Developing reading skills


Social constructivist approaches are gaining momentum in the field of second language learning in recent years. The purpose of this study is to examine whether students learn English more successfully using a constructivist approach to teach reading to students of English as a Second Language (ESL). A dialectic approach was used for readers to position themselves as participants in making meaning together with the text and its authors, rather than remaining as passive readers to the reading process. The students need to take a dialectic approach to their reading, with gradual scaffolding from the teacher to help them develop effective reading strategies. This study was conducted at a secondary school in Inanam during the practicum course. The paticipants were 16 Form Four students enrolled in practicum class language learning. The results established that either most of the students felt reading would be better by using dialectic approach in developing effective reading strategies. Data was collected through a set of questionnaire and a descriptive analysis of the data will be carried out to find out the reading strategies used by the students. Discussion and recommendations are then offered based on the findings.

Key terms: dialectic approach, reading process, scaffolding, reading strategies


The written words such as newspaper, comic, magazine article and variety of genres of written materials surround us everyday. In fact, written texts have different types much more of a variety than found in spoken texts. Written texts convey different kind of information and so powerful to the extent that can move ones emotion and alter ones thinking. However, the interpretation of the meaning depends much on how well the reader communicates with the text.

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and another. If one end of the bridge depends on me( the writer), then the other depends on my addressee (the reader)".

(Mikhail Bakhtin, 2001)

Here, reading is seen as the way of reacting to written texts by interpreting meanings that were communicated through them. The role of reader is not only to understand the message conveyed by the author, she must also have to create meaning from the text. A contemporary approach, constructivist views reading by emphasizing both the activities of the reader and the powerful influence of the text to the reader.

Many studies have been done on the subject of reading and it involves various perspectives. With the interest in mind, this study serves as a report of using a constructivism approach: dialectic approach in ESL classroom as to enhance students' reading proficiency. The purpose of this study is to examine whether students learn English more successfully by using the dialectic approach in reading class with the scaffolding of the teacher.

Background of the study

Traditionally in the ESL classroom, students have been expected to accept passively the words of the teacher and the texts are chosen for their students to read. Students are supposed to receive entirely the ideas that the teacher has about the text. Despite of interpreting the text by themselves, students are trained to be interdependent on the teacher as their source of knowledge in the classroom.

However, this view is beginning to change gradually. "Increasingly, teachers believe that their students should participate actively in class, joining in interactive language learning tasks and becoming autonomous learners" (Yang & Wilson, 2006). This shift in attitude causes contemporary approach gains momentum in learning and teaching. Constructivism emphasizes that learning takes place in a sociocultural environment and views learners as "active constructors of their own learning environment" (Mitchell & Myles, 1988). In this view, students learn not as isolated individuals, but as active members of society.

Constructivist view of reading has many implications for teaching ESL reading. Constructivist theory emphasizes that teachers need to encourage students to create their own meaning from text, using dialogues and questioning, rather than to impose a teacher's interpretation of the meaning. Recently, several researches were done regarding the use of constructivist approach in the classroom. In teaching reading, using dialectic approach in classroom means that the readers have to position themselves as participants in making meaning together with the text and its authors, rather than remaining as passive readers to the reading process.

In the study, the students would need to take part in sharing, discuss and negotiate the meaning or knowledge of what they have read, talk-aloud about their opinions and their understanding with gradual scaffolding from the teacher in developing effective reading strategies.

Problem Statement

Nowadays, news and information spread around the world are mostly in the form of written materials. In Malaysia, the materials in the form of electronic and printed media are plentiful in English. Hence, there is emergence for every Malaysian to be literate in ESL in order to live as human, as whole. Study shows that most Malaysian read approximately 2 books a year. A Malaysian survey on the reading behaviour of 22,400 individuals and 6,050 households by the Ministry of Education revealed that only 20 per cent of Malaysians read regularly (New Straits Times, 1996). This survey also stressed that the small figure includes students who read just to pass examinations.

From the the researcher's first observation, it is found that mostly the students have lack motivation to read English materials (textbook and literature text) unless when examination is around the corner. Reading has come to hold the most significant place in education as a means of communication in a literate society (Mann, 1971). Lack of reading can lead to poor reading skills. In order for the students to excel in academic performance, they have to employ good reading skills and effective reading strategies. Therefore, the main aim of this study is to investigate the use of constructivist approach: dialectic approach in enhancing reading proficiency among the English as Second Language (ESL) students. A dialectic approach would prepare the students a dialogical classroom reading with gradual scaffolding from the teacher to help them develop effective reading strategies, progressively.

