Research Paper: Action Research Approaches to Analysis of Reading

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¶ … Action Research Approaches to Analysis of Reading issues in English as a Foreign or Second Language Classrooms

For many educators in general, and many English as a foreign or second language (ESOL) educators in particular, it is axiomatic that reading is essential in helping young learners gain improved fluency. It is reasonable to suggest that a lack of motivation to read another language may be attributable to comprehension problem that are the result of a lack of intensive vocabulary instruction. Because resources are by definition scarce, it is important to allocate ESOL resources where they will achieve the optimal academic outcomes. Therefore, studying this issue from several perspectives, including qualitative, quantitative and action research, that can provide fresh insights and new observations which might go otherwise undetected and these issues are discussed further below.

B.

Proposed quantitative research scenario

According to Neuman (2003), quantitative research is simply research involving "information in the form of numbers" (p. 542). A straightforward research approach to investigating the effect of intensive vocabulary instruction on ESOL students' motivation to read age- and fluency-appropriate English-language books is described below.

1.

Research question and hypothesis.

a.

Quantitative Research Question: How many English-language books do ESOL students read on average during a semester that are not required reading?

b.

Hypothesis: English as a foreign language or second language students who have received intensive vocabulary instruction will read more books than their counterparts who did not.

2.

The goal and importance of the study.

a.

Research Goal. To identify the extent to which intensive vocabulary instruction contributes to outside reading among ESOL students.

b.

Importance of the Study. For instance, Wiley and Hartung-Cole (1999) emphasizes that, "Because language is central to all learning, policies and expectations regarding how to use it appropriately are operative across the curriculum, even in schools that are relatively linguistically homogenous" (p. 205). For ESOL educators, though, these are especially important issues that require the use of evidence-based practices to promote reading motivation (Wiley & Hartung-Cole, 1999).

3.

The roles of the researcher and the participants.

a.

Role of the Researcher. In the quantitative scenario, the researcher will survey ESOL students at the beginning of the semester to determine how many have already received intensive vocabulary instruction and how many have not which will be designated group A and B, respectively. Near the end of the semester, the researcher will survey the students again to determine how many English-language books they read during the semester that were not required reading. The researcher will then tabulate the results and present and interpolate the study findings.

b.

Role of the Participants. The role of the participants in the quantitative scenario will be to complete their required academic coursework.

4.

Types of data to be collected.

a.

Number of ESOL students who received prior intensive vocabulary instruction.

b.

Number of English language books read during the semester that were not required reading.

5.

Methods and corresponding instruments for data collection. An Excel spreadsheet will be used to aggregate the survey data and calculate relevant percentages. The results of the quantitative analysis will be presented in both tabular and graphic formats, and the findings interpreted in a narrative fashion.

C.

Proposed Qualitative Research Scenario

In order to evaluate the effect of intensive vocabulary instruction on ESOL student motivation in a qualitative research scenario, researchers must rely on measures that are not necessarily quantifiable, but which can be interpreted using quantitative methods (Neuman, 2003). According to Neuman (2003), qualitative research is "information in the form of words, pictures, sounds, visual images, or objects" (p. 542).

1.

Research question and problem statement.

a.

Qualitative Research Question. Are ESOL students' reading habits influenced by their knowledge of English vocabulary or by their desire to achieve academically?

b.

Problem Statement. Many ESOL student are not motivated to read in the English language because they lack the vocabulary needed to understand what they read thereby diminishing the reading for pleasure aspect as well as the academic effect of their efforts.

2.

Goal and importance of the study

a.

Research Goal. To evaluate the extent to which intensive vocabulary instruction affects reading for enjoyment among ESOL students.

b.

Importance of the Study. Many ESOL students are not motivated to read English-language content for enjoyment because they lack the vocabulary needed to fully comprehend what they are reading.

3.

Roles of the researcher and the participants

a.

