Research Student: Handan Lu
An investigation into screen reading comprehension for ESL students in the academic study
Submission Date: October 2018
University students nowadays are increasingly exposed to electronic learning materials with the high frequent use of digital libraries and Internet database. Academic professionals tend to provide teaching materials through a campus network such as WebCT or VLE etc. To this end, the ability of reading digitised texts is considered to be an important “electronic literacy” (Simpson, 2005; Richards, 2000) in the academic environment. A number of researchers have investigated the issue of screen reading by students in higher education. However, previous research mainly focuses on native-speaker of English (NS) but little explores how English as second language students (ESL) read digital texts.
My research aims to bridge the gap exploring ESL students’ reading experiences with electronic texts in the academic study. It is concerned with a central question, whether the medium of text presentation (screen and print) has an effect on academic reading comprehension and strategy use. My research is based on a mix-method approach combing an experiment design and follow-up interviews.
My undergraduate degree was in English language and Literature at my hometown Wuhan, China, 2011. During my undergraduate, I spent one year studying as a culture exchange student at the University of Maryland, USA. I had my Master’s degree in MSc TESOL at the University of Edinburgh, 2012. For the following two years and a half I taught academic preparation courses in my hometown for students who wished to study in an English-speaking universities. My main responsibility was to help university students to get through the gate-keeper English language proficiency tests such as IELTS, TOEFL and GRE. My previous teaching and studying experience lit my pursuit into a PhD degree at University of Leeds in 2015.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
My motivation into screen academic reading originated from my own study experience in an English medium university. I am curious about why some students prefer to read on computer screen or digital devices but some others get used to print versions. It leads me to consider whether it is beneficial or detrimental for university students to read on screen for academic purpose.
My curiosity continued as I taught academic preparation courses for ESL students in China. I personally found testing reading on a computer screen challenging but motivating. I remembered my young adult students complained how they were struggling in reading on screen; but through practice and training they became confident and came to enjoy reading. Surely this change was not just the result of preparing for an academic reading test. However, can it be an effective tool for teachers to teach and students to learn? Should it be considered an essential reading ability to tackle real academic reading in future English-medium environment? These inquiries motivated me to deepen my knowledge in the relevant academic fields.
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
I hope that getting a PhD will enhance my expertise knowledge and abilities for a future academic career. I will work as a teacher and researcher in China and devote to helping ESL students who wish to study at English-medium universities.