2.4.2 Categories of Reading Strategies…………………………………………….…………..31
2.4.3 Reading Strategies and Reading Comprehension…………………………..……………32
2.4.4 Reading Strategies Studies in Iran………………………………………….……………35
2.5 Skilled Versus Unskilled Readers……………………………………………………………36
2.6 Collaborative Strategic Reading……………………………………………………………..42
2.6.1 Strategies Used in Collaborative Strategic Reading………………………..……………42
2.6.2 Collaborative Strategic Reading Training………………………………………………..47
2.6.3 Theoretical Background for CSR…………………………………………….…………..54
2.6.4 Studies Related to Collaborative Strategic Reading…………………………..…………62
CHAPTER III: METHOD…………………………….………………………..68
3.1 Introduction…………………………………………………………………..………………69
3.2 Participants……………………………………………………………………………………69
3.3 Instrumentation………………………………………………………………………………70
3.3.1 Language Proficiency Test Used for Homogenization……………………………….….70
3.3.2 Rating Scales…………………………………………………………..………………….72
3.3.2.1 Writing Rating Scale of PET……………………………………………..………….72
3.3.2.2 Speaking Rating Scale of PET……………………………………………………….72
3.3.3 Pretest……………………………………………………………………………………..72
3.3.4 Post-test …………………………………………………………………………………..73
3.3.5 Material………………………………………………………………………………..….73
3.3.6 Cue Cards………………………………………………………………………………….74
3.3.7 CSR Learning Logs……………………………………………………………………….75
3.3.8 Clunk Cards ………………………………………………………………………………75
3.4 Procedure…………………………………………………………………………….………76
3. 5 Design of the Study………………………………………………………………………….89
3.6 Statistical Analysis……………………………………………………………………………89
CHAPTER IV: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION……………………………….91
4.1 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………..92
4.2 Participant Selection…………………………………………………………………………92
4.2.1 Descriptive Statistics of the PET Proficiency Test Piloting……………………………..93
4.2.2 Descriptive Statistics of the PET Proficiency Test Administration…………..…………97
4. 3 Dividing the Participants into the Two Groups…………………………………….……….98
4.3.1 Descriptive Statistics of Reading Comprehension Pretest Piloting…………..…………98
4.3.2 Descriptive Statistics of Reading Comprehension Post-test Piloting…………..……….99
4.4 Checking the Normality……………………………………………………………………100
4.5 Pretest of Reading Comprehension Administration……………………………………..…101
4.6 Research Question………………………………………………………………………….103
4.7 Criterion Referenced Validity………………………………………………………………106
4.7.1 K-R 21 Reliability Indices…………………………………………………….………..107
4.8 Discussion………………………………………………………………………………….107
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION AND PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS..109
5.1 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………110
5.2 Conclusion………………………………………………………………….………………111
5.3 Pedagogical Implications…………………………………………………..……………….111
5.3.1 Implications for EFL Teachers……………………………………………….…………112
5.3.2 Implications for EFL Learners……….………………………………………..…….…113
5.3.3 Implications for EFL Syllabus Designers and Curriculum Developers………….…….113
5.4 Suggestions for Further Research…………………………………………………………..114
REFERENCES………………………………………………………………….116
APPENDICES………………………………………………………..…………130
Appendix A: Language Proficiency Test Used for Homogenization (PET)…………..……….
Appendix B: Writing Rating Scale of PET………………………………..……………………
Appendix C: Speaking Rating Scale of PET……………………………………………………
Appendix D: Pretest……………………………………………………………….……………
Appendix E: Post-test…………………………………………………………………………..
Appendix F: Cooperative Learning Group Roles………………………………………………
Appendix G: CSR Learning Log……………………………………………………………….