Research Objectives

The main objectives of this research are:-

  1. To investigate students' reading strategies and dispositions
  2. To identify the extent that the students are able to employ strategic approach to reading after being exposed to the dialectic approach
  3. To investigate how dialectic approach influence students' motivation to read and either it enhances ESL reading proficiency among the students
Research questions

This study attempts to answer the following questions:-

  1. What are the common reading strategies used by the students in their classroom reading?
  2. Are the students able to employ effective and independent reading strategies after being exposed to dialectic approach in classroom reading?
  3. Do the students benefit in term of their language proficiency and motivation to read?
Significance of Study

Educational curriculum and teaching methods are in fact changing from time to time. In traditional curriculum, a teacher transmits information to students who passively listen and acquire facts. However, it is no longer practical for current generations that are more vocal and dynamic. In Malaysia, English is the second language and hold significant use in many functions. To fit in the current situation, teacher must produce students who are proficient and fluent in English language. Students need to be actively involved in their learning to reach new understandings rather than drilling the words, traditionally.

This study is set out to report on students' dialogic reading in the class and how reading strategies are developed using a dialectic approach in ESL classroom reading.

Limitations and delimitations


Firstly, the study focuses on the participants from Form 4 students that enrolled in practicum class in SMK Kolombong, Inanam, Sabah. They had sat for Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) in previous year and they were all literate in English Language. They were all Bumiputra Sabah except for one male Chinese student.

Secondly, due to small population, it is not a detailed comparative analysis or an evaluation of all Form Four students in the school. As the respondents to this study are sampled only from a particular class, thus the results cannot be generalized. Further engagement with respective students about the ways in which the approach was practised, assessed and reported on would provide a more comprehensive picture of the issues identified in the study.

Thirdly, due to time constraint, collection of data can be only conducted during the 3-months practicum course. The researcher has to conduct the research within the specific duration of time under the circumstances of school's orientation.


Being as part of a school system during the practicum course, it is such an advantage to conduct the study among its upper secondary students (Form Four). There are several aspects such as procedures and practices in the school that in fact helping in gaining useful data. Hence, the research was conducted using 'convinient samplings'. 'Convenient samplings' will be further explained in Chapter 3: Methodology.

Operational Definitions

Students' Proficiency

Students' proficiency refers to students' command of English language. The definition of 'proficiency' derived from the objectives of teaching ESL by Ministry of Education (2000). In this study, all selected participants have been identified as proficient in English. They are capable to converse the topic with general vocabulary and are able to respond to the ideas/knowledge, verbally and in written.

Reading Strategies

According to Oxford and Crookall (1989), strategies can be operationalised as learning techniques, behaviours, and problem-solving or study skills that enhance learning more effectively and efficiently.

Reading strategies could be how readers tackle a reading task, how they interpret their reading and what they do when they do not comprehend. Brantmeier (2002) summarises reading strategies as follows:

"The (reading) strategies may involve skimming, scanning, guessing, recognizing cognates and word families, reading for meaning, predicting, activating general knowledge, making inferences, following references, and separating main ideas from supporting ideas" .


'Scaffolding' term has come to be used in a wide range of different ways: "a framework for learning, an outline, a temporary support, a mental schema, a curriculum progression".

'Scaffolding' is a process of guiding the learner from what is presently known to what is to be known (Elizabeth Murphy, 1997). Scaffolding allows students to perform tasks that would normally be slightly beyond their ability.

'Scaffolding' in this study means that "teacher leads the learners towards self-sufficiency and the successful completion of tasks" (Weissberg, 2006).


Fundamentally, there are many different views of what constructivism really is. Based on Baharuddin Aris et al (2008),

"Constructivism came from the word "construct" which means to build. It is a view of learning which deemed that knowledge cannot be exist outside of children's mind, but must be constructed in the mind based on their real experience. Constructivism stresses on the importance of actively constructing knowledge from the influence of new learning and previous learning. Knowledge constructing process also takes place in social context when a student exchanges ideas with his or her peers. This process takes place either in small group or a large class".


