The effects of cognitive reading strategies instruction (crsi) on students’ reading comprehension and their attitudes towards crsi at the language school

According to Sitthiprom (2012), reading is an important skill in acquiring a language and it can be

defined as the process of understanding speech in a second language or foreign language. The role of

reading for both first language and second language learners has been proved by a lot of researchers all

over the world (Strevens, 1977; Carrel, Pharise & Liberto, 1989; El-Bashbishy, 1993). Reading

comprehension is a basic goal for ESL/EFL students to gain an understanding of the world and of

themselves, enabling them to think about and react to what they read (Karlin, 2006). Moreover, learners

need reading comprehension to be able to continually increase their knowledge (Sitthiprom, 2012).

Furthermore, many researchers have tried to find out possibly effective ways to help learners read

successfully in English. One of the most significant factors positively impacting readers’ comprehension is

reading strategies (O’Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990; Al-Nujaidi, 2003; Jafari & Shokrpour, 2012).

Language School located in Hanoi city is one institution offering pronunciation, general English,

communicative course and TOEIC course for university students near Minh Khai Street. All of students

coming to Language School had to do the placement test in order that they can be arranged in the right class.

Therefore, in the author’s class, normally, students are pre-intermediate level and they need to take part in

English course which equips them with skills to do two main parts of TOEIC test including Listening part and

Reading part to get TOEIC 450 point. This course lasts for six months, two one-hour-and-a-half lessons per

week, each two months for listening, reading and practicing test respectively.

