Dissertation

Title:
“A Literacy-Based Approach to Second Language Reading: Using Reading Journals in Collegiate Beginning-Level German Instruction.” Dr. Corinne Crane, adviser

Abstract:
In second language (L2) reading research, the impact and feasibility of reading linguistically and culturally unmodified texts with novice language learners has been largely underexplored. Some studies, however, have shown that reading unabridged texts with learners enhances their reading comprehension more than does reading shorter texts from a textbook (Maxim, 2002, 2006). This dissertation explores how, through engaging with authentic foreign language (FL) texts, beginning L2 learners develop L2 reading comprehension abilities and cultural understandings.

To investigate beginning learners’ FL reading development, a reading journal (RJ) task was developed that asked students to read two thematically related texts representing different genres. In each of three RJs, 56 second-semester collegiate L2 German learners were evaluated on their ability to use textual evidence for text comparison and identification of each text’s readership(s). Data analysis triangulated students’ quantitative and qualitative pre- and post-treatment questionnaire responses with their RJ scores to address two research questions: (1) how students’ reading abilities developed while working with guided reading journals, and (2) how students’ understanding of culture and cultural learning changed during the semester.

Repeated measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were used to look for relationships between scores, instructional time, and text type. Text and instructional time were found to be statistically significant with regard to students’ reading comprehension. Learners’ ability to use textual evidence in their comparisons and in identifying texts’ readerships was also statistically significant, though those abilities developed only minimally. Finally, learners expanded their understanding of culture to include more items pertaining to cultural values and perspectives, while altering their understanding of cultural learning to include reading as a way of exploring FL cultures.

These results suggest that a literacy-based approach to L2 reading using unabridged texts integrated within an intact language course can prompt changes in students’ reading comprehension and understanding of culture. Implications for beginning FL instruction are discussed, particularly the need for approaches to beginning reading that support development in learners’ reading abilities and understanding of culture and cultural learning, and that better prepare students for more advanced language instruction.