Academic journal article The Journal of Educational Research

Assessing ESL Students' Literal, Reorganization and Inferential Reading Comprehension Abilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Educational Research

Assessing ESL Students' Literal, Reorganization and Inferential Reading Comprehension Abilities

Article excerpt

Introduction

Linguists divide language into four skills; namely, speaking, writing, listening and reading. Two skills such as speaking and writing are known as productive skills. Contrarily, reading and listening skills are considered as receptive skills. Each skill helps ESL students in promoting their language competencies; however, reading skill, not only assists them in developing language skills, but also provides foundations for them to enhance their language abilities. The previous studies (e.g., Sénéchal & LeFevre, 2002; Welcome, Chiarello, Thompson, & Sowell, 2011) concluded in their studies that reading was more important as compared to other language skills because it provides foundations for ESL students to improve their language proficiencies. Reading is known as an interaction between the text and reader in order to dig out meanings from the textual material. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (2012: 483), states that "reading is a process by which the meaning of the text is understood". ESL students apply a variety of reading strategies in order to identify main idea and locate supporting details from the text. They also identify cause and effect relationship and get the meanings of unknown words with the help of contextual clues. In addition, they infer the text for drawing appropriate conclusions.

With regard to the process of reading comprehension, the reader needs to go back time and again in order to extract accurate meanings of the text (Diaz & Laguado, 2013; Mellard, Fall, & Woods, 2010). In this connection, the reader's level of success or failure is judged by the competence of decoding the text (McKeown, Beck, & Blake, 2009).

The English language is taught as a second language in Pakistani institutions and it enjoys the status of Lingua Franca in the country. It is playing very important role in promoting education, developing economic status and upbringing social life in Pakistan. English is known as an official language in Pakistan as well (Mahboob, 2009). The importance of the English language is increasing gradually in Pakistan since it is deemed as a token to be successful in life (Mahboob, 2003; Mansoor, 2005; Mustafa, 2011). With regard to the Pakistani ESL students' abilities in reading comprehension, they are lagging behind in coping with inferential and reorganization comprehension (Javed, Eng, & Mohamed, 2013).

The skill of reading comprehension is attached to recognizing letters, words, phraseology, vocabulary, connectors and phonology of the English language (Hale et al., 2011). Fundamentally, it is a vibrant interaction between the text and the reader. In other words, it is a dynamic process through which the reader extracts meanings from the text with the help of his previous knowledge and understanding (Cornoldi & Oakhill, 2013; Kendeou, Van den Broek, White, & Lynch, 2009). With regard to the conception of reading comprehension, the taxonomy of reading comprehension designed by Barrett's (1968) assists ESL students to understand any type of textual material. According to Barrett (968), there are five types of skill categories; namely, i) literal, ii) reorganization, iii) inferential, iv) evaluation, and v) appreciation. These skills are further categorized into different sub-skills (Alderson & Urquhart, 1984). Similarly, Day and Park (2005) presented another taxonomy of reading comprehension, which state five similar skill categories; namely i) literal, ii) reorganization, iii) inference, iv) prediction, and v) evaluation/personal response.

The taxonomies stated above assist ESL learners to a great extent in enhancing their capabilities in reading comprehension. They are very significant for students to comprehend each genre of text, however, as regards the objectives of the current study are concerned, three skill categories; namely, literal, reorganization and inference/ inferential were focused. …

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