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Abstract Due to the importance of the reading skills in the academic field and in the Colombian measurement system of tertiary education, this research aimed at analyzing how L2 reading is taught and evaluated at tertiary education in the EFL courses of a private university. Therefore, to gather the data from the context and participants it was necessary to choose three teachers as a sample, one of each course, and the students enrolled in them. The data collection tools applied were observations, interviews, surveys, and document analysis to triangulate the information collected. The results of this study were directly linked to the objectives proposed for it. The most relevant findings related to the objectives are: first, the role of reading at tertiary education is central for teachers and administrators, however there are some methodological issues that are not working properly. Second, Teachers’ pedagogical and evaluation practices are adequate to the institutional requirements but insufficient for improving learners’ current results. Third, these courses are coursebook-based and the text used is grammar/vocabulary-centered. Accordingly, some recommendations are given to improve these courses’ pedagogical and assessment practices in order to enhance learners’ reading comprehension levels based on PISA (2018) levels. Nevertheless, it is essential to mention that this study suffered some adaptations on the path because of the COVID-19 pandemic and some of the pre-planned items were not possible to be developed. Keywords; Reading courses, L2 reading, Pedagogical and assessment practices.

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Reading is known as an essential ability due to its usage in all life stages. According to Horwitz (2008), reading gives the possibility to students to learn new vocabulary and academic content; also, it allows reducing social distance. It is one of the most important skills to be developed by the students in order to succeed in academic contexts, especially at the university, where students have to deal with great amount of information contained in texts. Thus, reading becomes an essential aspect to be focused on in college teaching and learning.  

Currently, most of the information and relevant data that college students will need in their majors is written in English. Therefore, reading in a second language has become a need for university students, who must develop the necessary reading skills that allow them to manage the complex texts they will encounter in the different areas of the curriculum, and later on, in their professional lives (Grabe, 2009). In this way, they will be up to date with the advances and new developments in their areas.  So, the importance of L2 reading for college students is undeniable.   

However, achieving this goal in Colombia is not easy, regarding the deficiencies in reading comprehension evidenced by the students at different academic levels, especially at the end of high school studies. According to ICFES (2016, 2017 and 2018), results of students’ performance in the reading section of the Saber 11 English exam[1]  show that Colombian high school learners are below the expected national levels (150, 147, and 148 points; being the national level 160), which demonstrates that they end up with low reading comprehension levels an there is an important decrease in the last two years.

Based on these results, the Colombian Ministry of Education (MEN) has developed a number of initiatives intended to improve students’ performance in reading comprehension; among the most remarkable initiatives are: The article 21 of the General Education Law (1994), which established the obligatory nature of English language teaching in the school curriculum; The National Plan of Bilingualism, which modified some articles of the 115 law. The most recent policy is known as “Colombia Very Well” covering a period of 10 years from 2015 to 2025, which aims to fulfill the levels defined by The Common European Framework (CEFR) in all Colombian schools. However, despite all these efforts, results in the Saber 11 test keep demonstrating this goal is still far to achieve.

This influences negatively, not only the general results of Colombian education, but also the individual performance of students, which is most notably evident when they access to the tertiary education or once they become professionals and they need Proficiency in L2 reading. This low competence has been confirmed at different universities in Colombia; Universidad de Nariño (2016), Universidad De La Sabana (2017) and specifically at Corporación Universitaria del Caribe-CECAR (2019), which is the context chosen for this study. This is a university located  in, Sincelejo-Sucre. It offers many careers distributed into three different departments: Engineering and Architecture, Humanities and Education, and   Laws. It also offers six general English courses; the three first must be taken by undergraduates throughout their career.  The other three, which are advanced, are offered by the CECAR's Language Institute, and must be carried out once they finish academically, as a graduation requirement.

 

 

Problem Statement

 

The results of a diagnostic L2 reading test applied to first-semester students at CECAR in 2019 demonstrated that most of them entered the university with a lower reading comprehension level than the required for the entrance to the tertiary education, according to MEN. The results were categorized taking into account the CEFR levels (B2, B1, A2, A1, and –A1). This test’s results revealed that 85% of the evaluated population was classified at level A1; 35% were placed at level A2; 8% were classified at level –A1; and there were no students placed in the higher levels (B1, B2).  It is observed that most of the participants were place in level A1, according to the CEFR, which means that these students  lack  the required standards to start college studies, regarding L2 reading.

