PSYCHOLOGICAL COGNITION OF ENGLISH LEARNERS IN READING COMPREHENSION

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Revista Argentina de Clínica Psicológica 2020, Vol. XXIX, N°1, 1144-1149

DOI: 10.24205/03276716.2020.163 1144

P

SYCHOLOGICAL

C

OGNITION OF

E

NGLISH

L

EARNERS IN

R

EADING

C

OMPREHENSION

Weichao Yang

*

, Weizhe Chen, Yijing Chen

Abstract

Reading comprehension is an important aspect of English learning. This paper analyses the complex psychological cognition of English learners in reading comprehension, referring to the psychological cognition of humans in information acquisition and processing. Then, four orthogonal experiments were designed, involving two types of readers (freshmen in English major and native speakers) and two types of texts at different difficulty levels (simple and complex). The experimental data were subjected to comparative analysis. The results show that, throughout the reading comprehension, English learners and native speakers differ the most in the information decoding stage; if the text is simple, the difference is only reflected in decoding speed; if the text is complex, the difference is observed in both decoding speed and decoding results. The research findings provide new insights into English teaching.

Key words: English Learner, Psychological Cognition, Reading, Information Processing, Information Decoding.

Received: 22-03-19 | Accepted: 11-09-19

INTRODUCTION

With the development of the economy, and the acceleration of the globalization process, people from different regions and cultures need more communication without limitations of time and space, so the writing and reading of written language becomes a major part of this communication (Wen & Johnson, 1997; Granger, 2003; Reardon, 2014; Gower, 1986). The reading comprehension process, as an important step in capturing effective information and responding, has attracted the attention of many scholars (Cohen, 2007; Russell, 2014; Macfarlane & Broom, 2014; Sockett & Toffoli, 2012; Protacio, 2012). The reading was originally defined as the ability to understand written materials handwritten or printed, but in practice ignoring the complexity of the reading process (Huang,

School of Foreign Languages, Institute of Disaster Prevention, Sanhe 065201, China.

E-Mail: yangweichao2389@163.com

Cheng, & Chern, 2006; Asoodar, Marandi, Vaezi et al., 2016; Tong, Irby, Lara-Alecio et al., 2014). The whole reading comprehension process of psychological cognition is actually composed of several sub-processes. The whole reading process also needs the support of multiple skills, in which language ability is one of the most important skills (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000; Forrest, 2002; Boyle, 2009). Readers in different native languages may have different understandings of the same reading material. The readers with the same cultural background and the same native language may be more likely to grasp the author’s central ideas; instead, those who are unfamiliar to the author’s cultural background, writing style and language may feel it more difficult to understand during the reading process or more likely to be ambiguous, which is due to the impact of language ability on reading. English is one of the most widely used languages in the world. In China, English is a compulsory course for primary and secondary schools. Millions of millions of new English learners appear every year. It is an exploratory

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question to study whether the students can effectively grasp effective information of English reading materials during their English learning. For this, the paper focuses on studying the complex psychological cognition process of English learners in foreign language reading. The research findings can help to analyse the correlation between English learning and English reading comprehension ability, and give suggestions for reading materials.

PSYCHOLOGICAL COGNITION OF READING

Reading comprehension is a process of psychological cognition, which is similar to the psychological cognition process of human beings in acquiring information and processing information. Humans first obtain massive information through visual sense, audio sense, and smells; after transmitting the information to the brain, information decoding is required, and this decoding process can transform information into that easier for individuals to understand; when completing the information decoding, the individual automatically extracts effective information, and respond to information or use memory to store information; afterwards, as time goes by, the amount of information is gradually reduced, and the final remaining information is stored to be the long-term memory. Figure 1 shows the steps such as information acquisition, information decoding, memory and reaction, and long-term memory formation in the whole psychological cognitive process.

