Struggling adult readers experience difficulties in essential aspects of their lives due to low literacy affecting their work productivity, family, and social relations. Non-native English-speaking students may have increased difficulties in learning to read English, frequently attending English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
Previous studies report that reading comprehension in a second language (L2) is commonly associated with students’ background characteristics and their motivation for reading in that language. Research studies suggest that their reading motivation is related to such background characteristics as first language (L1) schooling, age at immigration, residence time in an English-speaking country, and both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
I wanted to test whether those factors helped to predict L2 reading comprehension in a sample of non-native English-speaking adults taking adult literacy classes.
Based on the literature, my first hypothesis was back characteristics will predict L2 reading comprehension. The second hypothesis is that L2 learners who report more intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors for reading will achieve higher reading scores. The third hypothesis was that motivational factors would account for more variance than their background characteristics in predicting L2 reading comprehension.
Robin Morris Ph.D.
We utilized data from the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy. We analyzed 151 non-native English-speaking adult literacy students between 18 and 66.
We classified their background characteristics into subgroups based on the age they had immigrated, the length of time they’ve been residing in the US, and education level in their L1.
We measured intrinsic and extrinsic reading motivation using three different measures each.
We used two subtests of the Reading Inventory and Scholastic Evaluation also known as RISE, to assess their reading comprehension.
The RISE Reading Comprehension subtest asked students to read a passage and then answer a multiple-choice question about their understanding of the text.
The RISE Efficiency of Basic Reading Comprehension asked students to choose a word to complete a sentence they read. See examples below
We run a full factorial ANOVA for the background characteristics and results indicate a significant interaction between age and year living in the U.S. In addition, first language schooling shown to have a significant main effect on reading comprehension
Such as students who immigrated at younger ages and lived more than 10 years in the U.S achieved higher levels of reading comprehension in RISE subtest.
Pearson Product Moment Correlations showed small but significant correlations between some measures. RMS PD (Perceived Difficulty), and Avoidance of Reading, both extrinsic motivation measures, were negatively associated with both RISE subtests, suggesting that students’ perceptions of less task difficulty, or lower levels of avoidance, were associated with higher reading scores. In the intrinsic motivation domain, students who reported looking for additional information when they don’t understand something, or spent more time using a computer, had higher reading scores in the RISE.
We focused on these significant measures and ran a multiple regression analysis to understand how their combination would predict the RISE EBRC subtest. Results indicated that there was a moderate overall prediction using these measures, while L1 education levels schooling was the primary driver to predict L2 reading comprehension.
Results somewhat support the first hypothesis by indicating those background characteristics were significant to predict L2 reading. Also for the second both motivational factors correlated with their L2 reading.
However, the third hypothesis was not supported. The multiple regression accounted for only a small amount of the overall variance (14%) in reading comprehension and motivational factors were not primary predictors.
Although these results did not find what was expected, this may be related to some of the limitations of this study related to measurement validity, such that the motivation questions might not have been relevant for the Non-native English students as compared to Native students in the study. Also, the examiners asked the questionnaires orally in English to participants and the amount of missing data might also be due to participants not understanding some of the questions
Future development of this line of research may help impact the structure and instructional focus of programs for ESL students in order to develop higher levels of literacy and improve the quality of life for immigrant adults.