Individualized Reading for EAP for social science first year student in Addis Ababa University: a study of a possible Approach for teaching Reading in EFL.

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Addis Ababa University


The three-semester service English courses offered by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Institute of Language Studies, are meant to help all Addis Ababa University students develop their linguistic abilities so that they could successfully cope with the academic requirements of the university. The first two courses are offered in the first year and the third course in the first or second semester of the second year. Research indicates the first year courses in particular have not succeeded in helping the social science students develop their background knowledge to a significant degree to read in English for academic purposes.Based on the current view that reading is an interactive process and that this may be facilitated if learners can develop the critical mass of knowledge which embodies knowledge of the content (or of the world), knowledge of the reading process and knowledge of English and the capacity to effectively use this competence, the current study explores the feasibility of a possible approach for reading instruction in English for academic purposes to enable students to acquire the essential mass of knowledge so that they could become fluent readers in English. The approach maintains that effective learning for attain ing the essential background knowledge for developing the learner's ability to read fluently can occur when learning is individualised (to cater for learner differences in cognitive style and strategies, learning strategies, moti vation and purpose of learning , and prior knowledge) and when learners get the training on learning how to learn and to take the responsibility for their learning.Accordingly, an independent learning mode was designed in order to encourage learners to take most of the learning decisions by themselves: two sessions per week of individualised reading whereby learners selected appropriate reading materials from the ELSIP and SRA collections and were encouraged to read and focus on what each individual learner felt was his/her needs , lacks and wants; and one session per week of group discussion whereby learners shared experiences and discussed the structure and usage exercises in the Freshman English course books and were provided with some training on learning how to learn. The study was undertaken in two phases: the pilot planned to last for a semester and the corpus for two semesters. While the pilot study involved about 120 social science first year students (or four sections: two sections were study and two sections were control), the main study incl uded about 420 social science first year students (or thirteen sections: six sections consisting of 210 students assigned to the study group, and the remaining 210 students assigned to the control group). The mode of study continued for one semester, or about five months . At the beginning and end of the study, a test package and a questionnaire on the reading process and reading strategies were administered. The test package consisted of reading comprehension tests drawn from the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, First Certificate in English (to assess the reading comprehension improvement of the study group), cloze readability tests set from the social science first year course books (to test whether students at the end of the study, due to the approach variable, have found their course books easier to read than before), and English language tests taken from the Freshman English lOlA and Freshman English 10lB examinations (to find out whether students in the study groups have improved in their linguistic ability). At the end of the study, the attitudes and opinions of the instructors involved were also solicited. Despite the planned arrangement, unforseen circumstances limited the corpus study to one semester. Consequently, the pilot study was found to be essential for two fundamental reasons: firstly , the corpus study was limited to only a semester and, thus, this necessitated the use of the information compiled from the pilot study to validate the test results of the corpus study; and secondly, the pilot study indicated that most students preferred structured learning materials like the SRA reading cards to unstructured ones, such as the ELSIP materials, at the initial stages. Based on this, the corpus study started with the SRA and would have moved into the ELSIP if the study had not been discontinued at the beginning of the second semester of the 1990/91 academic year. It was found out that the students during the pilot study and the main study appreciated the mode of learning and they liked the materials they used. They reported that they had benefitted substantially and the approach pursued helped them not only in studying English but also their other courses. The instructors corroborated the students' reactionsand recommended the adoption of this approach in the service English courses. However, during the pilot study, the results of the tests did not indicate any marked improvement in the reading abi lity of the students in the study group. During the main study, the cloze test results were inconclusive. The study group of the main study, however, performed significantly better than the control group in the reading comprehension post test. They also indicated a marked improvement in their reading comprehension ability at the end of the study. Moreover, it was statistically proved that the study group improved significantly in their linguistic ability at the end of the study , however, it was not possible to conclude whether they did better than the control group. Significant changes in reading habits and styles were not observed. However, it was found out that the study group performed significantly better than the control group in the 1990/91 academic year first semester Freshman English lOlA final examination. It was recommended that such explicit changes could have been found to be more marked than indicated by the test results (a) if the study had continued for more than a semester, and (b) if the study had given more prominence to assessing the process than the product of language learning.