According to Moshman (1982), 'dialectic' is classified under constructivism main types. Dialectic means that learning occurs through realistic experience (dialogue) which requires scaffolding (support) from the teachers and collaboration from peers.

In addition, Bohm (1996) asserts 'dialectic' as on creating free associations conducted in groups with no predefined purpose in mind other than mutual understanding and the exploration of human thought.

In this study, using dialectic approach in classroom means that the readers have to position themselves as participants in making meaning together with the text and its authors, rather than remaining as passive readers to the reading process.

Dialogic Reading

Tracy Welch (2007) asserts 'dialogic reading' as the child becomes the teller of the story. 'Dialogic reading' is "taking turns in a conversation about a book (written materials), or reading and talking about it".

Learning through dialogue: Vygotskyian view

Vygotsky claimed that learning occurs through dialogue (Vygotsky, 1978). This dialogue is initially intermental, meaning it takes place between teacher and student, between students, or even between text and reader (Wilson, 1999). However, the learner makes sense of what is said or written through internal or intramental dialogue (Vygotsky, 1978).



First, this chapter presents constructivist learning and the comparison between traditional and constructivist view on learning. Next, role of teacher and the use of scaffolding will be conversed. Subsequently dialectic approach will be discussed and then will be followed by reading issues in second language.

Constructivism to Teaching and Learning

Constructivist Learning

Constructivism is a view of learning based on the belief that knowledge is constructed by learners through an active and mental process of development. The principle has been credited to Jean Piaget (1977), a pioneer of constructivist thought, and can be summed up by the following statement:

"Knowledge is actively constructed by the learner, not passively received from the environment".

The learners are seen as creators that actively create and build the meaning and knowledge. This reacts against other epistemologies such as behaviourist theory that assert knowledge and meaning transmitted from one person to another; places emphasis on teacher and instruction rather than the learners. By contrasting constructivist approach with the typical behaviourist classroom, where students are merely passive receivers of information from the teacher and the textbook, it is clear that constructivist approach is opposed to the traditional way of teaching. The emphasis of learning is on the learners and the 'construction' of knowledge. Learners learn by constructing, building and creating the knowledge and meaning based on existing knowledge and current way of thinking. When learners receive new information, they associate it with what they already know and assimilate it into existing knowledge. Learners then accommodate the new information by restructuring current learning to a new, present 'construction' of knowledge.

In understanding the prominent theory, Fosnot (1996) asserts that there are basically four epistemological assumptions of constructivist learning:

  1. Knowledge is physically constructed by learners who are involved in active learning.
  2. Knowledge is symbolically constructed by learners who are making their own representations of action;
  3. Knowledge is socially constructed by learners who convey their meaning making to others;
  4. Knowledge is theoretically constructed by learners who try to explain things they do not completely understand.

The primary message of constructivism is learners who are engaged in active learning are making their own meaning and constructing their own knowledge in the process. In constructivist classroom, learning occurs when it consists of learner-centered and active instruction. Teacher's role is no other than to facilitate the process and scaffold the learners. In constructivist perspective (Fosnot, 1996), learning is not the result of development, learning is development.

Recently, constructivist models have been applied in teaching and learning in numerous education systems yet apparently lack practice in current Malaysia classrooms. In Malaysia, classes are usually driven by teacher talk and depend heavily on textbooks and workbooks for the instruction. Learners are assumed to know the presupposed knowledge and have lack autonomy in selecting the knowledge they prefer to know. Normally, Malaysian teachers practise traditional method by transferring their thoughts and meanings to the passive learners in the big, classroom setting. The goal of the learner is to parrot the teacher's explanation and facts as to excel in high stakes examinations like Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Therefore, there is little room for student-initiated questions, independent thought or interaction between students.