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THE EFFECTS OF COGNITIVE READING STRATEGIES 
INSTRUCTION (CRSI) ON STUDENTS’ READING 
COMPREHENSION AND THEIR ATTITUDES TOWARDS CRSI AT 
THE LANGUAGE SCHOOL 
Nguyen Van Thang, Bui Huyen Anh* 
Thanh Dong University-Hanoi University of Industry 
Received: 30/07/2018; Revised: 21/08/2018; Accepted: 20/08/2019 
Abstract: This eight-week quasi-experimental research was conducted to figure out how cognitive 
reading strategies affect non-English major students’ reading comprehension (RC) at Language School 
and their attitudes towards CRSI. Two intact classes with 36 students were divided into two groups, 
TOEIC119, control group (CG) and TOEIC120, experimental group (EG). Data were collected by 
means of RC tests and attitude questionnaire. Data collected from tests were analyzed by means of T-
test and test scores to measure students’ RC proficiency before and after the intervention. Data collected 
from the questionnaire were calculated Cronbach’s alpha and converted into percentage to investigate 
students’ attitudes towards CRS. The results revealed that students’ RC proficiency increased 
significantly in both two groups but the improvement of EG students was greater than that of CG. 
Furthermore, the findings showed that students had positive attitudes towards CRSI. Therefore, the 
study concludes that CRS may contribute to the students’ RC ability and recommends that CRS should 
be applied in teaching reading. 
Key words: Cognitive reading strategies, cognitive reading strategies instruction, reading 
comprehension, attitudes 
1. Introduction 
According to Sitthiprom (2012), reading is an important skill in acquiring a language and it can be 
defined as the process of understanding speech in a second language or foreign language. The role of 
reading for both first language and second language learners has been proved by a lot of researchers all 
over the world (Strevens, 1977; Carrel, Pharise & Liberto, 1989; El-Bashbishy, 1993). Reading 
comprehension is a basic goal for ESL/EFL students to gain an understanding of the world and of 
themselves, enabling them to think about and react to what they read (Karlin, 2006). Moreover, learners 
need reading comprehension to be able to continually increase their knowledge (Sitthiprom, 2012). 
Furthermore, many researchers have tried to find out possibly effective ways to help learners read 
successfully in English. One of the most significant factors positively impacting readers’ comprehension is 
reading strategies (O’Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990; Al-Nujaidi, 2003; Jafari & Shokrpour, 2012). 
Language School located in Hanoi city is one institution offering pronunciation, general English, 
communicative course and TOEIC course for university students near Minh Khai Street. All of students 
coming to Language School had to do the placement test in order that they can be arranged in the right class. 
Therefore, in the author’s class, normally, students are pre-intermediate level and they need to take part in 
English course which equips them with skills to do two main parts of TOEIC test including Listening part and 
Reading part to get TOEIC 450 point. This course lasts for six months, two one-hour-and-a-half lessons per 
week, each two months for listening, reading and practicing test respectively. The lessons are designed to 
TOEIC form and focused on improving the test-taking skills of listening and reading. Because of the lesson’s 
* Email: nguyenvanthang305@gmail.com 
limited time and the objectives to be achieved, the textbooks chosen for them in this course are designed by 
all of teachers in Language School from different sources of TOEIC practice materials such as Tactics for 
TOEIC Listening and Reading Test (Trew, 2008); Building Skills for the New TOEIC test (Longheed, 2009); 
Starter TOEIC (Taylor & Malarcher, 2013). 
The researcher’s teaching experience at Language School has revealed that reading is a big problem 
for students. The researcher informally interviewed students at break time and most of them complained 
that they had problems when doing reading comprehension exercises. In fact, in the lessons, some of them 
failed to answer the reading comprehension questions of the text and others kept quiet when being asked. 
Observations as well as the discussion with the colleagues showed that students usually had difficulties in 
understanding the texts because of unfamiliar words, the text structure; therefore, they hardly recalled the 
texts successfully. In addition, finding out all key words of the text, predicting information are also their 
trouble. This might be because they have not received adequate instruction in how to effectively and acquire 
knowledge. The situation was reflected in their reading scores in the first monthly test, all of them got scores 
under 350. 
Many language theorists showed that the use of cognitive strategies is a good method to develop 
student’s reading ability. Cognitive reading strategies focus on the importance of the readers’ background 
knowledge in the reading process, so the readers make use of both the text and their background knowledge. 
Readers check to see how this information employed by this strategy such as paraphrasing, inference, 
getting the gist of a text, hence, interaction of background knowledge, making prediction and the others 
strategy with the text are essential for efficient reading. William and Burden (1997) stated that “cognitive 
strategies are seen as mental processes directly concerned with the processing of information in order to 
learn, that is for obtaining, storage, retrieval or use of information” (p. 148). 
Phakiti (2003) carried out his research with retrospective interviews, a questionnaire and an EFL 
achievement test to investigate the relationship of Thai test-takers’ use of cognitive and metacognitive 
strategies in English as a Foreign Language reading test performance. The results suggest that the use of 
cognitive and metacognitive strategies had a positive impact on the learners’ reading test performance. 
Later on, having the same idea with other researchers, Syatriana (2012) also focused on the improvement 
of students’s reading comprehension through cognitive reading strategies. This researcher used pre-
experimental method in her study with 30 first year students of Sman 16 Makassar in academic 2011-2012. 
In collecting data, the researcher used one kind of instrument, namely reading test including pre-test and 
post-test. The group was given pre-test before given treatment. Independent-samples t-test is used to 