LIST OF TABLES
Table 3.1: Number of Participants in Experimental and Control Groups………..………………69
Table 3.2: Stage 1 of CSR’s Plan for Strategic Reading……………………………..…………..81
Table 3.3: Stage 2 of CSR’s Plan for Strategic Reading…………………………..……………..83
Table 3.4: Stage 3 of CSR’s Plan for Strategic Reading………………………………………….84
Table 3.5: Stage 4 of CSR’s Plan for Strategic Reading……………………………..…………..86
Table 4.1: Descriptive Statistics of the PET Piloting……………………………………………93
Table 4.2: Reliability of the PET Piloting before Deletion of Malfunctioning Items……………94
Table 4.3: Reliability of the PET Piloting after Deletion of 3 Items……………………….……94
Table 4.4: Inter-rater Reliability of the Two Raters in the Piloting of Writing Part 2….….…….95
Table 4.5: Inter-rater Reliability of the Two Raters in the Piloting of Writing Part 3………..….95
Table 4.6: Inter-rater Reliability of the Two Raters in the Piloting of Speaking…………….….96
Table 4.7: Descriptive Statistics of the PET Administration……………………………………97
Table 4.8: Reliability of the PET Administration……………………………………….………97
Table 4.9: Descriptive Statistics of Reading comprehension Pretest Piloting……………..……98
Table 4.10: Reliability of the Reading Comprehension Pretest Piloting…………………..……99
4.11: Descriptive Statistics of the Reading Comprehension Post-test Piloting…………………99
4.12: Reliability of the Reading Comprehension Post-test Piloting……………………………100
Table 4.13: Normality Assumptions……………………………………………………………101
Table 4.14: Descriptive Statistics of Pretest of Reading comprehension by Groups………..…102
Table 4.15: Independent t-test of Pretest of Reading comprehension by Groups…………..….102
Table 4.16: Descriptive Statistics of Post-test of Reading comprehension by Groups…………104
Table 4.17: Independent t-test of Post-test of Reading Comprehension by Groups…………..105
Table 4.18: Pearson Correlation PET with Pretest and Post-test of Reading Comprehension…107
Table 4.19: K-R 21 Reliability Indices…………………………………………………………107
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 3.1: Sample CSR Cue Card…………………………………………………..…………..74
Figure 3. 2: A Sample Clunk Card………………………………………………….……………76
Figure 3. 3: CSR’s Plan for Strategic Reading……………………………………………………80
Figure4. 1: Pretest of Reading Comprehension by Groups………………………….…………103
Figure4.2: Post-test of Reading Comprehension by Groups……………………………………106

CHAPTER I
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

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1.1 Introduction
Reading is an inseparable part of daily life and the most necessary skill for it. It is a process involving the activation of relevant knowledge and related language skills to accomplish an exchange of information from one person to another. It requires the reader to focus his/her attention on the reading materials and integrate previously acquired knowledge and skill to comprehend what someone else has written (Chastain, 1988, p. 216).
Reading is a receptive skill, similar to listening, during which readers decode the message of the writer and try to recreate it anew (Rashtchi & Keyvanfar, 2010, P. 141). In fact, reading can be seen as a dialogue between the reader and the text or between the reader and the author. During this active involvement, the reader tries to either construct their personal interpretation of the text or get at the author’s original intention.
What has to be noted is that in real life, reading does not happen in a vacuum. It is always done within a social context for a specific reason. We might read to get information on how to do something such as reading a manual, or to learn something like studying our course books. We sometimes read in order to socialize with our friends like reading their email or read in order to organize our daily life matters such as finding the shortest route to a certain destination. Many times we find ourselves reading for pleasure such as reading a novel or browsing the internet. In some situations, we may read for a combination of reasons.
Reading comprehension as the “essence of reading” (Durkin, 1993, P. 4) occurs when a mental concept of meaning is created from the written text. To do this, “The reader extracts and integrates various kinds of information from the text and combines it with what is already known” (Koda, 2005, P. 4).