Two models of teaching

Constructivism shifts the view on education from teacher talk, traditional method to a learner-centered, constructivist approach. "Behaviorist epistemology focuses on intelligence, domains of objectives, levels of knowledge, and reinforcement. Constructivist epistemology assumes that learners construct their own knowledge on the basis of interaction with their environment" (Fosnot, 1996). Under the theories of behaviourism and traditional theory model (sometimes referred to as the objectivist model), the learner is seen as relatively passive, 'simply absorbing information transmitted by a didactic teacher' (Long, 2000). To compare both approaches, Byrnes (1996); Arseneau and Rodenburg (1998) contrast objectivist and constructivist approaches to teaching and learning as follows:

From these constrasting views, it is clear that traditional theory assumes the teacher is the person in authority in class whose job is to transmit knowledge and skills to learners. T. O'Brien (1989) asserts, "All too often, teachers organize reality and turn over the organization, full-blown, to the students to remember until test time". Learners prefer to copy the teacher's explanation and facts taught in class rather than question or negotiate the meaning with the teacher or their class members. In fact, learners are prone to learn as individuals as a result of exam-oriented system. They compete enthusiastically against each other to gain better grades. Thus, the learners have limited cooperation with their class members, more to have spirit of competition and their focus is product rather than process.

As part of the education system, most of the learners are highly affected by exam-oriented system. Learners seem to interpret learning as a call to compete against one another rather than to cooperate with each other. Learners work hard to locate themselves in the good performance list to get scholarship and other support, thus creating competitive climate in the class. However, having competitive learning situations would not promise the success of learners in the long run. Learners should work together through the sharing of information among the learners and teacher to gain better understanding from various angle of view. Instead of competing against each other, teacher should encourage learners to interact and cooperate in the class as " it (collaborative learning) can foster learner growth both in terms of academic achievement, personal growth and the development of social and learning skills" (Nunan, 1992).

Integrating Constructivist Model into Classroom

To articulate a constructivist approach in the class, teacher needs to design for learning rather than plan for teaching. Constructivist teacher would need to approach the learners by instructing learners to analyse, investigate, collaborate, share, build and generate based on what they already know, rather than asks students to copy facts, skills and processes. In such classroom, teacher acts as a facilitator who facilitating and guiding the learners and monitoring the progress of learners rather than providing mainly frontal instruction.

Another essential concept of constructivism in the classroom is learner control. Learners have autonomy in making them responsible to enhance their own knowledge. Learner control gives students the flexibility needed to keep them motivated and interested in learning (Stanton and Baber, 1992). However, this type of learning requires learners to have a solid understanding of their own abilities. "Students who do not have appropriate backgrounds will be unable to accurately "hear" or "see" what is before them" (Byrnes, 1996).Thereby, teacher should always model and check on learners' background knowledge before starting any constructivist task that requires learner's own control on their learning.

Jonassen (1991) has divided learners into three groups: introductory, advanced and expert. He suggests that more constructivist tasks are more appropriate for advanced groups. For beginners (introductory), the learners may become 'wanders' in the learning as they need to be fully guided by the teachers. Thus, teacher should be aware of learners' level in facilitating them in order to make sure that the learners are in the right track of learning.

From constructivist viewpoint, both the instructor (teacher) and the learners are equally involved in learning from each other (Holt, llard-Holt, 2000). In shaping of meaning and knowledge, the teacher's culture, values and background become an essential part in the classroom learning. Learners compare their version of the truth with that of teacher and fellow learners in order to get to a new, socially tested version of truth (Kukla, 2000). This creates a dynamic interaction between task, teacher and learner. Thus, learners and teacher should develop an awareness of each other's viewpoints and then look to own beliefs, standards and values, thus being both subjective and objective at the same time (Savery, 1994).

Constructivist approach emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the student and the teacher in the learning process. Learners with different skills and backgrounds should collaborate in tasks and discussions in order to arrive at a shared understanding of the truth in a specific field (Duffy and Jonassen 1992).


Some studies argue the importance of mentoring in the process of learning (Brown et al. 1989). Another fundamental concept in constructivist model is the idea of scaffolding. In its literal sense, scaffolding is a support structure that is erected around a building under construction. When the building is strong enough, the scaffolding can be removed and the building will remain strong and stable.

In the metaphorical sense used by Vygotsky (1978), scaffolding refers to the support provided by others such as parents, peers, teachers which enable learners to perform increasingly well. To scaffold the learners, teachers need to set up tasks which challenge learners to perform beyond their current capacity. "If the task is not challenging enough, learners will be bored and possibly become unmotivated; however, if there is not enough support, students will be frustrated and may give up". Thus, scaffolding enables students to achieve great leaps forward in their language learning. The concept of scaffolding is also linked with what Vygotsky calls the learner's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). It refers to the range of tasks and activities which the student can achieve with scaffolding, but which may be beyond his current abilities if he is unassisted. Teachers need great skill in assessing and then exploiting their students' ZPD.

