Reading in German as a foreign language at undergraduate level: an investigation of learners' reading experience when reading texts in German for academic purposes

Hahn, Dorit (2013) Reading in German as a foreign language at undergraduate level: an investigation of learners' reading experience when reading texts in German for academic purposes. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This study investigates the experience of students of German when reading German texts for academic purposes.

Research into reading in a second or foreign language has focused predominantly on English as a Second or Foreign Language but there have been more studies recently exploring reading in languages other than English. The research community has acknowledged a greater need for studies in this area, particularly with focus on reading in a foreign language for academic purposes. Indeed, there has been a call for thorough qualitative research that responds to the complex activity of reading in a foreign language, which, as has been recognised, is influenced by a multitude of sociocultural factors, factors pertaining to the process of language acquisition, factors that impact the imminent reading situation as well as individual learner factors.

This investigation into students' experience of reading German for academic purposes looks at the individual learner experience, with an attempt to take into account various factors that influence the individual student's approach to texts. The goal of the study is to gain a more detailed insight into students' reading processes and to provide suggestions for a teaching approach that guides students towards developing their strategic competence in reading for academic purposes. The study is based on social-constructivist principles (discussed in chapter 3) and incorporates a focused review of research into foreign and second language reading and reading strategies (chapter 2).

Students' reading processes were investigated using a multiple stage and method approach to data collection conducted over the course of three academic years at a German Department of a British university. This included a pre- and post-module reading comprehension test and questionnaire, a questionnaire on reading for academic purposes which included a four-tiered reading comprehension test, and a think-aloud study with two student cohorts incorporating both paired and individual think-aloud sessions. The pre-and post-module questionnaire and the think-aloud study were directly related to my teaching of the applied linguistics module Fachsprachen im Alltag aimed at developing students' text analysis skills. In an effort to apply constructivist principles and respond to student feedback. I revised the module to develop a more student-led and cooperative teaching approach. Its impact on student performance was tested in the post-module questionnaire as well as the think-aloud sessions. The questionnaire on reading for academic purposes investigated students' attitudes and motivations towards reading and allowed them to assess the role of the university as well as their own reading abilities.

Chapters 4 to 7 discuss the results of the data collection. Chapter 4 looks at students' self-evaluation of reading comprehension skills and strategy use. Chapter 5 investigates the role of the university as well as students' attitudes towards reading for academic purposes. Chapter 6 focuses on self-recorded strategy use based on the four-tiered self-administered reading comprehension test that formed part of the questionnaire study. Chapter 7 discusses the results of the think-aloud study, which allowed insight into students' actual strategy use as could be observed in the think-aloud sessions.

Findings reveal that students are capable of evaluating their own performance and have the ability to assess their strategy use, demonstrating meta-cognitive awareness. Students are also cognizant of the apparent gap that exists between studying German at A-Levels and studying German at university, and of the problems that this gap creates for them. Related to this is their expectation that the university is to take on a certain level of responsibility to bridge that gap and for developing students' reading comprehension skills by offering the necessary support. With regards to students' reading comprehension skills and strategy use, this study provides evidence that students understand the purpose of reading academic texts in German as 'reading to learn', i.e., to construct new knowledge and apply a critical approach to working with the text. They tend to apply mainly those types of reading strategies that help them understand the text at word and sentence level but their approach can often be tedious and inefficient. Students seem to lack a sufficiently advanced set of reading strategies that they can apply flexibly and effectively. Results of the reading comprehension tests also provide evidence that students struggle with linguistic features that are typically and frequently used in German texts for academic purposes. Finally, an analysis of the think-aloud protocols allows the conclusion that a teaching approach that promotes students' responsibility for their own learning, both as individuals as well as in collaborative settings, is beneficial to developing students' reading strategy repertoire.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hood, P.
Smethem, L.
Subjects: P Language and literature > PF West Germanic
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 14499
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2014 10:16
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2016 10:42
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14499

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