Design of a Web-Based Sentence Analysis System to Support EFL Reading Instruction

Design of a Web-Based Sentence Analysis System to Support EFL Reading Instruction

Yea-Ru Tsai (I-Shou University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan) and Yukon Chang (I-Shou University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2015040102

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of an on-line Cumulative Sentence Analysis (CSA) instruction on university engineering students' English reading comprehension. Within the framework of CSA instruction, the reading comprehension process can be divided into six steps: identifying finite verbs, finding key words, separating clauses, identifying subjects and main verbs, adding words stepwise, and translating the sentence. The results showed that the experimental group achieved a higher level of reading comprehension performance following the instruction. Inter-group comparison also revealed that the experimental group significantly outperformed the control group in the post-test, while no difference was found between these groups in the pretest. The findings clearly demonstrated that on-line CSA instruction is an efficient and feasible approach to helping engineering students cope with their problems of reading English texts.
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Introduction

Students’ reading ability has considerable impact on academic performance. Empirical studies have shown that students with proficient reading ability typically outperform the students with less-proficient reading skills (Lan, Sung, & Chang, 2009). It is also undeniable that reading creates important opportunities to promote the acquisition of a foreign language (Salinger, 2003). Previous studies have revealed that English reading comprehension ability has been regarded as essential in English instruction (Hsu, Hwang, & Chang, 2010). Especially for engineering students, reading in English is the core competence to absorb professional knowledge in academic settings and their future career, because many authentic textbooks and information about advanced technology have been published in English. However, it has been recognized that there is still a considerable number of engineering students struggling with reading in English in Taiwan. Smith (2011) mentioned that many English teachers in Taiwan would agree students who are not English majors are generally not highly motivated to learn English. In order to facilitate students’ ability of reading scientific and technical publications, it is suggested that specific reading strategies should be taught to the students so that they can solve their reading problems on their own.

Of special interest for research on web-based environments to support reading is the correlation between syntactic knowledge and reading comprehension. In L2 research, Alderson (2000) states that the knowledge of syntactic structure plays a significant role in second language reading. Reading requires syntactic knowledge because understanding grammar offers insight into the way writers construct text (Cajkler & Dymoke, 2005). To motivate our work, we mostly focus on the role of syntactic parsing in reading comprehension. We argue that some learners’ reading comprehension difficulty has been caused by their relative understanding of the sentences they engage. Theoretically, if a reader can’t understand the meaning of individual sentences, they would also encounter considerable difficulty with comprehension at text level. The purpose of this study is therefore to present a framework of Cumulative Sentence Analysis (CSA) instruction to support EFL students’ English reading comprehension. In what follows, some studies related to computer-assisted reading instruction and the relationship between syntactic parsing and reading comprehension are first reviewed.

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