measure the significance of the difference between the group before and after treatment. The findings of 
this study indicated that cognitive reading strategies were effective in developing the students’ reading 
comprehension. Besides, Thuy (2015) investigated cognitive strategies used by university non-English 
majored students in reading comprehension. The result of the analysis of the data revealed that successful 
and unsuccessful readers showed great differences in their choice of cognitive strategies. Gender, length of 
time of English learning and students’ interest in English learning were factors pointed out by the 
researcher. Actually, although many studies have been conducted on reading strategies, most of them are 
about the investigation into overall reading strategies use by learners or reading strategies by successful and 
unsuccessful learners or the importance of metacognitive reading strategies. Less attention was paid to 
cognitive reading strategies. 
The literature has shown that CRSI is one of the best strategies and there was no such research on 
CRSI so far at the Language School. Considering the need of the study in the situation of Language School 
to help the students of the researcher have better scores in the TOEIC, the researcher decided to conduct 
the eight-week quasi-experimental research on the effects of seven cognitive reading strategies (Oxford 
(1990)’s classification) used by 36 students of Language School on students’ reading comprehension and 
their attitudes towards CRSI. Based on the description above, the study seeks to answers to the following 
research questions: 
 1. To what extent does cognitive reading strategies instruction affect the language school 
 students’ reading comprehension? 
 2. What are the students’ attitudes towards cognitive reading strategies instruction? 
 Hopefully, the study can be refined and applied to train students to better their reading comprehension 
with the application of CRSI. 
2. Theoretical framework 
2.1. Reading comprehension and reading strategies 
2.1.1. Reading comprehension 
In order to deeply understand the nature of reading comprehension, some researchers gave definitions 
of comprehension. According to Tarkesley (2003), comprehension is a process in which reader filter 
understanding through the lens of their motivation, knowledge, cognitive abilities and experiences. 
Effective readers have a purpose for reading, and use their background knowledge and experiences to relate 
to the text. Readers do not comprehend unless they draw connections between what they read and their 
background knowledge. Clements (2011) considered “comprehension is building bridges between the new 
and the known” (p. 43), which means that comprehension in reading is the process of relating the new 
information on the printed page to the information already stored in memory. 
There are a lot of different definitions of reading comprehension but in this study, the definition of 
Grellet is used. Grellet (1981, p.5) stated that “reading comprehension or understanding a written text means 
extracting the required information from it as effectively as possible”. In other words, in reading 
comprehension, the reader not only reads written text but also recognizes the intention of the author. They 
are opinions and point of views which the writer had in mind when they wrote. According to Snow (2002), 
it is “the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction, and 
involvement with written language” (p. 11). Later on, Woolley (2011) indicated that reading comprehension 
is “process of making meaning from text” (p. 8), which means that it is to understand the overall ideas 
which are described in the text rather than obtain meaning from each words or sentences. Ahmadi, Ismail 
and abdullah (2013) stated that a reader’s understanding of a text involved a combination of the text and 
the reader in which the reader uses knowledge and experiences of “language skills, cognitive information 
and world knowledge” (p. 238). 
2.1.2. Reading strategies 
The term “strategy” is used widely in language learning teaching and learning methodology to refer 
to procedures used in learning, thinking which serve as a way of reaching a goal. In language learning, 
strategies are those conscious or unconscious processes which language learners make use of in learning 
and using a language (Little & Richards, 2000). Specifically, strategies, in the context of reading 
comprehension, can be defined as delibrate action that readers establish and enhance their comprehension 
(May & Wang, 2010). 
Honsefeld, (1977) mentioned 20 effective reading strategies “an efficient reader reads to identify 
meaning rather than words, takes chances in order to identify meaning, considers illustrations, valuates, 
guesses, uses a variety of types of context clues, and follows through with proposed solutions” (p. 10). 
Besides, reading strategies are defined by Cohen (2003) as a mental process chosen consciously by the 
readers to obtain some reading tasks. Reading strategies also refer to “the mental operations involved when 
readers purposefully approach a text and make sense of what they read” (Li, 2010, p. 7). 
2.1.3. Relationship between reading strategies and reading comprehension 
 There have been many studies on the relationship between reading comprehension and the reading 
strategy performed in a second/foreign language context (Block, 1992; Al-Nujaidi, 2003; Park, 2010). 
Researchers showed that learners’ use of reading strategies and their reading comprehension are related. 
Block (1992) explored diffrerences of reading strategies use between proficient ESL readers and non-
proficient ESL readers and drew the results that less proficient readers used local strategies including 
paraphrasing, rereading, questioning meaning of clause or sentence, questioning meaning of a word, solving 
vocabulary problems and more proficient readers relied on global strategies which include anticipating 
content, recognizing text structure, interpreting the text, using general knowledge and association to (a) 
explain, extend, and reinforce content understanding, (b) evaluate the accuracy of the content, and (c) 
respond to content, comment on behavior or process, monitor comprehension, correct behavior, and react 
to the text. Al-Nujaidi (2003) conducted research on the relationship between reading comprehension and 
reading strategy use of EFL learners in Saudi Arabia and concluded that there is a significant but weak 