Through a process of 'scaffolding', a learner can be extended beyond the limitations of physical maturation to the extent that the development process lags behind the learning process (Vygotsky 1978). The learner is "enabled to solve a problem, carry out a task, or achieve a goal which would be beyond (their) unassisted efforts" (Weissberg, 2006). Bruner identified the features of 'enabling' as follows: teacher simplifying the task, providing direction, guiding the learner towards specific features, modeling the process, and controlling frustration by offering support.

Dialectic Approach

Hystorically, dialectic approach is by having dialogues in constructing intellectual knowledge with the participants. The recognized founder of the dialectical method was the Greek philosopher Socrates who used discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a way of intellectual investigation. In fact, early pre-Socratic philosophers used the dialectics to question some of the more fundamental principles and beliefs prevalent in Athenian society.

Lev Vygotsky, the pioneer of social constructivist tought sought to study dialogue and asserts learning as a social practice. Vygotsky believes that it was possible to separate learning from its social context. Vygotsky was interested not only in the role of inner speech on the learning of concepts, but also on the role of the adult and the learners' peers as they conversed, questioned, explained, and negotiated meaning (Fosnot, 1996).

Vygotsky, further, claimed that learning occurs through dialogue (Vygotsky, 1978). This dialogue is initially intermental, meaning it takes place between teacher and student, between students, or even between text and reader (Wilson, 1999). However, the learner makes sense of what is said or written through internal or intramental dialogue (Vygotsky, 1978). Therefore, optimum learning occurs when learners interact with sources of knowledge in social settings and take an active part in reconstructing knowledge within their own minds.

The dialogic use of in the language classroom is not without challenges, and these are related to the power relations and the social meaning for classroom participants. Kogler (1999) differentiates between two senses of "the power of dialogue":

  1. Power as the potential of dialogue: "the liberating, problematizing, innovative and unpredictable potential of conversation, which is capable of leading us to new insights and critical self-reflection through experiencing the other".
  2. Power as structural constraints on dialogue: "whether these obtain in our symbolic order, in unquestionable established power relations, or in idiosyncratic individual perspectives".

Dilaogue is not a new term in education and has a prominent place within the tradition of critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970; Freire and Shor, 1987; Gadotti, 1996). The goal of dialogue is creative understanding (Bakhtin, 1986). This understanding is 'created' - in the sense that it is new, dynamic and provisional - rather than 'given' in the sense of a confirmation of what already exists. Creative understanding necessarily involves differences and 'outsideness': "our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space and because they are others" (Bakhtin, 1986). This creative understanding is not necessarily an easy process of reconciling ideas. It can involve conflict and struggle, but the conflict is for the other rather than against him/her: "In the act of understanding, a struggle occurs that results in mutual change and enrichment" (Bakhtin, 1986).

It is clear that using dialogic approach can enhance learners' proficiency. In this study, using dialectic approach in classroom means that the readers have to position themselves as participants in making meaning together with the text and its authors, rather than remaining as passive readers to the reading process. In the reading comprehension process, learners are situated in collaborative learning in which they converse to their peers and teacher about the text, question, share with and respond to the others in comprehending the text. By entering discussion with the others, learners will have the opportunity to respond to one another and negotiate shared meaning. In other words, by talking to class members, learners will have a chance to develop and clarify their ideas together and to make sure that the message interpreted by the others is the same as the message they interpret internally.

Reading and the issues


According to Dato' Dr Salleh Mohd Nor in his paper, "Reading in the Context of Management", which was presented during the National Seminar on the Promotion of Reading Habits in Malaysia held from 20-21 June 1994, "there is no substitute for reading when it comes to gathering information or keeping abreast of development. Information may appear in different media but the point is that one still has to read". The great advantage of reading is that there is much more material written in all forms. Reading contributes not only to an individual's well-being, self-development and progress but also to the whole nation and the world. Gordon (1976) stated that the thirst for reading and a wider dissemination of books is a sign of progress in the world.

