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Metacognitive awareness of reading strategies

Sla Ay Ankara University

1. Introduction University students have to read a large number of academic texts, however many of them enter university education unprepared for this kind of a reading task. They show inability to read selectively, that is, extracting what is important for the purpose of reading and discarding what is significant (Benson, 1991). They often present low level of reading strategy knowledge (Dreyer, 1998) and lack the strategies needed to successfully comprehend expository texts. Another major issue concerning the reading processes of the university students is a severe lack of autonomy by the students as readers in accomplishing the goals of their readings. As it is stated by Kletzien & Bednar (1998), too often students approach reading tasks with no idea of why they are studying or what they are supposed to learn relying on what they were told by the teachers. These two researchers state that students are not used to taking control of their own reading and that they are lacking in metacognition, knowledge, and control of the four variables: person, goal, task, and strategies (Baker & Brown, 1984; Flavell, 1979). Also, the reading researches generally show that younger and less proficient readers tend to focus on reading as a decoding process rather than as a meaning-making process (Garner & Krauss, 1982; Myers and Paris, 1978). Recent trends within the domain of reading comprehension have led to an increasing emphasis on the role of metacognitive awareness of ones cognitive and motivational processes while reading (Alexander & Jetton, 2000; Guthrie & Wigfield, 1999; Pressley, 2000; Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). Indeed, researchers agree that awareness and monitoring of ones comprehension processes are critically important aspects of skilled reading. Such awareness and monitoring processes are often referred to in the literature as metacognition, which can be thought of as the knowledge of the readers cognition about reading and the self-control mechanisms they exercise when monitoring and regulating text comprehension. Some reading researchers, most notably Baker and Brown (1984) have investigated several different aspects of the relationship between metacognitive ability and effective reading. Two dimensions of metacognitive ability have been recognized: 1) Knowledge of cognition or metacognitive awareness,

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2) Regulation of cognition which as stated includes the reader's knowledge about his or her own cognitive resources, and the compatibility between the reader and the reading situation. There are many studies in the literature on the awareness of the reading process and reading strategy use of readers with a variety of proficiency levels, first language, second language, cultural backgrounds, school contexts, etc. (Auerbach and Paxton, 1997; Barnett 1988). The aim of this study is to provide a picture of the metacognitive awareness of reading strategies of a group of Turkish university students majoring linguistics when involved with the task of reading academic materials (textbooks, journal articles, class handouts, etc.) in their first language: Turkish. The subject has been explored in the process of answering the following three questions: 1. What type and frequency of reading strategies do the students under study report applying while reading academic texts? 2. Is there a significant difference between the perceived strategy use of female and male students? 3. Are there significant differences between the perceived strategy use of the students in the first, second, third and fourth year? 2. Method 2.1 Participants The participants of this study were 116 undergraduate students majoring Linguistics at the Faculty of Letters, Ankara University. Of the 116 students 97 were female, and 19 were male. 30 students were in their first year, 22 of them were in their second year, 33 of them were in their third year and 31 of them were in their fourth year of a four-year undergraduate program. 2.2 Instrument and measuring Data on the students metacognitive awareness of reading strategies was collected through the use of the Turkish version of Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory (MARSI) (Mokhtari & Reichard, 2002), which was designed for measuring adolescent and adult students awareness and use of reading strategies while reading academic or schoolrelated materials. The correlation between factors and Cronbachs alpha reliabilities for each factor or subscale of the Turkish version was calculated. Reliability for the total sample was .83, suggesting that the reliability of the instrument was satisfactory. The MARSI instrument measures three broad categories of strategies including: 1.Global Reading Strategies (GLOB), which can be thought of as generalized or global reading strategies aimed at setting the stage for the reading act (for instance, setting purpose for reading, previewing text content, predicting what the text is about, etc.)