In order to face this situation, CECAR’s English courses are intended to provide students with the tools for acquiring the basic competences set out in the National Bilingualism Plan and assessed by ICFES. In turn, they follow the CEFR guidelines through the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach and the Flipped Learning model so that learners become basic users of the English language through different strategies and methods. However, despite all these attempts to enhance students’ English reading comprehension, low improvements are still evidenced. The results of students’ performance on the Saber Pro English reading exam[2] in the two last years, demonstrate that they are still far from the national average (150 points). According to ICFES report, in 2016, CECAR students obtained 134 points in the critical reading test; nevertheless in 2017 and 2018 the institution scored 133 points, dropping 1 point from the overall results.

The above results raise a concern about the possible reasons why CECAR students are not achieving the expected results after six EFL courses throughout their career. This poses the following research question and objectives that will guide this project.

 

How is L2 reading taught and evaluated at CECAR’S EFL courses?

 

General Objective

To analyze how L2 reading is taught and evaluated at CECAR’S EFL courses.

Specific Objectives

·      Analyze the role of reading at CECAR’s EFL courses

·      Describe teachers’ pedagogical practices for teaching L2 reading.

·      Determine teachers’ L2 reading evaluation practices.

·      Analyze the characteristics of texts used to teach and evaluate reading in the English courses.

 

Reading is one of the most important skills and one of the hardest to develop in the academic field, since it involves more than merely understanding of vocabulary and covering basic grammar patterns.   

Reading comprehension is defined by Cain, Oakhill, & Bryant (2004, as cited in Rodríguez, 2017, p. 38) as “an interactive process, rather than a particular outcome or product, through which a reader interacts with a text to construct meaning”. Likewise, Rodríguez (2017) stated that a text is meaningful to a reader if it shows relationship with the reader’s knowledge, experience, and purpose for reading which, afterwards, will lead him to reading fluency and comprehension. In other words, reading comprehension must be analyzed as the process in which readers interacts with the text through their previous experiences and knowledge to get its full understanding.

According to PISA (2018) “Reading literacy is understanding, using evaluating, reflecting, on and engaging with texts to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential and to participate in society” This definition has mainly changed since 2000; different aspects as the involvement of any type of text, also the addition of evaluation on it. From this moment is important to clarify that this study will take this definition as the theoretical base for reading literacy.

Approaches for Teaching Reading

Throughout history, a variety of approaches have been proposed for teaching reading in EFL contexts. in the pursuit of employing the most appropriate mechanisms to teach reading comprehension. According to Masuhara (as cited in Tomlinson 2011), the four best known approaches for teaching reading since the 1960s are: Reading Comprehension –Based Approaches, The Language –Based Approach, The Skill/Strategy-Based Approach, and The Schema-based Approach, and other authors such as Williams, et al (1983), Widdowson (1980), Urquhart (1978), have discussed about it, as well.

 

Reading Comprehension–Based Approaches

The origin of this approach relies on the controversy whether the text has only one meaning or whether it fits the reader's understanding. William (as cited in Tomlinson 2003, p. 341) suggests that: “the true meaning is the one that is intended by the writer (…) the need to preserve communication between the writer and the reader requires such an ideal, even if the reader’s intention never matches in every detail the writer’s intention”. While Urquhart (as cited in Tomlinson 2003, p. 341) indicates that “it is impossible for L1 proficient readers to agree completely on the meaning of a text due to each individual’s experiences. What readers can achieve is interpretation rather than comprehension”. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY


OECD (2019), "PISA 2018 Reading Framework", in PISA 2018 Assessment and Analytical Framework, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5c07e4f1-en.

  

Tomlinson, B. (Ed.). (2011). Materials development in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.


Eggins, S. (2004). An Introduction To Systemic Functional Linguistics. London, England: Continuum.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



       This is an exam that all students in Colombia must take at the end of their high school studies, 11th grade, which measures their individual knowledge in some basic subjects, including English.

[1]  [2] Saber Pro is an evaluation that all Colombian students have to take at the end of their tertiary studies, which measures written communication, critical reading, quantitative reasoning, citizenship skills and English proficiency.

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Main author information

MARISELA RESTREPO RUÍZ (Colombia)
CORPORACIÓN UNIVERSITARIA DEL CARIBE -CECAR (Colombia) 7502
Languages professor at the University level
Scientific production

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Approved