Metacognitive awareness and strategy use in academic English reading among adult English as a Second Language (ESL) students

Yuko Iwai


This mixed method research study explored the role of metacognitive awareness in reading among adult English as a Second Language (ESL) students of various academic levels enrolled in a university in the southeastern part of the United States of America while engaged in academic reading. In addition, this study examined metacognitive reading strategies employed by those students. In the quantitative portion of the study, 98 students responded to the Survey of Reading Strategies (SORS) instrument and a background information questionnaire. The SORS measured metacognitive awareness and use of reading strategies. In the qualitative portion of the study, six students (two English Language Institute [ELI], two undergraduate, and two graduate) participated in semi-structured interviews, including examinations of their academic reading materials. The quantitative results showed that the ELI students reported the most frequent use of metacognitive reading strategies, compared to the undergraduate and graduate students as measured by the SORS. Analysis of the data showed no positive correlations between the students' academic performance measured by grade point averages (GPAs) and their scores of overall and sub-scales on the SORS. The analysis did not show any relationships between the students' self-rated English reading proficiency and their scores on the overall and sub-scales on the SORS. The qualitative results suggested that participating students at different academic levels were aware of metacognitive reading strategies when engaged in academic reading. Key reading strategies used by these students included adjusting reading speed and selecting strategies for different purposes, using prior knowledge, inferring text, marking text, focusing on typographical features, and summarizing. When encountering challenges in reading comprehension, the students interviewed said they used context clues, re-read, and depended on supportive resources. In addition, examination of reading strategies in first language (L1) and second language (L2) reading indicated that the participants used similar strategies in both L1 and L2 reading. Reading speed, use of dictionaries, and languages used for monitoring were identified to be different. Based on the findings, implications for students, teachers, and researchers to improve reading strategies were discussed. Recommendations for further research were also given.