The influence of the socio-educational reading environment in an Arab University upon English reading performance
Research into FL/EFL macro-reading (the effect of the broader context of reading) has been little explored in spite of its importance in the FL/EFL reading programmes. This study was designed to build on previous work by explaining in more depth the influence of the socio-educational reading environment in an Arab university (Al-Fateh University in Tripoli, Libya) - as reported by students, upon these students' reading ability in English and Arabic (particularly the former). Certain aspects of the lecturers' reading habits and attitudes and classroom operation were also investigated. Written cloze tests in English and Arabic and self-administered questionnaires were given to 125 preliminary-year undergraduates in three faculties of Al-Fateh University on the basis of their use of English as a medium of instruction (one representing the Arts' stream and two representing the Science stream). Twenty two lecturers were interviewed and observed by an inventory technique along with twenty other preliminary-year students. Factor analysis and standard multiple regression technique were among the statistical methods used to analyse the main data. The findings demonstrate a significant relationship between reading ability in English and the reading individual and environmental variables - as defined in the study. A combination of common and different series of such predictors were found accountable for the variation (43% for the first year English specialist; 48% for the combined Medicine student sample) in the English reading tests. Also found was a significant, though not very large, relationship between reading ability in Arabic and the reading environment. Non-statistical but objective analyses, based on the present data, also revealed an overall association between English reading performance and an important number of reading environmental variables - where many `poor' users of the reading environment (particularly the academic one) obtained low scores in the English cloze tests. Accepting the limitations of a single study, it is nevertheless clear that the reading environment at the University is in need of improvement and that students' use of it also requires better guidance and training in how to use it effectively. Suggestions are made for appropriate educational changes.