Bullock (1975) asserts reading is more than a reconstruction of the authors' meanings; it is the perception of those meanings within the total context of the relevant experiences of the reader that is a much more active and demanding process. The reader is required to engage in critical and creative thinking in order to relate what he reads to what he already knows. Reading is not merely a receptive process of picking up information from the page in a word-by-word manner (Grabe, 1991). Rather, it is a selective process and characterized as an active process of comprehending. According to Grabe, "effective reading is rapid, purposeful, comprehending, flexible and gradually developing".

The process of reading explains the way a reader tackles and comprehends a text. Reading comprehension encompasses a variety of factors, such as comprehension of the printed characters, background knowledge, (dis)interest in the passage being read, the mastering of reading strategies (inferencing and predicting, being the two most important), and linguistic ability (Barnett, 1986).

Reading is an aspect closely connected with academic literacy. Reading has come to hold the most significant place in education as a means of communication in a literate society (Mann, 1971). Lack of reading can lead to poor academic achievement. Apparently, in order for the students to excel in academic performance, they have to employ good reading skills and effective reading strategies.

Reading Issue in Malaysia

Studies in the past have shown that the exam-oriented educational system in Malaysia promotes rote learning and that there needs to be a paradigm shift in how we view education and about the way we teach (Chitravellu, 1997; Osman, 1997). The Prime Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak, has frequently commented in the local media (since he was Education Minister) that most students read only to pass exams and do not read for pleasure. He has been instrumental in implementing many projects aimed at improving students' reading ability in the country.

Reading skills are important through out our lifespan, particularly as we respond to new demands and changes in jobs. In fact, reading for pleasure or recreational has been found to improve reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling and grammatical development (Krashen, 1993). The positive and rewarding effects of recreational reading have been demonstrated in numerous studies (Burgess, 1994; Krashen, 1984, 1993). Therefore, it is important for the learners to employ reading habit in order to be enhanced academically.

NILAM Programme

Education Ministry came up with the NILAM (Nadi Ilmu Amalan Membaca or Sapphire) programme in 1998 to nurture the reading habit among school children. In this reading project, students are awarded marks for the number of books they read and the Education Ministry has suggested an award ranking system for primary and secondary schools. However, many schools have yet to start the programme and those that have are still slowly progressed.

Literary Components in Secondary School

Education Ministry decided to implement literary components in English subject as to foster reading habit among Malaysian learners. The literary texts are well-mixed; written by local and Western authors. Culture, beliefs and values were taken into account to cater all learners. However, most of the learners study literature just for passing examination rather than for pleasure or recreational as hoped by Education Ministry. After having the same texts almost a decade in the curriculum, Education Ministry is going to change the texts and the next chosen texts will be subsequently employed in the curriculum in 2010.

Issues in Second Language Reading Classroom Reading: In the lens of contructivist

"Constructivists see reading as social practice(s) which affect when you read, what you read, where you read, who you read with, and of course why and how you read". (Wilson, 2003)

Interacting with text can involve practices in different way as reading instructions and forms may require a reader to scrunitize and scanning a newspaper or magazine may require less effort in dealing with the information written. Luke and Freebody (1990, 2002) defined four different reader roles, or resources: code breaker, meaning maker, text user, and text analyst.

Code breaker may need to decipher text at letter, word and sentence-level. Decoding text is synonymous with 'reading' because this is the social practice the students have been taught in the school.

However, reading is not simply as decoding the text. Luke and Freebody point out that making meaning is another fundamental element of reading. This is where dialogue comes in (Wertsch, 1991). It is not enough to just hear/see the words - the reader also has to listen, and to struggle to make sense of what the writer is saying, conscious of the fact, however, that readers rarely if ever understand exactly what the writer had in mind (Lewis & Slade, 1994).

As social practice, readers also have to know how to use the texts. Whether it is for pleasure, for gathering information or for language learning, teachers need to facilitate students in order to use the texts in authentic and social contexts.

As text analysts, students need to develop a 'suspicious eye' (Wallace, 1995) in detecting bias, and identifying the author's stance. At this point, students need to gain text awareness by observing how language is used within different genres to achieve different purposes. Karacsany (2002) suggested that these skills can be developed through visual literacy as a first step.

"Reading in other language and culture is particularly hard, because the words and grammatical structures, the images and text conventions that are used are all less than familiar" (Wilson, 2003). Readers have to construct meaning from texts differently, depending on their motivation, their background and even their state of mind. Therefore, students have to develop awareness of reading strategies and employ the most effective one in deciphering the meaning.

