the reading strategies they are using and whether or not those strategies are productive. Teachers can help their students learn from reading: they can encourage students to take an active role in reading, to become independent learners. Integrating metacognitive skills into classroom instruction can make that goal attainable.

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