correclation between them. Al-Nujaidi (2003) also added that types and frequencies of reading strategies 
students use are different according to the students’ reading comprehension ability. 
Park (2010) investigated the relationship between the use of reading strategies and reading 
comprehension ability and the relationship between the use of reading strategies and personal 
characteristics. The result showed that Korean college students’ reading comprehension ability was related 
to their reading strategy use to some degree. 
2.2. Cognitive reading strategies 
2.2.1. Definition 
Neisser (1967) defined that cognition refers to the mental process by which external or internal input 
is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered and used. It involved numerous functions such as 
perception, attention, memory coding, retention, and recall, decision making, reasoning, problem-solving, 
imagining, planning and executing actions. Furthermore, Williamson (2006) stated that cognition is usually 
defined as something like the process of acquiring, retaining and applying knowledge. 
2.2.2. Classification of cognitive reading strategies 
According to Oxford (1990), cognitive strategies are divided into four sets: Practicing, Receiving 
and Sending Messages, Analyzing and Reasoning, and Creating Structure for Input or Output. These sets 
are subdivided into fifteen strategies as the following: 
 Figure 1. Four sets of cognitive strategies 
 The classification of language learning strategies by Oxford (1990), especially that of cognitive 
strategies differs in several ways, from earlier attempts to classify strategies. It is more comprehensive and 
detailed; it is more systematic in linking individual strategies, as well as strategy groups, with each of the 
four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing); and it uses less technical terminology. For 
the reasons above, the researcher has decided to use such the classification of cognitive strategies by Oxford 
(1990) in this research. All cognitive strategies mentioned above are presented below. 
Practicing 
 Strategies for practicing are among the most important cognitive strategies. Oxford (1990) claimed 
that during class, practice opportunities are often missed because one person recites while the others sit 
freely. Practice is always needed to reach acceptable proficiency. Practicing strategies can be divived into: 
(1) repeating, (2) formally practicing with sounds and writing systems, (3) recognizing and using formulas 
and patterns, (4) recombining and (5) practicing naturalistically. 
 Three among five practicing strategies can be applied in reading. They are Repeating, Recognizing 
and Using Formulas and Patterns, Practicing Naturalistically. 
- Repeating: repeating strategies mean saying or doing something over and over. Application of 
repeating strategies in reading mean reading a passage more than once to understand it more 
completely. A profitable technique is to read a passage several times, each time for different 
purposes, for example to get the general or the main ideas, to predict, to read for details, and so on. 
The learner might also take notes about a reading passage and then review them several times. 
- Recognizing and Using Formulas and Patterns in the target language greatly enhance the learner’s 
comprehension. Formulas are unanalyzed expressions, while patterns have at least a slot that can be 
filled with an alternative word. 
- Practicing Naturalistically: using language in authentic way for reading comprehension. Students 
can practice reading anything they can in the target language to improve their reading skills such as 
books, menus, advertisements, brochures outside of class. 
Receiving and sending messages 
 Three strategies: (1) getting the idea quickly, (2) using resources for receiving and sending messages, 
and (3) referencing are useful for learners when reading. 
- Getting the Idea Quickly: this strategy helps learners look for exactly what they need or want to 
understand, and it allow them to disregard the rest or use it as background information only. Two techniques 
constituting this strategy are skimming and scanning. Skimming involves searching for the main ideas while 
scanning means searching for specific details. Learner can answer preview questions, for instance, “What 
are the three key ideas in this reading passage?,What is the theme of this passage?”. 
 Charts, lists, diagrams also provide clues about what kind of general point of specific details the 
learners need to pick up in a reading passage. These help learners get the idea quickly and efficiently. 
- Using Resources for Receiving and Sending Messages: This strategy involves using resources to find out 
the meaning of what is read. Printed resources such as dictionaries, word lists, grammar books and phrase 
books may be valuable. 
- Inferencing: this strategy involves using information in the text to guess meaning of new linguistic items, 
predict outcomes, or complete missing parts. 
 Analyzing and Reasoning 
 The five strategies of this set enable learners to use logical thinking to understand and use the 
grammar rules and vocabulary of the new language. 
- Reasoning Deductively: deriving hypotheses about the meaning of what is read by means of general rules 
the learner already knows. 
- Analyzing Expressions: this is a strategy with which learners break down a new word, a phrase, a sentence, 
or even a paragraph into its component parts for better understanding. When reading, learners have time to 
go back and analyze complicated expressions. 
- Analyzing Contrastively: This strategy involves analyzing elements (sounds, words, syntax) of the new 
language to determine likeness and differences in comparison with one’s own native language. It is very 
common used at the early stages of language learning to understand the meaning of what is read. 
- Translating: this strategy allows learners to use their own language as the basis for understanding what 
they read in the new language. However, word-for-word translation can provide the wrong interpretation 
of target language material. Furthermore, translating can sometimes slow learners down considerably, 
forcing them to go back and forth constantly between languages. 
- Transferencing: involves applying linguistic knowledge from the learner’s own language to the new 
language, linguistic knowledge from one aspect of the new language to another aspect of the new language, 
or conceptual knowledge from one field to another. 
Creating structur

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