Reading strategies and past researches

According to Oxford and Crookall (1989), strategies can be operationalised as learning techniques, behaviours, and problem-solving or study skills that enhance learning more effectively and efficiently. For this study, reading strategies are the main focus and are seen as comprehension processes that enable readers to construct meaning from the printed page most effectively. In other words, those strategies show how readers tackle a reading task, how they interpret their reading and what they do when they do not comprehend. Brantmeier (2002) summarises these strategies as follows:

"The (reading) strategies may involve skimming, scanning, guessing, recognizing cognates and word families, reading for meaning, predicting, activating general knowledge, making inferences, following references, and separating main ideas from supporting ideas"

Furthermore, the reading strategies can consist of evaluating content, such as agreeing or disagreeing, making an association with prior knowledge or experience, asking and answering questions, looking at the key words, using sentence structure analysis such as determining the subject, verb or object of the sentence, skipping and rereading (Almasi, 2003; Sugirin, 1999). Clearly, not all strategies are of equal effectiveness due to the different types of reading texts and tasks, and reading strategy use by each reader.

A number of studies have been conducted on the use of reading strategies by second language readers. In a qualitative study, Hosenfeld (1977) examined successful and unsuccessful readers to find out what types of cognitive operations they used to process written texts. In an oral interview, the participants were asked to read a text and do think-aloud reports, i.e. they were directed to say in their first language whatever came to their minds while processing each sentence in the text. By doing so, the researcher could identify relationships between certain types of reading strategies and successful or unsuccessful second language readers. Specifically, the good readers tended to maintain the meaning of the text in mind, read in large phrases, ignore unimportant vocabulary and had a positive self-concept as a reader. However, inexperienced readers failed to extract the main idea from the sentences, worked in short phrases, rarely skipped any unimportant words and had a negative self-concept.

Ahmad Asraf (2004) did a research study on the underlying strategies used by second language learners in responding to English texts. This case study investigated how the learners made an effort to comprehend the texts by selecting, understanding and integrating information in the context of eight reading comprehension sub-skills in the form of comprehension questions, such as word meaning, words in context, literal comprehension, drawing inferences from single strings, etc. The main goal of this study was to test the hypothesis: "there is a difference between good and average readers in their response to the various question types within the framework of the eight sub-skills". In this study, average readers were selected by their class teachers, the school supervisors, the head teacher, their language teachers, and their mid-year language test scores, which were from 50-70 out of a possible 100. In addition, the monthly test scores for English were counted, and their verbal communication ability was good. Likewise, the same selection criteria were applied for good readers whose mid-year language test scores were from 80-100 and oral and written abilities were very good. The results suggested that the same comprehension answering strategies were used by the good and average readers. However, the good readers were more consistently focused on each question type than the average ones; they articulated their comprehension answering strategies more often on each question type than the average readers. This, therefore, shows the importance of cognitive contextual awareness in obtaining reading comprehension.

Bottom-up and Top-down model

Goodman refers to the bottom up model as the "common sense notion" (1986). In this approach, reading is meant to be a process of decoding; identifying letter, words, phrases, and then sentences in order to get the meaning. On the other hand, top-down model advocates "the selection of the fewest and most productive elements from a text so as to make sense of it" (Lynch & Hudson, 1991) and views the reading process as an active "psychological guessing game" (Carrell, 1998).

The top-down model is influenced by schema theory, which emphasizes the importance of the reader's background knowledge in the reading process (Carrell, 1998). According to this theory, so as to comprehend a text, readers make use of both the text and their background knowledge. Therefore, interaction of the background knowledge and the text is essential for efficient reading. Aebersold and Field (Salataci, 1998), also state that while reading, a variety of processes repeatedly occurs in readers' minds. Readers, with the help of top-down and bottom-up strategies, use pre-reading information to make some predictions about the text.


Although much literature has been devoted to reading, there is still little known about the reading process of ESL learners. Block (1986) stated the significance of widening the knowledge about the process of reading, not just the product of reading, so as to design reading programs that truly meet the needs of students. Grabe (1991) emphasized the need to conduct more second language reading research. Furthermore, with an overview of the research on L2 learners and reading strategies, Singhal (2001) called for more studies, such as studies of reading strategies and metacognitive factors in L2 reading, because "many questions about reading comprehension and the reading process still remain".

