Archive for the ‘annotated review’ Category

These thoughts come from reading an article comparing summarization skills in L1 and L2:

Yu, G. (2008). Reading to summarize in English and Chinese: A tale of two languages? Language Testing 25 (4), 521-551.

  • Reading comprehension is accepted as a prerequisite skill to summarization (pp. 521-522)
  • Summary skills can be used to improve reading ability (p. 522)
  • Summarization ability is necessary for academic succes (p. 522)
  • Is summarization a reading skill or a writing skill, or both. Perhaps neither, it’s a hybrid subskill (p. 522)
  • There has been a recent revival in integrated reading-writing tasks (p. 523)
  • Summarization skills are more complex and seperate from basic reading skills (p. 524)
  • Students with weaker overall proficiency were more likely to do verbatim copying (p. 525)
  • Students who copied claimed that it was easier since they did not have to understand the meaning of the words/phrases (p. 542, 544-545)
  • Problem-solving strategy use was more common among better summarizers (p. 526)
  • L2 summaries tend to be of poorer quality than L1 summaries, have less important information, and have more false information (p. 527)
  • Although general reading comprehension scores slightly relate to summary writing scores, there is still a great deal of difference between the skills (p. 536, 544)
  • General comprehension reading skills may be very different from the reading skills needed for summaries, and other skills or factors may be involved in summarization ability (p. 544)

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The office that I work for is moving to a new location on campus. As a result, I needed to clean out and pack my booksheveles and cabinets. This also gave me an opportunity to evaluate the books that I had checked out of the library and return those that I had finished or that I had decided not to read after all.

So as I dropped off a handful of books at the libraries circulation desk, I also walked past the “New Books” section, and found a couple more books that peaked my interest. One of them was:

García Mayo, María del Pilar, ed. (2007), Investigating Tasks in Formal Language Learning. New York: Multilingual Matters.

Ultimately, I was disappointed with this book as I was hoping to see more about integrated language tasks. Instead, the book seems fixated on Robinson’s view of task-related theories which I enjoyed reading about, but not over-and-over again in nearly every article. I’m also surprised that although the editor provides an overview of each study in her introduction, she fails to address the apparent contradictions that the individual studies suggest in relation to these task-related theories. Some of the studies suggest that the task complexity encourages more advanced and more accurate language (in support of the Cognition Hypothesis), whereas other studies suggest that task complexity results in the opposite: that student performance drops when the task is more challenging (a la Limited Attention Capacity Model). What gives?

In truth, I can see many variables that would lead to support for one theory over the other, but I was hoping to see how my hypotheses compared with the editor’s. Instead, the book ends without any resolution. As a result, this “edited” book feel like little more than a collection of articles grabbed from an online database using the keywords “SLA” and “task complexity.” It’s unfortunate.

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Because my wife and I live in a rural development about 30 minutes south from where we work, we have taken to listening to audio books during our commute. For the most part, we have listened to young adult fiction (entertaining and never contains questionable content like adult fiction), but while I was at the public library one day, I picked up a copy of “Creating Disney Magic” by Lee Cockerell. We had just been to Orlando the month before, so I was curious to see what were the “secrets” behind Disney leadership strategies.


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When I was working on my Master’s degree, my chair suggested that I consider doing some Think Aloud Protocols with the writing raters in order to better understand their rating process. I had read a few articles that used this technique, so I falet fairly confident that it was appropriate, but I wanted a book reference that described the method and its appropriateness in L2 research. That’s when another committee member suggested I check out a new book by Gass and Mackey (2005), which I did. Although the text did have a short section on verbal reports, it did not contain the detail I was hoping for.

That’s why Gass and Mackey expanded on the data elcicitation part of that orginial book, and published a new one dedicated exclusively to L2 research data gathering.

Gass, S. M. & Mackey, A. (2007). Data elicitation for second and foreign language research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

I won’t go into great detail about this book except to say that I think it’s a great reference for language researchers who want to investigate a variety of research questions, but want to gain additional insight into the theory and practice of standard and emerging data gathering methods. In any case, this book has cause me to further consider the fact that my dissertation needs to be based on good qualitative research, and the test data and scores should just be a compliment rather than the other way around.

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Last week, I spent a half hour in the depths of the university library searching through the P/PE stacks (the call number section of linguistics and language teaching). I picked up a few books that I hadn’t read before, including this volume that focuses on language learning contexts in India and the Middle East.

Singh, G. (2006). Summarisation skills: An analysis in text comprehension and production. In V. Narang (Ed.), Contemporary Themes and Issues in Language Pedagogy (pp. 17-32). Delhi, India: Nagri Printers.

This chapter summarizes research (from the 1980s) on summarization skills, and then applies those concepts and methodologies to an analysis of summaries generated by graduate student English language students in India. The results suggest that even graduate students struggle to understand source texts and write effective summaries. (more…)

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Here’s another article that I found during the fall, but didn’t get around to formally reviewing until now.

Mateos, M., Martin, E., Villalon, R., & Luna, M. (2008). Reading and writing to learn in secondary education: online processing activity and written products in summarizing and synthesizing tasks. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 21, 675-697.

This article is different from most I have been reading. Rather than deal with L2 learners, it deals with L1 high school students in Spain. The research team explore how these students approach summary and synthesis tasks in terms of processing activities and the quality of the final written products.  My full reaction follows the jump.


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I just picked this one up off the latest edition of Language Testing journal. I’m always a little cautious of ETS articles written only by ETS researchers. They invariably tend to support ETS practices and promote ETS products. Still, they do lots of research and serve as a model for lots of interesting approaches to language testing, so I don’t begrudge – I just take anything they publish with a grain of salt. After all, any researcher regardless of the institutional association has some agenda or other.

Here’s the reference, and the review is after the jump:

Sawaki, S. Stricker, L. J., and Oranje, A. H. (2008). Factor structure of the TOEFL Internet-based test. Language Testing, 26, 5-30.


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