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Research on Reading Development of Adult English Language Learners: An Annotated Bibliography
Rebecca Adams, Georgetown University
This bibliography was developed to present a comprehensive view of the research that has been conducted on reading development among adult English language learners in the United States in the last 20 years (with some additional research conducted in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom). Articles included were selected through searches of the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC, U.S. Department of Education), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA) databases, as well as through use of source lists from other relevant research. The searches included research published from 1980 through 2001. This bibliography also serves as the basis for a paper synthesizing the reading research for ESL literacy teachers and program administrators, Reading and Adult English Language Learners: A Review of the Research, published in 2003.
The bibliography contains the following sections:
We wanted to do a comprehensive overview of the research on adult English language learners' acquisition of reading in English. We found that there was very little. Most of the research on reading development was in academic contexts - in K-12 classrooms and in colleges and universities. This bibliography includes only experimental, descriptive, and practitioner studies that focus on adult English language learners who are not enrolled in academic post-secondary programs. It does include some theoretical studies that deal with the reading process in general - for first and second language literacy and for all ages.
However, reading research conducted in the past two decades that involves children and university students is not included. We know that it has paved the way for theoretical orientations and knowledge building that are critical to an understanding of all reading development including adult English as a second language (ESL) reading. Some of that seminal research includes the following:
Anderson, N. (1991). Individual differences in strategy use in second language reading and testing. The Modern Language Journal, 75 , 460- 472.
Bernhardt, E., & Kamil, M. (1995). Interpreting relationships between L1 and L2 literacy: Some complicating factors. TESOL Quarterly ,16, 15-34.
Carrell, P. (1992). Awareness of text structure: Effects on recall. Language Learning, 42, 1-20
Chen, H. C., & Graves, M. (1995). Effects of previewing and providing background knowledge on Taiwanese college students' comprehension of American short stories. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 663-686.
Dhaif, H. (1990). Reading aloud for comprehension: A neglected teaching aid. Reading in a Foreign Language, 7(1), 457-464.
Hasenburg, S., & Hulstijn, J. (1996). Defining a minimal receptive second-language vocabulary for non-native university students: An empirical investigation. Applied Linguistics, 17, 145-163.
Kern, R. (1994). The role of mental translation in second language reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 16, 441-461.
Koda, K. (2000). Cross-linguistic variations in L2 morphological awareness. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 297-320.
Lee, J. W., & Schallert, D. (1997). The relative contribution of L2 language proficiency and L1 reading ability to L2 reading performance: A test of the threshold hypothesis in an EFL context. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 713-739.
Muljani, D., Koda, K., & Moates, D. (1998). The development of word recognition in a second language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 19, 99-113.
Nassaji, H., & Geva, E. (199). The contribution of phonological and orthographic processing skills to adult ESL reading: Evidence form native speakers of Farsi. Applied psycholinguistics, 20, 241-267.
Oh, S. Y. (2001). Two types of input modification and EFL reading comprehension: Simplification versus elaboration. TESOL Quarterly, 35, 69-94.
Rott, S. (1999). The effect of exposure frequency on intermediate language learners' incidental vocabulary acquisition and retention through reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 589-619.
Shimron, J., & Savon, T. (1994). Reading proficiency and orthography: Evidence from Hebrew. Language Learning, 44, 5-27.
Tsang, W. K. (1996). Comparing the effects of reading and writing on writing proficiency. Applied Linguistics, 17, 210-233.
Reading in a Second Language: Theory
Adams, M. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Alderson, C. (2000). Assessing reading. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Carver, R. (1992). Reading rate: Theory, research, and practical implications. Journal of Reading, 36, 84-95.
Carver, R. (1997). Reading for one second, one minute, or one year form the perspective of rauding theory. Scientific Studies of Reading, 1, 3-43.
Carver, R., & David, A. (2001). Investigating reading achievement using a causal model. Scientific Studies of Reading, 5, 107-140.
Day, R., & Bamford, J. (1998). Extensive reading in the second language classroom. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Durgunoglu, A., & Verhoeven, L (Eds.). (1998). Literacy development in a multilingual context: Cross-cultural perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum.
Grabe, W. (1999). Developments in reading research and their implications for computer-adaptive reading assessment. In M. Chalhoub DeVille (ed.) Issues in computer-adaptive testing of reading proficiency (pp. 11-47). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kamil, M., Mosenthal, P., Pearson, P.D., & Barr, R. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of reading research, Vol III. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum.
Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language . New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pressley, M. (1998). Reading instruction that works: The case for balanced teaching. New York: Guilford.
Pressley, M., & Woloshyn, V. (1995). Cognitive strategy instuction that really improves children's academic performance. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Segalowitz. N. (2000). Automaticity and attentional skill in fluent performance. In H. Riggenbach (Ed.), Perspectives on fluency (pp. 200-219). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Snow, C., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Stanovich, K. (2000). Progress in understanding readin. New York: Guilford.
Swanborn, M., & de Glopper, K. (1999). Incidental word learning while Thompson, G., & Nicholson, T. (Eds.) (1999). Learning to read. NY: Teacher's College.
Urquhart, S., & Weir, C. (1999). Reading in a second language: Process, product, and practice. New York: Longman.
Much of the research referenced above will be included in the National Literacy Panel survey of research on how children learn to read and write in English as a second language. This survey is a project of SRI International and the Center for Applied Linguistics and it seeks to address those learners who were not included in the National Reading Panel's study (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1988). Diane August is the principal investigator of the study which will include only those learners whose L1 uses the Roman alphabet. The publication from this study is expected in late 2003.
For this bibliography, unless otherwise indicated, all of the studies included were conducted in the United States. While no English as a Foreign Language (FL) research is included, some research on English language learning conducted in other English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) is included. Some of the studies included in this bibliography are less than rigorously conducted. We have included these studies, however, in order to give a comprehensive picture of the research that has been done. We acknowledge, therefore, that all the studies are not rigorously conducted, but they are a true picture of what has been done. More importantly, they point to research needs that exist in the field of adult ESL instruction.
This bibliography includes 44 research studies, published from 1980 to 2002, in journals , books , and the ERIC, MLA, and LLBA databases. (Therefore, some of the research was conducted and reported before 1980. Because a number of the publications are anthologies, some of the original articles were written, and possibly published first, before 1980.)
The following journals published during the time period 1980-2001 were searched.
The following books, identified from source lists of reading research, were consulted.
Alderson, J. C., & and Urquhart, A. H. (Eds.). (1984). Reading in a foreign language. New York: Longman.
Carrell, P. L., Devine, J., & Eskey, D. E. (Eds.). (1988). Interactive approaches to second language reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Coady, J., & Huckin, T. (Eds.). (1997). Second language vocabulary acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grabe, W., & Stoller, F. L. (2002). Teaching and researching reading: Applied linguistics in action. Harlow, England: Longman.
Huckin, T., Haynes, M., & Coady, J. (Eds.)(1993). Second language reading and vocabulary learning. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Samuels, J., & Farstrup, A, E. (Eds.). (1992). What research has to say about reading instruction (2nd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Singer, H. & Ruddell, R. B. (Eds.) (1985). Theoretical models and processes of reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Criteria for Inclusion of Research
The following criteria were used to determine which studies to include in the bibliography:
Published from 1980 to 2002 in refereed (peer-reviewed) journals, dissertations, the ERIC database, the Modern Language Association database, the Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database, and in books if identified in source lists and determined to be either seminal in theory or necessary to understanding the reading process.
Focus on the reading (and, where applicable, general literacy) development of adults (aged 16 years and older) who are learning English and are not being served in secondary school education programs but rather in adult education and college-based intensive English programs (IEP).
Learner Population and Instructional Settings
Although the population of primary concern in this bibliography is adult English language learners in non-postsecondary education settings - which includes adult education programs, community-based programs, and workplace literacy programs - a limited amount of research has been conducted to date in these settings and with these learners. As a result, the research studies included in this bibliography were conducted in both adult education programs and Intensive English Programs (IEP). IEPs offer non-credit classes to prospective students who need to improve their language ability before they can enroll in credit-bearing classes. The classes are usually organized by skill, e.g., there are listening, reading, speaking, and writing classes. Research conducted among English language learners in college and university courses is not included, because the academic reading needs and abilities of this population are different from those of the general adult ESL population.