Metacognitive awareness of reading strategies

2. Problem-Solving Strategies (PROB), which are localized, focused problem-solving or repair strategies used when problems develop in understanding textual information (for instance, checking ones understanding upon encountering conflicting information, rereading for better understanding, etc.) 3. Support Reading Strategies (SUP), which involve using the support mechanisms or tools aimed at sustaining responsiveness to reading (for instance, use of reference materials like dictionaries and other support systems). These three categories of strategies interact with and support each other when used in the process of constructing meaning from text. The statistical analysis of the research was carried out using the software SPSS 15.0, where descriptive statistical procedures and further calculations were carried out. To see if there was significant difference between the reported strategy use of participants by gender, and by the class they are studying in, Chi-Square Test was applied. 3. Results The students responses were examined in terms of the individual strategies as well as the three categories identified above. 3.1 What type and frequency of reading strategies do the students under study report applying while reading academic texts? The perceived reading strategy use of the respondents is defined in terms of individual strategies, as well as strategy groups (as seen in table 1). Table 1 also shows the individual reading strategy preferences of students arranged in descending order by their means (that is, the most favored or often used to least favored or least used strategies). Table 1. Reported use of individual reading strategies
Mean 4,379 4,327 4,327 4,310 4,275 4,172 4,172 4,137 4,120 4,051 4,017 4,008 3,991 3,913 3,913 3,896 Type GLOB GLOB GLOB GLOB GLOB PROB SUP PROB PROB PROB PROB GLOB PROB GLOB PROB SUP Strategy I have a purpose in mind when I read. I try to guess what the text is about when reading. I use typographical aids like boldface type and italics to identify key information. I preview the text to see what its about before reading it. I check my understanding when I come across conflicting information. When text becomes difficult, I reread to increase my understanding. I underline or circle information in the text to help me remember it. I try to get back on track when I lose concentration. When text becomes difficult, I begin to pay closer attention to what Im reading. I try to guess the meaning of unknown words or phrases. I read slowly but carefully to be sure I understand what Im reading. I use tables, figures, and pictures in text to increase my understanding. I try to picture or visualize information to help me remember what Im reading. I think about what I know to help me understand what Im reading. I stop from time to time to think about what Im reading. I paraphrase to better understand what Im reading.

Sla Ay 3,827 3,818 3,706 3,672 3,663 3,646 3,568 3,448 3,310 3,284
3,275 3,241 3,129 2,991

GLOB GLOB PROB GLOB SUP GLOB GLOB GLOB SUP SUP
SUP SUP SUP SUP

I think about whether the content of the text fits my purpose. I use context clues to help me better understand what Im reading. I adjust my reading speed according to what Im reading. I decide what to read closely and what to ignore. I go back and forth in the text to find relationships among ideas in it. I check to see if my guesses about the text are right or wrong. I critically analyze and evaluate the information presented in the text. I skim the text first by noting characteristics like length and organization. When text becomes difficult, I read aloud to help me understand what Im reading. I use reference materials such as dictionaries to help me understand what Im reading.
I write summaries to reflect on key ideas in the text. I take notes while reading to help me understand what Im reading. I ask myself questions I like to have answered in the text. I discuss my reading with others to check my understanding.

In examining reading strategy use among students on the MARSI scale, which ranges from 1 to 5 (1 = low strategy use; 5 = high strategy use), we identified three types of use as suggested by Oxford & Burry-Stock (1995) for general language learning strategy use: high (mean 3.5), medium (mean = 2.5-3.4), and low (mean 2.4).The means of individual strategy items ranged from 4.379 to 2.99, indicating a medium to high overall use of reading strategies according to the established strategy use criteria. 23 of the 30 strategies fell within the high use group (mean 3.5 or above), 7 strategies registered means between 3.45 and 2.57 indicating medium use. None of the strategies in the survey were reported to be used with low frequency (mean values 2.4) (Fig.1).
Strategies
5 4,5 4 3,5 3

Mean

2,5 2 1,5 1 0,5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Items

Figure 1. The means of individual strategy items The data was further analyzed according to the MARSI categories. Students showed a clear preference for global reading strategies followed by problem solving strategies and support reading strategies. The five strategies with the highest use are global strategies.

Metacognitive awareness of reading strategies

Table 2. Reading strategies used most and least often by respondents


Name GLOB1 GLOB22 GLOB26 GLOB4 GLOB25 Name SUP15 SUP6 SUP2 SUP28 SUP9 Strategy most often used I have a purpose in mind when I read. I use typographical aids like boldface and italics to identify key information. I try to guess what the material is about when I read. I preview the text to see what its about before reading it. I check my understanding when I come across conflicting information. Strategy least often used I use reference materials such as dictionaries to help me understand what I read. I summarize what I read to reflect on important information in the text. I take notes while reading to help me understand what I read. I ask myself questions I like to have answered in the text. I discuss what I read with others to check my understanding. Mean 4,37 4,32 4,32 4,31 4,27 Mean 3,28 3,27 3,26 3,12 2,99

When the 5 most often and 5 least often used strategies, as reported by the respondents were analyzed, global reading strategies appear to be the most used items, while support strategies are the least used ones (as seen in table 2). Of the 30 items included in the survey, only one falls nearly in the low usage category (mean 2,99), which is discussing what is read with others to check whether it is understood or not. The usage patterns among students reveal that the majority are high or medium users, in all strategy categories as seen in figure 2d. This indicates a high degree of awareness of the importance of applying mechanisms that aid reading comprehension.
Global Strategies Problem solving strategies Support strategies Overall strategies

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(b)

(c)

(d)

Figure 2. The usage patterns among students Students are high or medium in global and problem solving strategies as seen in figure 2a and 2b. But figure 2c shows that means for support strategies fall in medium, high and low usage strategies. 3.2 Is there a significant difference between the perceived strategy use of female and male students? The data was analyzed if there were any differences between male and female students in their self-assessed strategy use by using Chi Square Test.

