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Text Comprehension In Second Language

Context: A Look at the Construction of
Meaning During Peer Interaction among
ESL Learners

Zaira binti Abu Hassan Shaari, PhD.
Statement of the Problem
Learner-centred teaching is an approach that is
often adopted in the L2 reading classroom but
little emphasis is given to the interaction that
takes place among learners.

If the keys to learning are exposure to input and
meaningful interaction with other learners, there
is a need to find out how learners mediate their
comprehension of texts in second language

Aims of Study
To provide a rich in-depth portrait of the talk
produced by ESL secondary school learners as
they engage in discussions of texts written in
To understand how learners construct their
understanding of the texts and the conditions
that contribute to the ways they construct this

Reading Comprehension
A “constructive” and “active process” that
entails “relating new and incoming information
to information already stored in memory”
(Bernhardt, 1991:191)

It is social as much as it is a cognitive process
(Hudson, 2007; Almasi, 1996; Fielding and
Pearson, 1994; Gambrell and Almasi, 1993;
Wallace, 1992).
Peer Interaction
face-to-face oral communication that occurs
between two or more individuals of
approximately the same age
shaped by the tasks, participants and
expected outcomes
a platform to validate, broaden, transform
interpretation and understanding

Meaning Construction
the process in which readers use the texts and
their own knowledge of the world, of the topic,
and language, to infer, set and discard
hypotheses, predict and question in order to
come to an understanding of the texts.

manifested in the sequence or cycle of utterance
during social interaction.

involves the sharing of individual responses in
reaching an agreed-upon meaning.

Conceptual Framework of the Study
The Interactive
Model Of
Opportunities for
individuals to develop
higher mental abilities
through collaborative
Meaning construction
through interaction
between reader's
"schemata" and the
incoming information
from the text
Meaning construction
through interaction
between reader, the
text and contextual
Peer Interaction
Reading Comprehension
Research Questions
1) What are the patterns of interaction
employed by ESL secondary school
learners when they are engaged in
discussions of reading texts?
2) How do the ESL secondary school learners
construct meaning during their discussions
of the texts?
3) What are the conditions contributing to the
emerging patterns of interaction to arrive
at meaning?
Qualitative approach
descriptive, qualitative research, in the
naturalistic setting of a classroom.
it seeks first to describe and then interpret, to
the extent possible, the interactions of groups of
students (Charles and Mertler, 2002).

Data generation:
Audio-visual recordings
Classroom observations
Document reviews

Ensuring Rigour and Trustworthiness
Credibility: triangulation, member checks,
prolonged engagement and
persistent observation, peer
review, clarifying researcher’s

Transferability: detailed description
making known the researcher’s
position, triangulation and
audit trail
The Subjects
32 Form 4 students
diverse backgrounds -some students come
from English-speaking families from around KL
and some come from the FELDA schemes.
students worked together in groups or pairs of
their choice.
Data Collection Procedures
Data were collected over a period of three
months beginning in July and ended in
September 2003.
Data were collected weekly during the specified
literature periods for the class
During this period, the teacher engaged the
students in reading tasks that were based on
prescribed short stories for Form Four.
Data Analysis
Using QSR NVivo (Version 2.0.161d) software,
data were analyzed recursively and iteratively,
according to the constant comparative method
(Bogdan and Biklen, 1992).

Identify recurring themes in the transcriptions
Generate codes to represent themes or idea.
Compare and contrast to identify categories
from common elements or pattern
Group categories according to research
Interpret meanings
RQ 1: The Patterns Of Interaction
Employed by Learners
Collaborative Dominant-Passive
Pattern Of
Contribution During
Group Work
Involvement and active

Decision making was
characterized by a process of
An ‘expert’ assumed greater
responsibility for the task.

Decisions were made by the
expert and often not
Nature of
Expert role is fluid or co-
constructed as learners pooled
their collective resources to
reach decisions (mutual

Assistance given by the ‘expert’
and generally accepted by the
Resolutions often not reached
when the ‘expert’ failed to help.

RQ 2: The Construction of Meaning (1)
Collaborative Dominant-Passive
Use of discourse strategies
(60%) .
Several requests and correcting
language use.
Many instances of simultaneous
Relatively fewer use of discourse
strategies (40%).
Little focus on correcting language
Fewer instances of simultaneous
A high frequency of strategies.
Use of global strategies (58%).

Lower frequency of strategies.
Use of global strategies (42%).
Reading aloud is common
RQ 2: The Construction of Meaning (2)
Collaborative Dominant-Passive
Episodes resolved collaboratively

Episodes resolved by particular
individuals in the group (26%).

Episodes not resolved even with
collaborative effort (3%).

Episodes not resolved (16%).

Lengthy deliberations of ideas
into something more complex.
Episodes resolved collaboratively

Episodes resolved by particular
individuals in the group (16%).

Episodes not resolved even with
collaborative effort (24%).

Episodes not resolved (32%).

Ideas deliberated briefly. Some
ended abruptly.
RQ 3: Conditions Contributing to
Differences in Patterns of Interaction


Teaching Approach
Positive towards negotiation of meaning
Provide intervention
Exam-oriented (focus on the product of learning)
Approach to group work

Task Selection
Preparation for exams
Taken whole scale from a workbook
Many questions called for low level processing.

use of discourse strategies and global reading
comprehension strategies yet lack of collaborative
fear of “straying” from text
lack of confidence
the process of learning vs. the product of learning
Reader-reader discussion fosters engagement in
reading and serves as a platform to make known
and share problems in comprehension.
Readers share resources and employ various
strategies. However, they need to work
collaboratively to arrive at better or new
Focus on the product of learning leads learners to
view group discussion as opportunities to obtain
answers to complete tasks.
Teacher and learner factors contribute to the
nature of interaction.
Pedagogical Implications
Why do we use group work in the reading
to provide practice in reading?
to demonstrate understanding via certain production?
to assist learners to extend their capacity to
collaboratively construct meaning?
as learners construct meaning, they become actively
involved in making sense of the texts, thus, making
them more active readers

Pedagogical Implications 2

Does collaborative interaction among
learners come naturally?
expose learners to learning during collective
strategy training - expose learners to strategy
use and questioning
to challenge a reason, ask for clarification, offer a
counterargument, or request evidence to support a
build confidence

Pedagogical Implications 3
How can we encourage interaction among peers
to create and support a collaborative learning
Task design
focus on different levels of comprehension and explore
multiple perspectives.
structure contexts that support learners’ meaningful
engagement and learning.
E.g. problem-oriented (Wells, 1992), provide for choice
among alternative solutions (Barnes, 1995), concrete
manipulation and experimentation (Crook, 1995), explore
multiple perspectives on an issue (Waggoner, et al. ,
1995) .
L1 vs. L2

The End