Figure 1

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Information processing

The psychological cognition process of reading comprehension is similar to the above

process. The reader first sees the graphic and text information on the paper by visual sense and then acquires the information transmitted by the text and the graph through the brain; by reading, the reader automatically obtains the information of interest and memorizes it; after a long period, the short-term memory gradually becomes long-term memory through information loss. In terms of information acquisition and information memory, English learners and English native speakers have little difference in the process of reading comprehension. However, they differ much in the information encoding: English learners have certain information decoding ability after learning, but not comparable with the English native readers, and they are prone to errors; also their information decoding speed is slower, and even irritating emotions may occur.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN

From the above, the difference between English learners and English-speaking readers is mainly reflected in the stage of information decoding, which was mainly studied in this paper.

In order to analyse the influence of English learning on English reading, two experimental groups were set in this study, one consisting of 20 college freshmen in English major, and another group of 20 native readers from English-speaking countries, including 9 British, 1 Canadian, 3 Americans, and 7 Australians. In this study, the participants in these two experimental groups were referred to as English learners and native speakers.

In terms of difficulty level, the text was classified into simple text and complex text. The simple text comes from CET-6 reading materials, and the complex text comes from The Economist. The two text types are similar in the number of characters.

Every participant in the experiment was asked to read the simple text and the complex text at the fastest speed, and answer the five questions set in advance. After the experiment, the experimenter recorded the participant’s reading time t1, the answer time t2, and the sum t3 of t1 and t2; then, they scored according to the participant’s answers, 20 points for the correct answers, and 0 for wrong or incomplete answers; the final score was recorded as s.

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PSYCHOLOGICAL COGNITION OF ENGLISH LEARNERS IN READING COMPREHENSION 1146

DATA ANALYSIS

Reader differences

Table 1 and 2 list the experimental results using simple and complex texts respectively. Taking the simple text and complex text as examples, the differences between the two kinds of readers were discussed, as shown in Figure 2 and 3.

When reading simple texts, English learners have higher reading time t1, answer time t2 and total time t3 than native speakers, and the score s is relatively low. By paired sample t test, it can be concluded whether the difference between the two is significant. The asterisk in Figure 2 indicates the significance of the difference. No asterisks indicate no significant difference; one asterisk indicates significant at the 0.05 level; two asterisks indicate significant at the 0.01 level.

Table 1.

Experiment results of simple results

English learner Native speaker

Number of Reader t1 (min) t2 (min) t3 (min) s Number of readers t1 (min) t2 (min) t3 (min) s

1 7 3 10 100 1 5 2 7 100

2 8 5 13 100 2 6 3 9 100

3 10 5 15 100 3 8 4 12 100

4 8 6 14 100 4 6 3 9 100

5 8 3 11 100 5 6 2 8 80

6 9 3 12 100 6 7 2 9 100

7 12 4 16 60 7 6 3 9 100

8 7 5 12 100 8 5 3 8 100

9 7 5 12 100 9 5 2 7 100

10 8 6 14 100 10 6 3 9 100

11 8 4 12 100 11 6 2 8 100

12 8 4 12 80 12 6 3 9 80

13 9 5 14 100 13 7 4 11 100

14 10 7 17 100 14 8 3 11 100

15 8 4 12 100 15 6 3 9 100

16 7 5 12 100 16 5 3 8 100

17 9 5 14 100 17 7 4 11 80

18 9 5 14 80 18 7 5 12 100

19 7 5 12 100 19 5 3 8 100

20 8 5 13 100 20 6 4 10 100

Table 2.