Past investigations have focused mainly on the question of comparing effective readers with less effective readers in terms of reading strategies. What is apparent is that not many studies have specifically examined which reading strategies are selected and employed by ESL students while coping with a reading text in English. Consequently, discovering and enhancing reading strategies by ESL students when interacting with an English reading text using dialectic approach in a constructivist classroom setting is the goal of this study.



This chapter discusses the methodology of the research. The main purpose of the research is to examine whether students learn English more successfully by using the dialectic approach in L2 reading class with the scaffolding of the teacher. To assess and evaluate the implication of dialectic approach towards reading proficiency of ESL students, SMK Kolombong situated in Inanam was chosen for 'convinient sampling'. Form 4 Waja is chosen to be sampled in the research. Data for the research were collected through questionnaire, reflection of the students as well as students' assignment.

Population and sample of the study


The samples selected for this study are 'convenience sampling'. According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2008), convenience sampling is aprocess of selectingsubjects or units forexamination and analysis that isbased on accessibility, ease, speed, and low cost.

Respondents of the study

The sample unit for the study is 4 Waja students of SMK Kolombong, Inanam, Sabah. Form 4 Waja is a science stream class which consists of eleven female students and 5 male students. Their English proficiency level is a mixture of intermediate and advanced level. From the researcher's first observation, the students are likely to have less interest in ESL reading. However, during practicum, researcher found out that the students are able to converse in the subject matter and write fluently with few grammatical errors.

According to monthly English test (EXCEL) result, the students are mixed of high intermediate and approximately ten students have the average level in English.

Research Design

This study utilized both the qualitative and quantitative research methodology. There are two methods used in seeking the feedback from the students. One method is students' reflection for qualitative data and the second method is questionnaire for quantitative data. Students' assignment, observation of the researcher and interview were also employed to have better understanding and clear picture of the students' experiences using dialectic approach in ESL classroom reading.

Data Gathering Instrument

The quantitative data gathered for the research came from questionnaire. A set of questionnaire containing 39 questions divided into 4 sections was developed for the study. Different question-types such as yes-no, category, open-ended, multiple-type and scales were used in the questionnaire. The different sections of the questionnaire were: i) demographic information, ii) current students' skills and strategies for L2 reading, iii) students' motivation for reading comprehension test and iv) students' responses on reading skills and strategies constructed during reading class. The questionnaires were distributed to Form 4 Waja, SMK Kolombong, Inanam, Sabah.

The qualitative data for the research came from students' reflection, students' assignment, researcher's observation and interview. Reflection of the students were acquired to conform the findings from the questionnaire as well as to triangulate the data collection methods. Students' assignments were used to gather information on the students' improvement on the level of reading proficiency. An interview session was carried out by the researcher with one of the students in sample population. The interview session was conducted purposely to regard students' viewpoint in order to conform data collected from questionnaire. Other than that, researcher's observation was used to gather data on students' participation and involvement in reading activities.

Data Analysis

For triangulation of the data, four instruments were used in collecting the qualitative data for this study; researcher's observation, students' assignments, students' reflection and interview. For the researcher's observation, the observations were conducted during English class. Elements such as students' individual participation, group dynamic and students' ability to perform the task were observed.

The students' assignments were outlined to be carried out in three stages. First, the students had to review the short story, "The Sound Machine" and write the review based on the model of Dialectical Journal developed by John Updike. Previously, teacher had discussed, taught and model the sample of Dialectical Journal in the class. Secondly, teacher increase students' autonomy by asking them to choose any short story from the literary textbook to be reviewed. The last assigment was to write a review on any short story that they found appealing.

To check on students' opinion, they had to write reflections in written form. Each student would be given a blank paper and they were required to write a paragraph or two about their experiences and feedback in the end of all reading activities.

An interview session was conducted and teacher selected one respondent randomly to be interviewed. Students' demographic profile, motivation in ESL classroom, experiences and responses on dialectic approach were recorded, transcribed and analysed for the validity of the questionnaire.

For quantitative data, questionnaire would be used in evaluating students' reading strategies and the students have to answer the questionnaire before and after the dialectic approach has been implemented in teaching reading of the English class.

Data Collection Procedure


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