Role of the Researcher. The qualitative researcher can use a number of approaches, including historical methodology, ethnography, phenomenology, hermeneutics, case study, grounded theory and action research (Burton & Stein, 2004). According to Zikmund (2000), the case study methodology is "an exploratory research technique that intensively investigates one or a few situations similar to the researcher's problem situation" (p. 722). One of the primary advantages of the case study approach is that a topic of interest can be investigated in depth and with great attention to detail (Leedy, 1997). Therefore, based on the foregoing attributes, the qualitative case study was deemed most appropriate as described further below.

b.

Role of the Participants. In this field-based case study, the ESOL students participate in semi-structured interviews to identify their primary motivation for outside English reading.

4.

Types of data to be collected. The semi-structured interviews will ask the ESOL students questions designed to elicit their motivations for reading for pleasure as well as for academic achievement following the guidance provided by Neuman (2003). According to Neuman (2003), there are several advantages to using face-to-face interviews for case studies, including the ability of the researcher to employ nonverbal and visual aids in communicating with their interviewees, as well as the opportunity to observe the surroundings in which they respond. For instance, Neuman notes that, "Interviewers can ask all types of questions, can ask complex questions, and can use extensive probes" (p. 290).

5.

Methods and corresponding instruments for data collection. Based on the findings of a well-conducted literature review, a questionnaire would be developed that guided the semi-structured interview process. Following the completion of the interviews, the researcher would evaluate the summaries of the interviews to identify key themes, recurring metaphors and other relevant issues that might go otherwise undiscerned (Noblit & Hare, 1988).

D.

Proposed Action Research Paradigm

Finally, Neuman (2003) reports that action research is "a type of applied research in which the purpose is to facilitate social change or a political-social goal" (p. 529). Action research can assume both qualitative and/or quantitative approaches. In this case, a qualitative action research paradigm will be used which will be guided by the research question and hypothesis described further below.

1.

Research question. How can ESOL teachers motivate young learners to read English for pleasure more by changing curricular offerings to include more intensive vocabulary instruction in the early stages?

2.

Problem statement. Many ESOL students lack the motivation to read for pleasure because of a lack of prior intensive vocabulary instruction (Wiley & Hartung-Cole, 1999; Szeci & Giambo, 2004).

3.

Goal and importance of the study.

a.

Research Goal. The goal of this action research study would be to identify cost-effective methods of improving academic outcomes for ESOL students by increasing their motivation to read English content for pleasure.

b.

Importance of the Study. The importance of reading as part of the ESOL process is well documented (Wiley & Hartung-Cole, 1999).

4.

Roles of the researcher and the participants

a.

Role of the Researcher. In the action research paradigm, the role of the researcher can range from a complete observer (e.g., the researcher is behind a one-way mirror), to participant-as-observer (e.g., the researcher is known from the beginning but has limited contact with the subjects), to participant-as-observer (e.g., the researcher is overt and is an intimate friend of the study participants), to complete participant (e.g., the researcher acts as a member and shares secret information of insiders). Assuming the researcher was also the ESOL teacher, the participant as observer role was deemed most suitable for the purposes of the study envisioned herein.

b.

Role of the Participants. The role of the participants in the action research paradigm would be to actively participate in a series of interviews with the researcher.

5.

Types of data to be collected. The action research approach would employ the qualitative analysis techniques described above to concerning the use of summaries of interviews to identify key themes, recurring metaphors and other relevant issues that might go otherwise undiscerned.

6.

Methods and corresponding instruments for data collection. The abbreviated proforma questionnaire depicted in Table 1 below would be used as a pilot testing instrument for the administration of the semi-structured interviews. Based on the pilot testing of this instrument, refinements would be made to make the questions more communicative and the length appropriate to age and English fluency levels.

Table 1

Proforma Semi-Structured Interview Guide

Question

Summary of Response

1. Did any of your previous ESOL classes specifically focus on vocabulary-building activities? If so, what activities or methods were used? If yes, include follow-up question below.

Follow-up:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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