Experiment results of complex results

English learner Native speaker

Number of Reader t1 (min) t2 (min) t3 (min) s Number of readers t1 (min) t2 (min) t3 (min) s

1 21 7 28 80 1 12 6 18 100

2 22 8 30 100 2 12 6 18 80

3 23 8 31 80 3 14 7 21 100

4 22 9 31 80 4 12 6 18 100

5 22 7 29 100 5 12 6 18 80

6 22 7 29 80 6 13 6 19 100

7 25 7 32 60 7 12 8 20 100

8 21 8 29 80 8 12 6 18 100

9 21 8 29 80 9 12 6 18 100

10 22 9 31 80 10 12 6 18 100

11 22 7 29 40 11 12 6 18 100

12 22 7 29 80 12 12 6 18 80

13 22 8 30 80 13 13 7 20 100

14 23 10 33 80 14 14 6 20 80

15 22 7 29 60 15 12 6 18 100

16 21 8 29 80 16 12 6 18 100

17 22 8 30 80 17 13 7 20 80

18 22 8 30 60 18 13 8 21 100

19 21 8 29 80 19 12 6 18 100

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Figure 2 shows that the English learner's reading time t1, the answer time t2 and the total time t3 are greater than the native speakers at a significant level of 0.01; although the average score of the English learners is lower than that of the native speakers, from a statistical point of view this difference is not significant.

When reading complex texts, English learners still have higher reading time t1, answer time t2 and total time t3 than native speakers, and the score s is relatively low. By paired sample t test, it can be concluded that English learners' reading time t1, answer time t2 and total time t3 are greater than native speakers at a significant level of 0.01; English learners' average score s is lower than them at a significant level of 0.01.

Figure 2

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Differences between the two kinds

of readers when reading simple text

Figure 3

.

Differences between the two kinds

of readers when reading complex text

Text type differences

Figure 4 shows the differences in simple text reading and complex text reading of English learners. It can be seen from Figure 4, when English learners read simple texts and complex texts, the reading time t1, answer time t2, total time t3, and score s are all significantly different, indicating that those English majors participating in the experiment have different information processing speed and information acquisition ability when reading the simple and complex texts.

Comprehensive analysis

Figure 5 shows the difference between the two kinds of readers in the reading process of simple text and complex text. Through the analysis above, it can be seen that when reading simple texts, the English learners have the same ability to acquire information from reading as the native speakers, although their information processing ability and speed are not as good as the native speakers. Therefore, their reading time t1, answer time t2, total time t3 are significantly larger than native speakers, but the score s is not significantly different. When reading complex texts,2 English readers' information processing ability and speed, and information acquisition ability from reading is significantly lower. Therefore, their reading time t1, answer time t2, and total time t3 are significantly larger than native speakers, while the score s is significantly lower than them.

Figure 4

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Differences between the two kinds

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PSYCHOLOGICAL COGNITION OF ENGLISH LEARNERS IN READING COMPREHENSION 1148

Figure 5

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Differences between the two kinds

of readers and two kinds of texts

This proves that in the psychological cognition process of English learners' reading comprehension, the information decoding is obviously more difficult than native speakers. If the decoding difficulty is relatively low, the decoding speed of the English learners is affected, but not the decoding results; if it’s high, both the decoding speed and results of the English learners will be affected.

CONCLUSIONS

(1) This paper summarizes the psychological cognition theory of reading, analyses the whole process of human information acquisition, information decoding, memory and reaction, and the formation of long-term memory. Then, through analysis for the reading comprehension process, it’s concluded that the difference in reading comprehension between English learners and native speakers is mainly reflected in the information decoding stage;

(2) In order to analyse the psychological cognition process of English learners in English reading, the experiments were designed, taking the native speakers as control group to analyse the differences in the decoding speed and the results between English learners and native speakers. Meanwhile, considering the difficulty level of the text may affect the decoding process, the texts were classified into two types in terms of difficulty levels;

(3) This paper analyses the impact of two kinds of readers and two text types on decoding

speed and decoding results. The results show that in the reading process of simple texts, the decoding speeds of English learners and native speakers are significantly different; in complex text reading, the decoding speed and decoding results between English learners and native speakers are significantly different. The two text types have a great impact on the decoding speed and results of English learners.

Acknowledgement

Teachers Research Fund Project of China Earthquake Administration (20150121); Humanity and Social Science Fund Project in Hebei Province (GH172010).

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