Effective reading is not something that every individual learns to do (Nunan, 1999, P. 249). Learning to reading is difficult especially for those reading in a second or foreign language (Celce-Murcia, 1979). Since reading is one of the most complex cognitive processes, there are a number of skills that contribute to fluent reading comprehension, and it is especially so in the context of L2 reading (Sepp & Morvay, 2010, p. 9). However, the widespread attention to reading predominantly focuses on early reading instruction, such as phonological awareness, decoding, and word identification instruction (Burns, Griffin, Kuldanek & Snow 1998).
To improve learners’ reading abilities, effective strategies, skills and assistant tools should be carefully considered (Oxford, 1990). The concept of strategy is defined by a number of scholars. Strategies are specific actions, behaviors, steps, or techniques that students (often intentionally) use to improve their progress in developing L2 skills (Oxford, 1990). These strategies can facilitate the internalization, storage, retrieval, or use of the new language. They are tools for the self-directed involvement necessary for developing language skills (Oxford, 1990). Many attempts have been done in order to determine and identify strategies especially influencing in the complex process of reading comprehension. In particular, many researchers have been interested in understanding what good readers typically do or posses while they read (e.g., Block, 1992; Brantmeier, 2002; Burns, Roe, & Ross, 1999; Erten & Topkaya, 2009; Heidari, 2010; Lehr, Osborn, & Hiebert, 2005; Kondo-Brown, 2006).
Interest in reading strategies among ESL/ EFL practitioners to conduct research began in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with various fields such as psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and education. Common to most of these streams was a desire to account for differences between “good” and “poor” readers and compare the types of strategies the former group employed which contributed to their successes and distinction.
Singhal (2001) emphasizes the crucial role of reading strategies by stating that, “They are of interest for what they reveal about the way readers manage their interactions with written text, and how these strategies are related to reading comprehension” (p. 78).
Despite using the related strategies in reading, the results of reading from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that many students are still not able to read fluently. There are some reasons behind low reading scores such as lack of phonological awareness, phonics-related skills, not being familiar with and using proper reading strategies fully. It seems that these points were overlooked in most approaches related to teaching reading (Standish, 2005).
As mentioned before, reading is a complex process. So, it seems that using one or two strategies alone is not sufficient for being an effective reader therefore, according to Standish (2005), what is needed is a specific approach consisting of the combination of different strategies that improve reading comprehension. This approach is called “Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR)”.
Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) is proposed by three researchers Klingner, Vaughn, and Schumm in 2001. According to Klingner, Vaughn, and Schumm (as cited in Standish, 2005), CSR was designed to address three important issues in reading instruction. The first, was meeting the needs of the increasingly diverse classrooms in the United States, including English-language learners. Second, CSR provided strategy instruction that increased the students’ comprehension of text and their ability to retain and transfer their new knowledge. Third, CSR was designed to facilitate collaborative, peer-mediated instruction among students in the content area classroom.
It is an assembly of strategies that have been proven through research, to be associated with improved outcomes in reading comprehension. CSR integrates word identification, reciprocal reading, and cooperative learning. Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) is a set of four strategies which struggling readers can use to decode and comprehend as they read content area text as follows:
1. Preview: Before reading, students brainstorm prior knowledge and predict what will be learned.
2. Click and Clunk: Students identify words and word parts that were hard to understand (called “Clunks”). A sequence of “fix-up” is used to decode the “Clunk”. These strategies are: (a) Re-reading the sentence for key ideas; (b) Looking for context clues in the sentences before and after; (c) Looking for prefixes or suffixes; and (d) Breaking the word apart to find smaller words.
3. Get the Gist: Students learn to ask themselves: what is the most important person, place, or thing? What is the most important idea about the person, place or thing?
4. Wrap Up: After reading, students construct their own questions to check for understanding of the passage, answer the questions, and summarize what has been learned.
According to Klingner, Vaughn, and Schumm (as cited in Standish, 2005):
These four strategies are the most effective ones, based on the results of researches that have been conducted over 25 years, with numerous investigators. What we’ve done with collaborative strategic reading is taken these four strategies, organized them in a way that has made sense to teachers and has been something that has been productive for them to use with their students. (p. 39)
It is believed that CSR makes use of social interactions to increase students’ ability. While students read a new text, they are interested in finding out the existing differences between this current knowledge and existing experiences they have already acquired.
