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    THẠC SĨ The impact of extensive reading on students'

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  6. The impact of extensive reading on students'

    INTRODUCTION

    I.1. Background to the study.
    The University of Labour and Social Affairs (ULSA) is a university which was upgraded from the College of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs in 2005. Like other universities in Vietnam, this university is responsible for the training of skilled students to meet the demand of the society in the process of industrialization and modernization. There are faculties in the university namely Accounting, Insurance, Labour Management, and Social Affairs with about 1.200 students being trained at the moment. However, this number is increasing because of the expansion of the university.
    Every year, graduates from ULSA are sent to work in various economic fields such as national and local resorts, the state and joint-venture companies, enterprises located in Hanoi as well as throughout the country. With the direction of globalization in our society nowadays, foreign languages- especially English seems to be a very important condition for them to get a job. ULSA graduates are supposed to be able to use English to communicate as well as to read materials. However, a lot of ULSA graduates miss their job opportunities because of their poor English proficiency.
    Being aware of the problem posed to their students, ULSA authorities have implimented some specific innovations in order to raise the quality of training in their own context, among which is the change of teaching and learning English at the institution. These attempts can be seen in the curriculum of the school which allocates outnumber of periods for English among other school subjects and their encouragement to the English teaching staff to renovate their teaching methods. During their course at the university, students are given 330 class-hours of English ( each class-hour equals forty five minutes) of which 150 are spent on the course book Lifeline Elementary and divided equally in the first and the second semester of the first year ( each semester covers 75 class hours). In the rest 180 class hours, students must take English for Special Purposes (ESP) courses with the book " English for Labour and Social Affairs" compiled by the English Division of the university. In this course English learning focuses mainly on reading. However, after finishing the course book Lifeline-Elementary the students still have a lot of difficulties with new words and new grammar structures which affect their learning.
    Our observations and our experience of teaching English at ULSA suggested us to think that English teaching at the institution tend to focus exclusively on intensive reading, concentrating on the teaching of grammar and vocabulary in relatively short texts via post-reading exercises, often ending up demanding a translation of the passage into Vietnamese word by word with extensive use of a dictionary. The pedagogical result of this approach is that students read slowly, without a communicative purpose and they have had a passive way of learning that is students only perform what their teachers ask them to do. This results in students finding English very difficult especially when they have to deal with ESP.
    Facing the problem of finding an appropriate way to help our students improve their English not only to do well in their exams but also to use it effectively when they go to work after graduating, and encouraged by researches on the benefits of extensive reading for students' English language learning and skills development, I decided to conduct an experimental research on the topic to gain a better understanding about extensive reading and its effects on the students' reading comprehension in the context of ULSA.
    I. 2.Aims of the study
    In an effort to provide more empirical evidence with regard to the actual impact of ER in ULSA setting, the present study takes a control and an experimental groups and measures their reading test scores before and after ER treatment in order to investigate the efficacy of exposing ULSA students to ER techniques. The purpose of the investigation was also to find out how fruitful students find the extensive program through the questionnaires distributed to the learners.
    I.3. Research hypotheses and question.
    In order to gain the above purpose the study was designed to test the following hypotheses:
    ã Null hypothesis: The students who take part in the program get the same result measured in a post-test and have the same improvement in their reading skills as those who do not.
    ã Alternative hypothesis: Students who receive extra reading practice will perform better overall in a post test and have some improvement in their reading skill in comparison to those who not have extra reading practice.
    So as to draw the conclusion on the hypothesis, the study is to get the answer to the following question:
    Does an extensive reading program have a positive effect on students' reading comprehension in the context of ULSA?
    I.4. Research method.
    Research design can be thought of as the structure of research -- it is the "glue" that holds all the elements in a research project together. Therefore, it requires the researcher's prudence and caution to single out among a variety of research methods the one that best suits the aims and objectives of the study.
    As stated previously, this study is aimed to examine the effectiveness of extensive reading on students' reading comprehension at ULSA, therefore, the best method to be used in this study is experimental research. Experimental designs are proved to be especially useful in addressing evaluation questions about the effectiveness and impact of programs, as Salkind has pointed out that in an experimental research" One factor is related to another in such a way that changes in that factor are usually causally related to changes in the other. So, it is not just a relationship where two variables share something in common (as in the case with a correlation relationship); it is much more. They share something, but one directly affects the other." (Salkind, 2006; 127). The three designs within the scope of experimental method are true-experimental, quasi-experimental and pre-experimental designs. They are different from one another in terms of the degree to which they impose control over the variables being studied and the degree of randomness that enters into the design. (Salkind, 2006; 218). Considering the conditions in which the study would be carried out, the quasi-experimental design is chosen for the study for the following reasons. Firstly, the subjects of the study have already been assigned prior to the study. In this study, two classes of first-year students were assigned to the researcher as well as a teacher by the person who was in charge of arranging the teaching schedule for the teaching staff. In addition to this, the two classes in the study were not removed from the normal teaching and learning context. This characteristic made up the external validity of the study which helps to increase the validity of the later generalization of the result to the population. Involving the generalization of the results, extraneous variables need controlling prior to the experimental like the gender, the group size, etc. To control the group size, some students were removed from the researcher's observation and study during the experiment. That is, though these students received the same treatment either in the control group or experimental group, their records were not counted in the study. With regard to the disproportion in gender, three male students in the control group were removed to make the number of male students in this group equal to that of the experimental group.
    Since all the participants were Vietnamese of the same age and had lived in Vietnam since they were born, they were considered to be of the same level of social and cultural background. In addition to this, their English readiness was the same according to their scores in the placement test they had done.
    Apart from the quasi-experimental design that acts as the main method of the study, a post-program questionnaire was also designed and administered to the subjects to collect their feedback to the extensive reading program. According to Seliger and Shohamy (1995), questionnaire is an attractive means of collecting data on phenomena, which are not easily observed, such as motivation, attitude, LLS use, etc . They also point out that the questionnaire is self-administered and can be given to large groups of subjects at exactly the same time; hence the data are more uniform, standard and accurate. In the questionnaire of this study students were asked about their general impression of the program, their preference of the post- reading activities and other ingredients such as reading materials, time spent on post-reading activities, etc.

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