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Title: An investigation of students' perceptions of academic reading difficulties and their association with English language proficiency
Author: Alrasheed, H.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 9505
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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This mixed method study was conducted in two phases to investigate ESL students' academic reading. The aim of the first phase was to understand the academic reading practices of ESL students pursuing their postgraduate studies at one university in the UK. The first phase also provided insights into students' perceptions of the academic reading difficulties they encountered along with the strategies they adopted to overcome these difficulties. Changes over time in students' perceptions of academic reading practices in addition to difficulties and the ways in which they implemented strategies to overcome them were also traced. In the second phase, the focus shifted to seek generalisation of the first phase findings with regard to academic reading. Furthermore, the second phase investigated the association between English language proficiency and students' perceptions of academic reading difficulties. The study adopted an exploratory sequential mixed method design. In the first phase, two separate rounds of think aloud protocol and semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from nine ESL students pursuing their postgraduate studies. The results of this phase were used to develop a scale of the perceived level of academic reading difficulties to web-survey a wider ESL community at the university. In the second phase, 77 ESL postgraduate students in their first year of academic programmes responded to the survey. A key finding that emerged from the first phase is that ESL postgraduate students encountered a wide array of difficulties that did not stem solely from their lack of English language proficiency; rather, some were the result of a lack of other skills including cognitive skills, key content knowledge and academic skills. In addition, ESL students showed changes over time not only with regard to academic reading practices, but also in terms of certain difficulties being alleviated. The results of the second phase supported the findings of the first phase as they suggested that IELTS is a moderate predictor of students' perceptions of academic reading difficulties. In addition to students' linguistic ability, ESL students need to be equipped with skills that enable them to operate successfully at the university. The main lesson learnt is that the readiness of ESL students to pursue their studies in a UK university was questionable, but over time they demonstrated that they had learnt through different forms of interactions in academia. Sociocultural theory is used to explain the changes over time that students reported in their academic reading practices and difficulties. This study viewed reading as a social practice as students improved through their participation in academic activities. In addition, a model was suggested to conceptualize ESL students' university readiness. Recommendations for improving students' readiness and for further research were suggested.
Supervisor: Durrant, P. ; Jones, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: ESL ; EFL ; Academic reading ; English language proficiency ; Mixed methods ; ESL postgraduate students' readiness