In implementing CSR, students work in small, cooperative groups of 4-5 students. They support each other in applying a sequence of reading strategies as they read orally or silently from a shared selection of text.
Drawing attention to such strategies gives the learners clear and concrete routines that help them to move beyond concentrating on decoding processes and/or to facilitate transferring those things while reading for meaning in their first language (L1). Therefore, it seems to be of high value to pay more attention to the way CSR can facilitate and exert influence over the processes of reading comprehension and creating language competence through reading among EFL learners.

1.2 Statement of the Problem
In learning a foreign language, reading is an essential skill to acquire knowledge and exchange information (Chien, 2000; Dlugosz, 2000; Salinger, 2003; Huang, 2005). For the past two decades, awareness of the importance of reading has been steadily growing and consequent demands for effective reading instruction have increased (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1998; US National Reading Panel, 2000).
Learning to read is difficult, especially for those reading in a second or foreign language (Celce-Murcia, 1979). Effective reading is not something that every individual learns to do (Nunan, 1999, p. 249). To improve learners’ reading abilities, effective strategies and assistant tools should be carefully considered, but the instructors seldom teach learners how to use learning strategies effectively to improve their reading comprehension; consequently, learners cannot master this language skill effectively (Berkowitz 1986; Carnine and Carnine 2004; Chi, 1997; Griffiths, 2008; Rivard and Yore 1992; Tsao, 2004).

Tukiainen (2003) believes that:

As the learning process takes place in the learner’s head, the learner himself/herself is ultimately responsible for his/her learning. Therefore, the teacher can only offer some “useful tools” to facilitate the process, but s/he cannot take overall responsibility for the learning process of individual learners. (p.8)

According to Tukiainnen (2003), there are a number of factors which can play a fundamental role in L2 reading comprehension. It seems that some learners prefer to make use of powerful learning tools i.e., strategies, while others seem to ignore these tools and thus they are not aware of strategies.
Although a huge bulk of research has been carried out in the field of reading, further studies are required to consider the psychological processes which contribute learners to overcome difficulties in reading process (Tukiainnen, 2003).
Concerning the educational problems mentioned above, and to come up with a more comprehensive picture, as Brown (1994) says that, “CSR, is embraced within a communicative language teaching framework” (p.80), this study features the task-based and activity-oriented techniques of CSR, hoping to transform the traditional knowledge-based English class to a more communicative and humanistic learning context. By exploring the effects of CSR on Iranian EFL students, this study aimed to develop and test the effectiveness of focusing this strategy on enhancing the reading comprehension of students in Iran.
1.3 Statement of the Research Question
By considering the above-mentioned purposes, the following research question was formulated:
Q1: Does teaching Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR) have any statistically significant impact on EFL learners’ reading comprehension?

1.4 Statement of the Research Hypothesis
In order to investigate the above-mentioned research question, the following null hypothesis was stated:
H01: Teaching Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR) has not any statistically significant impact on EFL learners’ reading comprehension.
1.5 Definition of Key Terms
1.5.1 Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR)
Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) combines cooperative learning (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, 1989) and reading comprehension strategy instruction (e.g., Palincsar & Brown, as cited in Klinger, 2010). CSR was designed to promote content learning, language acquisition, and reading comprehension in diverse classrooms that include English language learners (Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, as cited in Klinger, 2010).

1.5.2 Reading comprehension
Reading comprehension is a “process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language” (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002, P. 11). Reading comprehension is operationally defined in this study as the participants’ obtained scores on a sample PET reading test (2004) contains 35 items each 1 point.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Due to the significance of reading comprehension in learning and assessing a foreign language, many attempts have been done in order to determine and identify factors influencing in the complex process of reading comprehension. In particular, many researchers have been interested in understanding what good readers typically do or possess while they read (Block, 1992; Brantmeier, 2002; Burns, Erten & Topkaya, 2009; Heidari, 2010; Kondo-Brown, 2006; Lehr, Osborn, & Hiebert, 2005; Roe, & Ross, 1999).
