Consciousness raising in foreign language vocabulary learning and reading
This study on consciousness raising in foreign language vocabulary learning and reading took place in a reading comprehension course for university students in Finland. The aim was to find out what kind of changes in vocabulary and reading strategies and related matters the students underwent during the course and to investigate what support the course can give to the changes. The data were collected during a three-week course where I acted as a teacher and a researcher, and through interviews five months after the course. The course offered the students consciousness raising possibilities in the form of teacher-led sessions, group work and questionnaires. These activities form the main source of the data. Two mature students were selected under closer scrutiny. The transcribed data were analysed in four ways to 1) specify the perceived changes in vocabulary and reading strategies and in related matters, 2) to establish a link between the teacher-led consciousness raising and the changes, 3) to illuminate the importance of reflection in the change and 4) to investigate the support of group work to the changes in strategies of finding out word meanings. The findings of the study support the view that classroom learning does not take place in a vacuum. Both case study students showed changes in their perceptions about the reading process and about their ways of dealing with vocabulary. They also showed changes in their perceptions of themselves as learners. Both students, for example, articulated increasing confidence in themselves as language learners. It is likely that the teacher-led consciousness raising in the classroom and, in particular, the group work helped the learners reflect on their background and learning and, thus, change. The findings also indicate that the students' perceptions of the benefits of consciousness raising lasted at least until five months after the course. This study gave evidence that the two active learners subjectively perceived consciousness raising as beneficial. Future studies need to pay attention to the link between consciousness raising and the possible increase in proficiency. It is also important to study students whose participation in the course is not as active as that of the two case study students in this study.