«The Effect of Explicit Instruction of Textual Discourse Markers on Saudi EFL Learners’ Reading Comprehension Abdulaziz Ali Al-Qahtani1 School of ...»
The first question in this study investigated the effectiveness of explicit DM instruction in improving the reading comprehension of Saudi EFL students. The first independent-samples t-test prior to the intervention showed no significant differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups on the reading comprehension test (see Table 4), whereas the second independent-samples t-test after the intervention indicated a significant improvement in learners’ reading performance for the experimental group compared to that of the control group (see Table 7). The paired-sample t-test for the experimental group on the reading comprehension pretest and post-test revealed a significant improvement in reading performance after the intervention programme (see Table 8). The effect size was calculated and the result showed that 80 percent of the difference of variance between the groups in reading comprehension performance could be explained by the intervention effect. Thus, these results confirm that explicit instruction in DMs can actually improve EFL learners’ reading comprehension abilities. This result supports the conclusions of Innajih (2007), Pérez and Macia (2002), Bahrami (1992), Akbarian (1998), and Degand et al. (1999) that knowledge of DMs can enhance EFL learners’ performance in reading comprehension tasks and that they play an important role in developing EFL learners’ reading skills.
The second question of the current study examined the relationship between learners’ knowledge of DMs and their reading comprehension proficiency. The results of the correlation analysis (see Table 9) between the pretest results in DMs and reading comprehension as well as between their post-test results indicated a significant positive relationship between EFL learners’ level of knowledge of DMs and their performance in the reading comprehension test. This suggests that EFL learners who are good at recognising DMs tend to perform better in reading comprehension tasks, whereas those who are poor at recognising DMs tend to perform poorly on reading tasks. This finding agrees with Sun (2013), Martinez (2009), and Khatib and Safari (2011), who assert that knowledge of DMs correlates highly with reading comprehension and that DMs are very helpful in facilitating both listening and reading comprehension.
Knowledge of DMs can simultaneously serve several communicative functions in different dimensions. It help readers comprehend texts by signalling new information, elaboration, suggestions, warnings, and disagreements.
DMs are also needed to create and maintain successful interactions between the reader and the text. Creating texts without DMs greatly inhibits comprehension and can cause major communicative breakdown (Britonm, 1990).
This study had a number of limitations; the most obvious was the small sample size, which prevented the generation of a clear, generalised statement about the role played by direct instruction of DMs in L2 reading classes. However, several scholars consider that a sample of at least 30 participants is sufficient for correlational research and comparative and experimental procedures (Dörnyei, 2007).
This study was further limited by the duration of the research, which was relatively short. Finally, the research findings of this study were limited by the quantitative nature of the research tools. Although the research tools that were used in the current study were very well established and served their purposes, the inclusion of other qualitative instruments would produce more comprehensive data and add strength to the generated results through data triangulation.
In light of the findings of the present study regarding the effect of explicit instruction in DMs on developing the reading comprehension skills of Saudi EFL learners, there are several pedagogical implications and recommendations. First, this study has established the effectiveness of explicit instruction in DMs that introduced DMs to learners and gave them proper opportunities to learn and practice during the course of the www.ccsenet.org/elt English Language Teaching Vol. 8, No. 4; 2015 programme. This approach needs to be encouraged and curriculum designers working with the Saudi Ministry of Education should consider developing knowledge and use of DMs from an early stage in current and future EFL textbook projects. Second, explicit instruction in DMs should be adopted and advocated as part of the agenda for pre-service and in-service teacher training in Saudi Arabia as a way of supporting and implementing activities that promote DM recognition, practice, and production. Third, it should be noted that the teaching of DMs is a gradual process needing time and practice, so instant success should not be expected. This is because EFL learners, especially in the Saudi EFL context, are not very familiar with DMs and how they can facilitate comprehension. There is also the issue of L1 interference, which can negatively influence the process of internalising English DMs. Much rests with EFL teachers’ patience, hard work, and willingness to develop this important aspect of reading comprehension. Fourth, the high correlation between the recognition of DMs and reading comprehension on the test suggest that DMs are good indicators of EFL learners’ understanding of texts.
Therefore, DM activities (e.g., discourse cloze questions) can be incorporated to assess EFL learners’ level of comprehension in textbooks and on reading comprehension tests.
Future research incorporating a similar design and a larger sample size would be of great value. Larger samples would make it possible to generalise the findings to an L2 population. Another area of possible research would be to examine the effect of explicit instruction in DMs at different proficiency levels. The benefit of looking across different proficiency levels would be the capturing of the reading comprehension progress rate and areas of development that might not be detected at one level of proficiency during a relatively short study span.
Future studies could be carried out to identify the reading skills most affected by DM instruction and to examine the relationship between DMs and the reading construct. Additional research that combines quantitative and qualitative methods is also needed. This would provide even richer data and potential for insight into the effect of DM instruction on reading comprehension.
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