Among the influential factors in reading comprehension, strategies are one of the most beneficial ones that any reader can use for ensuring success in reading (Heidari, 2010).
CSR is recommended because it is a set of four strategies readers can use to decode and comprehend as they read different types of texts (Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, as cited in Klinger, 2010).
The significance of this study is naturally two-fold: both teachers and learners can benefit from the results of this study. While teachers may contemplate applying the results of this study in their own practices, learners would also consider utilizing CSR in order to improve the way they deal with texts and reading materials which would bring about a higher degree of L2 learning.

1.7 Limitations and Delimitations
1.7.1 Limitations
Like most research found in the domain of language teaching, this research encountered certain limitations which can pose inevitable restrictions on the interpretation and generalization of its findings. These limitations are listed below
1. According to Oxford (1993), there are some factors which could influence the choice of learning strategies. These factors include motivation, gender, cultural background, type of task, age, level of language proficiency, and learning/cognitive style. Because of practical limitations, it was impossible to examine the moderating role of other factors in the use of CSR in this study.
2. The experimental group received the treatment from the researcher herself because she wanted to make sure about the classroom procedure. Following Baumann, Seifert-Kessell and Jones (1992), this enhances the internal validity of the experiment but its external validity will diminish.
3. The age of the participants vary from 18 to 26. So, it seems that, the results of the study are not generizable to other age groups.
4. This study focused on the reading comprehension of intermediate level students, and it did not focus on the students of other proficiency levels because the learners at this level are only available for the researcher. Therefore, the results of this study may not apply to other age groups.
5. The rules and restrictions which exist in some language schools did not allow the researcher –herself being a female– to have male learners in her classes. Hence, the results of this research cannot be necessarily generalized to male EFL learners.

1.7.2 Delimitations:
Regarding the delimitations of the study, the researcher can name the followings:
1. The focus of the study was only the reading comprehension not other language skills.
2. Among the different strategies in reading comprehension, CSR was chosen to be worked in the classes.
3. The participants were selected from among intermediate level. To justify the selection of intermediate learners in the study, it should be said that, according to Brown (2007), “Advanced learners are normally equipped with a high degree of learning strategies” (p.120), and elementary learners are not competent enough to participate effectively in this research study (120).
C H A P T E R II
REVIEW OF
THE RELATED LITERATURE
2.1 Introduction
Considering the requirements of this research study, the review of literature will be allocated to the study of the following three general topics: “Reading”; and
“Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR)”.
2.2 Reading
Reading is considered as one of the most important skills which despite lots of research and due to its complicated nature sounds impossible to be described in a single comprehensive definition. According to Grabe (1991), simple definitions typically misinterpret complex cognitive processes such as reading. Aebersold and Field (1997) also note that “The act of reading is neither completely understood nor easily described. In the most general terms we may say that reading involves the reader, the text, and the interaction between reader and text” (P. 5). They further state that reading is what happens when people look at a text and assign meaning to the written symbols in the text.
Over the past decades, subsequent research in the area of reading mostly focused on explaining reading from the perspective of the process and components involved in it. Chastain (1988), mentioned that as it is true for other skills, reading is a process involving the activation of relevant knowledge and related language skills to exchange information from person to person. He believes that reading is a receptive process in that the reader is receiving a message from a writer. Reading also is known as a decoding process, since language is regarded as a code and the reader must figure out the meaning of the message. In Goodman’s view (1967), “reading is a psychological guessing game in which the reader constructs, as best as he can, a message which has been encoded by a writer as a graphic display” (P. 135). He further states that reading is an ongoing process in which the reader selects the most productive language cues from the text to help him predict what comes next. Celce-Murcia (2001), maintains that, “reading as an interactive, socio-cognitive process involves a text, a reader, and a social context within which the activity of reading takes place” (P. 154).