Learners in adult education programs come from different economic and educational circumstances in their native countries. They may not have developed literacy skills in their native language and may have limited educational experience. Many learners in adult ESL classes have come to the United States to work and improve their economic status. Many do not plan to return to their native country. These learners generally have less need for academic English than do those in IEPs. Other adult learners, however, have high development literacy skills in their native language and do plan to pursue higher education in the United States. All adult learners require literacy skills for their work, for helping their children and other family members, and for negotiating life in an English-speaking environment. Unlike IEP students, whose primary focus in the United States is acquiring English, adult learners often work full time or care for their families during the day and attend ESL courses only at night.
The educational needs of IEP students differ from those of the adult ESL learner population in some ways. IEP students are predominately from the middle or upper classes in their countries. They generally have extensive literacy and formal education experience in their native language, and they need to learn to read academic texts. They often plan to study in postsecondary institutions in the United States before returning to their native countries. However, when they are in IEP programs, their English proficiency (and reading ability) is similar to that of advanced adult learners in adult education programs. Therefore, IEP learners are included in the study because both the way they learn, and what they need to learn is similar to the more advanced adult learners. Furthermore, some adult learners who wish to pursue higher education attend adult education programs first and then take IEP classes, creating some overlap between participants in the two populations included in the bibliography.
Of the 44 studies involving learner participants or teacher participants:
In the annotations of the research studies, the following information about the learners and instruction is provided when included in the articles:
Terms Used to Describe Reading
This bibliography uses the terms reading comprehension, reading ability, and reading proficiency as generic terms to describe learners' processing of written texts. Different researchers have sought to define and measure reading in many different ways. These different ways are explained in the individual annotations.
Types of Research Studies
This bibliography has two major sections -- Learning to Read and Reading to Learn.
Within these categories, studies are divided among the following types:
Experimental studies used systematic data collection techniques to evaluate the reading ability of learners, either as the result of one type of pedagogy or another or to quantify the effects of specific factors in the reading process.
Descriptive studies involved the use of systematic data collection to characterize the instructional setting or the characteristics of the learners themselves. Descriptive studies include ethnographic and survey studies.
Practitioner research studies are those in which the researcher is also involved as the classroom instructor. Studies were classified as practitioner research studies if the researcher reported on activities carried out in his or her own classroom.
Theoretical articles are concerned with the theory of how people in general and English language learners in particular process written texts. These studies describe and evaluate models of the reading process. A sampling of relevant theories on first and second language reading are included in the bibliography to put the experimental, descriptive, and practitioner research in context. Some of these articles do not deal with any instructional group specifically (such as AESL or IEP, and are instead classified as to whether they describe L1 or L2 reading or both.)
In the following section of the paper, there is a chart that organizes the studies by the types described above and by the following key words:
How to Use This Bibliography
This bibliography is intended to serve as a research tool for teachers and researchers. The information provided can be accessed in the following ways.
1. Articles can be accessed by the keywords . For example, if you are looking for information on Vocabulary, you would go to that section of the Table of Contents to the list of articles on that subject and click on each article listed for its annotation. Because this is a Web document with internal links, clicking on the keywords in the chart will bring up the abstract listed there.
2. Articles can be accessed by type . For example, if you are looking for experimental studies conducted with English language learners in adult education settings, you would find the section in the Table of Contents on Learning to Read and then the section on Type of Study. After you have located the experimental studies, you would look in the next column to find articles marked AESL (for adult ESL populations).
3. Articles can be accessed by author. Author names are listed in overall alphabetical order.
We are grateful to the following individuals who have provided valuable information throughout the development of this bibliography, including conceptualizing its scope, selecting articles, and deciding what information to include in the annotations:
Joyce Campbell, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education
Joan Givens, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education
William Grabe, Northern Arizona University
Joy Kreeft Peyton, Center for Applied Linguistics
John Strucker, Harvard Graduate School of Education
This document is published by the National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE). NCLE is operated by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL).
The preparation of this document was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) , under Contract No. ED-99-CO-0008, with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Library of Education. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the positions or policies of ED. This document is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.
Request for Input
We welcome reactions on this bibliography from colleagues in the field. Please send your feedback to Miriam Burt at email@example.com; (202) 362-0700 (phone) (202) 363-7204 (fax). If we incorporate your input, we will list you as a contributor (with your permission).
We would appreciate your comments on the following:
1. Is this bibliography helpful? Why? In what way? For what purposes are you using it or do you plan to use it?
2. Are studies missing that should be included? (Please provide the full citation if possible.)
3. Are key points, research findings, or implications missing from any of the annotations?
Focus and Type of Study
Key Words Chart
Last updated: July 23, 2002