Factors Related to EFL/ESL Readers' Reading Strategy Use: A Literature Review

Factors Related to EFL/ESL Readers' Reading Strategy Use: A Literature Review

Jia Lin (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJTIAL.2019010103

Abstract

This Article systematically reviews the use of reading strategies among college-level English as a foreign/second language (EFL/ESL) learners and its relationship with two non-cognitive factors: gender and motivation. The author reviews empirical studies published from 2000 to 2017 in order to answer two research questions: (a) What gender disparities exist in college-level EFL/ESL learners' use of reading strategies? (b) How do motivation factors relate to college-level EFL/ESL learners' use of reading strategies? Findings indicate that: (1) motivation factors, including achievement goals, interest in reading, and self-efficacy, positively relate to reading strategy use. (2) gender has an influence on strategy use and female readers show higher use of reading strategies. (3) Interaction effects among factors exist. EFL/ESL learners' strategy use is shaped by multiple factors jointly.
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1. Introduction

For college-level learners of English as a foreign/second language (EFL/ESL), reading ability is a very important component of academic language proficiency. It highly correlates with these learners’ overall academic achievement. EFL/ESL readers use a complex battery of reading strategies to make their reading processes easier, faster and more effective (Poole, 2005a). Examples of commonly used reading strategies include decoding unknown words, using background knowledge, skimming for main ideas, and monitoring comprehension.

However, ESL/EFL readers with different backgrounds vary a lot in strategy use both quantitatively and qualitatively. Examining variations in strategy use and underlying factors will expand our understanding of ESL/EFL readers’ reading processes and difficulties. These investigations will also suggest important pedagogical recommendations and improve English language teaching. As compared with cognitive or linguistic factors relating to reading strategy use, non-cognitive factors, such as gender and motivation, are less commonly investigated. In addition, while there have been a number of empirical studies examining how these two factors relate to variations in strategy use, very little literature has analyzed and synthesized existing findings systematically. The current study aims to fill in these gaps.

This article aims to answer two research questions: (a) What gender disparities exist in college-level EFL/ESL learners’ use of reading strategies? (b) How do motivation factors relate to college-level EFL/ESL learners’ use of reading strategies? The significance of this literature review study lies in that: (1) while individual empirical studies focus merely on one or two factors, this literature review study touches on multiple factors as well as the interaction effects among them; (2) through examining similarities and disparities among research findings, this article extracts conclusions well supported by the majority of studies; (3) based on a comprehensive review of existing literature, the article points out deficiencies of previous studies and suggests directions for future researchers; (4) this article also suggests pedagogical recommendations which are applicable in EFL/ESL reading class. In sum, this literature review study is of importance and utility to EFL/ESL research and teaching.

This article starts with a brief introduction to some background knowledge regarding reading strategies, including definitions, taxonomies, reading strategy research methodology, and factors which influence strategy use. The following section illustrates how to identify and screen related empirical studies. Then, the third section categorizes identified studies according to their focuses and provides a brief review of each study. While the third section focuses on analyzing individual studies separately, the fourth section makes comparison and synthesis across studies. Finally, conclusions and pedagogical implications are generated.

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