The efforts to understand the process of reading have brought various models and views of reading. The bottom-up model (Gough, 1972), the top-down model (Goodman, 1967), and the interactive model (Stanovich, 1980), are usually discussed in literature on reading.
2.2.1 Models of Reading
In “bottom-up” processing, the reader begins decoding letters, words, phrases, and sentences and finally building up meaning from this incoming text. Phonics would be one example employing “bottom-up” processing, where a reader learns letter/sound relationships, moves to decoding words, reading sentences and then focus on the meaning of a text (Reynher, 2008).
In “top-down” processing, the reader begins with higher-order concepts (general knowledge of the world or a specific situation) and full texts (paragraphs and sentences), and works down to the actual features of the texts (e.g., letters, words, phrases, and grammatical structures). Whole language would be one example employing “top-down” processing, where a reader constructs meaning for a text based on his/her prior knowledge (Reynher, 2008). The terms of “text-based” and “reader-based” are frequently used for “bottom-up” and “top-down” respectively. Regarding terminology of “top-down”, Urquhart and Weir (1998), indicate that:
the term “top-down” is deceptive, appearing to offer a neat converse to “bottom up”, a converse which in reality does not exist … .Given the somewhat misleading nature of the term “top-down”, we suggest that the related terms “text (or data)-driven” and “reader-driven” are more generally useful when describing the contrast between “bottom-up” and “top-down” (cited in Park, 2010, P. 11).
Interactive models posit interaction between “bottom-up” processing and “top-down” processing. Rumelhart (1985), states that reading involves both “top-down” and “bottom-up” processing. Stanovich (1980), points out that “interactive models assume that a pattern is synthesized based on information provided simultaneously from several knowledge sources … a deficit in any knowledge source results in a heavier reliance on other knowledge sources, regardless of their level in the processing hierarchy” (P. 63). Grabe (1991) points out that, interactive approaches refer to two different conceptions: general interaction between a reader and a text, and interaction of many component skills. Most second language researchers stress the general interaction of which the basic concept is that the reader constructs meanings of the text based on both the knowledge drawn from the text and background knowledge of the reader. In contrast, most cognitive psychologists and education psychologists stress the interaction of component skills, implying that reading involves both lower-level skills, such as decoding, and higher-level skills, such as comprehension.
2.2.2 Components of Reading
Identifying the components that constitute reading was another aim of researchers to define and explain the process of reading. They explored how the components explain individual differences in reading. There were attempts to break reading down into the components, and the results of these attempts helped us understand the reading process. Grabe (1991) summarized the components involved in the reading process as six general skills and knowledge areas: automatic recognition skills, vocabulary and structural knowledge, formal discourse structure knowledge, content/world background knowledge, synthesis and evaluation skills/strategies, and metacognitive knowledge and skills monitoring. These six components skills could be categorized into three broad concepts for successful reading as indicated by Phillips (1984): linguistic knowledge, cognitive skill, and general experience and knowledge of the world.
With more instructional aspects, the National Reading Panel (NRP) (2000), identified key components for development of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, text comprehension, and comprehension strategy. In identifying these elements, NRP recognizes that reading is a complex cognitive process and an active process requiring an intentional and thoughtful interaction between a reader and a text.

2.2.3 Foreign Language Reading
For many students if not all, reading in a foreign language is a different experience in comparison with the same process in their first language which may even result in less understanding. Now the question is that whether reading problem in a foreign language is simply a problem of knowing words and grammar of that language or it is a problem of reading ability (Alderson, 1984). Regarding the question, Alderson (1984) asserts that the reason students cannot read adequately in English is that they cannot read adequately in their native language in the first place. Jolly (1978) also claims that success in reading a foreign language depends on one’s first language reading ability rather than the level of the student in the second language. He states that reading in a foreign language requires the transference of old skills, not the learning of new ones; therefore, the reason why students cannot read in a desirable fashion is that they either do not possess the old skills or because they have failed to transfer them (cited in Alderson, 1984).