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The results (as seen in figure 3) indicate that the female students under study here report similar usage with males in all categories. There is only a slight difference in the usage of support strategies (figure 3c) but it is not statistically significant. (a)
100 80 60 40 20 0 female male
h

Global strategies
h

(b)
100 80 60 40 20 0

Problem solving strategies


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female

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Support strategies 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 female male


h h

(d)
100 80 60 40 20 0

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Figure 3. Strategy usage of female and male students 3.3 Are there significant differences between the perceived strategy use of the students in the first, second, third and fourth year? When the years in which the participants study are concerned, there are also no significant differences in the usage of global, problem solving and overall usage of strategies (as seen in fig. 4 a,b,d). Again the only difference in usage of strategies was reported in support strategies. The students who are in the first year reported medium usage frequency of support strategies where all the other 3 years students reported high frequency of usage (as seen in fig. 4c).

Metacognitive awareness of reading strategies

(a)
30 20 10 0 1
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Global strategies
h h

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30 20 10 0

Problem solving strategies


h h h h

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20 15 10
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Support strategies
h h h h

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Overall strategies 30 20 10
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5 0 0 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Figure 4. Strategy usage of first, second, third and fourth year students 4. Concluding remarks In this study, the metacognitive awareness and perceived use of reading strategies of university students while reading academic materials were explored. The findings of the study show that undergraduate students of Ankara University Linguistics Department have a high metacognitive awareness of their reading process, when involved with the task of reading academic materials. This fact may be explained by the participants being students of linguistics who are normally more aware of the features of language, language learning and language use. But this prediction has to be checked with similar studies with different groups of students who are studying in different disciplines, and also with individual differences other then gender. The study shows higher reported use for global and problem-solving reading strategies, followed by support strategies. There werent any differences between male and female students in their self-assessed strategy use, but female students tend to report higher frequency of support strategy use though is not very significant. There are some studies concerning the first two research questions of this study (Green & Oxford, 1995; Oxford and Nykios, 1989). Although in the mentioned studies the results indicated that female students reported higher levels and frequencies of strategy usage then males do, this study doesnt provide support for those findings. Even though there are no studies in the literature about the third research question it was examined with the anticipation of observing both qualitative and quantitative differences among the years of instruction; depending on the fact that there is an increase in students

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exposure and need for comprehending the academic materials as they make progress in their studies. But there werent any supportive findings about this assumption. The most remarkable and dramatic findings of the study are reports about the students most and least used strategies. From these data, the most frequently used strategies of these students who have high metacognitive awareness are, the ones which help them to get a general information about the text by scanning instead of reading in detail to internalize what is being told. On the other hand the least used strategies are the ones which aim to comprehend, transfer into long term memory and strengthen the previous knowledge. Although the results of previous studies about metacognitive awareness seem to show that there is a positive correlation between metacognitive awareness and reading ability (Barnett, 1988; Carrell, 1989) the students who have attended this study have to be examined so as to find out if they are successful readers or not. Because researchers in this area have found that in general, more proficient readers exhibit the following types of reading behaviors: Overview text before reading, employ context clues such as titles, subheading, and diagrams, look for important information while reading and pay greater attention to it than other information, attempt to relate important points in text to one another in order to understand the text as a whole, activate and use prior knowledge to interpret text, reconsider and revise hypotheses about the meaning of text based on text content, attempt to infer information from the text, attempt to determine the meaning of words not understood or recognized, monitor text comprehension, identify or infer main ideas, use strategies to remember text (paraphrasing, repetition, making notes, summarizing, self-questioning, etc), understand relationships between parts of text, recognize text structure, change reading strategies when comprehension is perceived not be proceeding smoothly; evaluate the qualities of text, reflect on and process additionally after a part has been read, and anticipate or plan for the use of knowledge gained from the reading (Aebersold & Field, 1997; Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). While this list is not prioritized or complete, it does provide one with a description of the characteristics of successful readers, and continues to grow as more research into reading is conducted. The strategies of proficient readers, which some of them are mentioned above, are reported as less used by the participants of this study. However, this cannot be conclusive because findings from Schooren et al. (1998) seem to indicate that there is a threshold level that needs to be achieved before metacognitive awareness can play a significant role in reading. Nonetheless some of the studies using self-report data have also found a lack of correlation between what readers say they do and what they actually do when reading. While at other times, a reader does not describe how to use a particular strategy but in fact does use it when reading. To explain this, Baker & Brown (1984) point out that "knowing that" (declarative knowledge) is different from "knowing how" (procedural knowledge), and that knowledge that a particular strategy is useful (awareness) precedes its routine use, which in turn precedes the ability to describe how it is used. In the light of these findings, it is planned to start another study about the relation between metacognitive awareness and the success in reading comprehension of academic materials.

Metacognitive awareness of reading strategies

References
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