High School Students' Challenges in English Reading Comprehension in Amman Second Directorate of Education

By Alkhawaldeh, Ahmad | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September-December 2012 | Go to article overview

High School Students' Challenges in English Reading Comprehension in Amman Second Directorate of Education


Alkhawaldeh, Ahmad, Journal of Instructional Psychology


This study investigated the challenges faced by 500 2nd secondary students in their EFL reading comprehension in Amman 2nd directorate of education. To achieve this purpose, a 49-item close questionnaire was used to collect relevant data in the first semester 2010. Several challenges, among others, emerged from the findings of this study such as the learner's memorization of reading passages and their related questions due to the difficulty of these passages, lack of familiarity with their vocabulary items, mismatch of some reading material with the students' life and the ineffectiveness of some teacher's teaching methods. Others included lack of co-operative learning in reading instruction, overcrowded classroom size, L1/L2 interference, teacher-related mal-practices in the teaching of reading comprehension, lack of speed reading, lack of consideration of learner's reading challenges and methods, lack of connection between intensive and extensive reading activities, incongruence between learner's pre-knowledge and existing ideas in the passage. The study did not reveal an statistically significant differences in the EFL reading comprehension challenges ascribed to gender, academic stream and achievement level. On the basis of the results, it was recommended that reading texts should be diversified, vocabulary presentation and instructional strategies should be rethought, memorization of texts be abandoned and EFL reading teacher's training should be highlighted.

Background

In their reading comprehension, secondary students face challenges that may impede their understanding of the reading material assigned in their EFL curriculum and so postpone or deter their reading comprehension skills development. The English language curriculum of Jordan focuses on the development of the four language skills where the reading skill receives a clear and significant interest. Reading comprehension is sequentially represented in the various units the curriculum embraces. It is a normal learning practice that students take the reading comprehension section first then move into vocabulary, grammar and writing sections as a curricular requirement. The Jordanian 2nd secondary EFL syllabus is not an exception from this English language instruction. The assigned curriculum seeks to develop reading comprehension skills among high school students. However, the reading proficiency of Jordanian public school students, according to Almakhzoomy (1986), is viewed as fairly poor.

Reading is perceived by teachers and learners of EFL as an active activity in which a learner, for example, connects it with prior knowledge possessed by them about the topic under reading. According to Gill (2008), readers are affected by both their interest and background knowledge about what they read. From a constructivist perspective, learners actively construct their knowledge by means of making links between their prior knowledge and the text they read (Dixon-Krauss, 1996). Yorio (1971) cited Godman (1967) defined reading as a psycholinguistic process in which the reader reconstructs an encoded message through the selection of syntactic as well as semantic cues as he or she gains progress in reading. This method is similarly used in foreign language reading despite L1 interference and lack of familiarity with the language which complicate the process. In this vein, foreign language students face the vocabulary problem as the most serious herald in reading English because words physically represent the smallest meaningful units the reading message contains.

Students' reading difficulty may stem from their schema or prior knowledge as an essential element supposed to provide the basis for comprehension (Meyer and Rice, 1984). Schema theory illustrates how interaction between a reader's prior knowledge and text shapes students' understanding (Seidenberg, 1982). In line with this view, prior knowledge enables the reader to make predictions and establish expectations related to the content of the text to strengthen their comprehension (Graesser et al. …

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