Yorio (1971) takes a contrary view. He believes that the problems of second language readers are due to lack of familiarity with the new language, and this inadequate knowledge of the target language prevents them from using the essential textual cues in reading. In this view, interference from the first language makes the problem of second language reader even more complex.
In a more elaborative approach Celce-Murcia (2001) states that L2 readers generally have weaker linguistic skills and more limited vocabulary than do L1 readers. They do not have an intuitive foundation in the structures of the L2, and they lack the cultural knowledge that is sometimes assumed in texts. L2 students may also have some difficulties recognizing the ways in which texts are organized and information is presented, leading to possible comprehension problems. At the same time, L2 students, working at least with two languages, are able to rely on their L1 knowledge and L1 reading abilities when such abilities are useful. L2 students often come to class with a range of motivation to read, different from many L1 students’ motivation. Also differences between EFL and ESL settings result in different reading outcomes. These differences play major roles in establishing goals for reading instruction and specifying the levels of reading ability that constitute successful learning in a given curriculum.
2.3 Reading Comprehension
During the 1960s, many theorists and specialists believed that reading comprehension was the end product of decoding (Cooper, 1993). It was believed that if students could pronounce words, comprehension would automatically occur. Consequently, reading instruction at that time emphasized the development of this component of the reading process (Guerra, 2003).
Later on, researchers found out that despite the emphasis placed on decoding in reading practices, students were not comprehending what they were reading (Cooper, 1993). Throughout the early 1970s, educators and researchers began to think that this problem had its roots in the type of questions that teachers were asking. Durkin (1978-1979) in a study revealed that in most classrooms, typical instruction focused on specific skills (e.g., identifying main ideas, distinguishing fact from opinion, cause and effect relationships) thought to be important to comprehension and followed what she called a mentioning, practicing, and assessing procedure. That is, teachers mentioned a specific comprehension skill that students were to apply, such as identifying main ideas; had students practice the skill by completing workbook pages; then assessed them to find out whether they could use the skill correctly. Durkin concluded that such instruction did little help to promote students’ comprehension (cited in Lehr, Osborn, & Hiebert, 2005).
Interest in comprehension instruction increased during the 1980s. Spurred by Durkin’s findings, a number of researchers started to look for better comprehension instruction. At first, researchers focused attention on the higher order reading processes used by good readers to construct meaning as they read. What they found was that good readers achieve comprehension because they are able to use certain procedures -labeled comprehension strategies by the researchers- to relate ideas in a text to what they already know; to keep track of how well they are understanding what they read; and, when understanding breaks down, to identify what is causing the problem and how to overcome it. Regarding the fact, by the 1990s, reading researchers began to focus on comprehension-strategy instruction that resulted in increasing students’ understanding of a text. Besides, commercially developed reading programs had also added strategy use as an element of their comprehension instruction, with each program adopting a set of specific strategies for instruction often differing from program to program (Lehr et al., 2005).
2.3.1 Definitions of Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension traditionally refers to a reader’s complete understanding or full grasp of meaning in a text. However, according to Yang (2002), this is a broad definition and causes some confusion. Scovel (1998), states that, “Comprehension is not an absolute state where language users either fully comprehend or are left completely in the dark; rather, comprehension involves an active, dynamic, and growing process of searching for interrelationships in a text” (cited in Yang, 2002, P. 2). He defines comprehension as the reader’s understanding of proposition -the basic unit of meaning- in the text. Since the proposition consists of words, sentences, or paragraphs, readers’ cognitive levels of comprehension can be graded based on these propositions. That is, one person might only engage in lexical comprehension (words), while another may get involved in syntactic comprehension (sentences), the level of which is obviously higher than the former.
According to the reader’s purposes in reading and the type of reading used, reading comprehensions are often distinguished. They are commonly referred to as: “literal comprehension” which is reading in order to understand, remember, or recall the information explicitly contained in a passage; “inferential comprehension” that is reading in order to find information which is not explicitly stated in a passage, using the reader’s experience and intuition, and by inferring; “critical or evaluative comprehension” takes place to compare information in a passage with the reader’s own knowledge and values; and reading to gain an emotional or other kind of valued response from a passage which is called “appreciative comprehension” (Richard, Platt, & Platt, 1992).
RAND Reading Study Group (2002), defines reading comprehension as “the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language” (P. 11). They consider three elements for reading comprehension: “1) The reader who is doing comprehending; 2) the text that is to be comprehended; 3) the activity in which comprehension is a part” (P. 11). They further state that three elements define reading comprehension as a phenomenon that occurs within a large socio-cultural content that shapes and is shaped by the reader that interacts with each of the three elements. They maintain that understanding requires acknowledging that it is a cognitive, linguistic, and cultural activity.
2.3.2 Categories of Reading Comprehension
Readers employ different types of comprehension in order to understand what they read: “literal comprehension” and “higher-order comprehension”. “To take in idea that is directly stated is literal comprehension; this is the most basic type” (Burns, Roe, & Ross, 1999, P. 219). Higher-order reading comprehension goes beyond literal understanding of a text. It involves higher-order thinking processes. Higher-order reading comprehension includes: “interpretive reading”, “critical reading”, and “creative reading”. “Interpretive reading is reading between the lines or making inferences, it is the process of deriving ideas that are implied rather than directly stated” (Burns et al., 1999, P. 227). Readers infer the implied information by combining the information in the text with their background knowledge of the world. Evaluating written material is critical reading. Critical reading depends on both literal and interpretive comprehension. It is important to understand the implied ideas, “the critical reader must be an active reader, questioning, searching for facts, and suspending judgment until s/he has considered all the materials” (Burns et al., 1999, P. 242). Creative reading, they assert, involves going beyond the material presented by the author. Like critical reading, creative reading requires readers to think as they read. Readers use their imagination, thus such reading results in the production of new ideas (Burns et al., 1999).
In cognitive psychology, the importance of inference making in comprehension was emphasized by Bransford (1972). He considered two aspects of comprehension, “integrative” and “constructive,” that he believed could not be explained by the linguistic properties of text. Comprehension is integrative because understanding a text requires putting together of the ideas from its various sentences. Bransford (1972) drew attention to the fact that information derived from a text is not always explicit. Readers construct the writer’s intended message from what is explicitly stated. This is constructive comprehension.
2.3.3 Influential Factors in Reading Comprehension
Although comprehension of a text is a mechanism of communication from writer to reader, it is subject to variety of variables. According to the definition stated by RAND Reading Study Group (2002), reading comprehension involves factors related to the text, the reader, and the activity.
At the first place, comprehension comes from the representations of the ideas in a text that readers construct as they read. These representations are influenced by text features and are related to genre and structure, or the way in which content is organized (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002), and to language features, such as vocabulary and syntax (sentence structure and complexity) and the author’s writing style and clarity of expression (Armbruster, 1984; Freebody & Anderson, 1983, as cited in Lehr et al., 2005).
Reading comprehension is also affected by non-linguistic factors which can be either internal or external. Internal factors include reader’s cognitive and affective variables such as: intelligence, learning style, motivation, self esteem, etc. External factors include the physical environment of reader, the approach and materials used in instructions, and the teacher-student instructions (Cooper, 1993). Similarly RAND Reading Study Group (2002), states that all readers bring to their reading differences in competencies, such as oral language ability, fluent word recognition, and knowledge of the world. They also bring an array of social and cultural influences, including home environment, community and cultural traditions, and socioeconomic status. The group further notes that reading is not done in a vacuum. It is done to achieve some end. This is the dimension of reading addressed by the term “activity”. A reading activity can be a session with a teacher working with an entire class, a small group of students, or one-on-one with a student. It can be students reading alone or with others. Factors related to the success of a reading activity include the purposes for reading and student engagement in reading.

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