Concept of Group Work
There is one important concept associated with the learning and teaching activity, namely group work strategy. It is an activity getting students to work together rather than compete. Group work provides opportunities for each student to become actively involved in the thinking task at hand and hereby increase students’ learning (Cohen, 1986).
Group work provides the increase in the amount of students talking time and gives them opportunities to use language to communicate with each other. All students in a group are working to4gether and talking to each other, and more importantly co-operating among them. In other words, group work prepares chances for students to react with and against in a group and therefore there will be greater possibilities of discussion (Reynolds, 1994).
Based on what have been mentioned above, the basic principle behind the group work is to get anyone to participate, and does not allow one or two students in the group to take all the responsibilities. In other words, group work gives chances to every group member to participate but does not permit a certain student to be personally responsible for the outcome, or monopolize the situation.
In addition, one of the major concerns of learning and teaching reading in the classroom is how to group students. Generally, students are grouped in order to counteract the inherent problems of dealing with 20-25 students with every different background and ability. They are usually put into several small groups of which each group consists of four or five students. They can be grouped through at least two criteria that have commonly been used: ‘homogeneous’ and ‘heterogeneous’ groupings. Each of these types of grouping has different feature.
The group work of homogeneity would be exactly the same age, have the same ability in a particular subject, or have exactly the same vocational aspirations. Therefore, the lecturers/teachers will treat all students as if they were the same. Age is the most usual indication of maturation among students, and is therefore the most common basis for grouping students for instruction. However, grouping by age alone does not yield the degree of homogeneity that is necessary for effective teaching. Within any particular age group, there are actually physical differences which influence the acquisition of skill in comprehending a written discourse; differences in affective tempers which influence preferences, desire and motivation; and differences in social and home background experiences which support the work of group or detract from it (Robert et al., 1987).
Pertaining to grouping by ability, group work can be formed by involving students on the basis of similar abilities. Within an ability group, a range of background, interest, learning rates, learning strategies, and abilities are discovered. Furthermore, Turney (1981) states that the main argument of ability grouping is that the same curriculum can be taught to a homogeneous group more effectively than if the group is mixed in ability; that is, a more uniform pace of progress can be known and maintained, and each student is likely to work at her/his full capacity.
Besides, grouping students on a heterogeneous basis is deliberately to mingle students of different ability in the same class. Heterogeneous classes are obviously mixed ability, which implies that the important differences between members of a mixed class are in their language-learning ability. Ur (1996: 302) states, “a heterogeneous class is one that has different kinds of learners in it, as opposed to a ‘homogeneous’ class, where the learners are similar.
In relation to the quotation above, it can be said that a ‘heterogeneous’ class is one that possesses different sorts of students in it. In contrast, a ‘homogeneous’ class is one that has similar students in it. There is in fact no such thing as a ‘homogeneous’ class having exactly the same people, since no two students are really similar; and therefore all classes of more than one student are in reality heterogeneous. In the heterogeneous class, students can also divided into several small groups in which each group sometimes has four or five students of different abilities in learning a certainly written discourse.
Types of Group Work
In group work, students perform a learning task through small-group interaction. Students in a class are divided into several small groups in which each group consists of four or five students. Through group work each student is given chances to take part in a problem-solving group, and expected to more actively involve overcoming the tasks related to the main topic concerned. In group work, students may perform a learning task through several types of group activities such as small-group, and pair work (dyads), and trios.
In terms of group work, Kauchak and Eggen (1998) state that group work involves students collaborating in a group small enough so that every person can participate to solve a task that has been assigned. Likewise, Ur (1996:232) states, “ In group work students perform a learning task through small-group interaction” In the small-group discussion students can learn new language and get feedback from each other.
Besides, small group can be viewed or seen as opportunities for students to review and reinforce what they have already learned, thereby increasing students’ comprehension. The small group discussions permit students debating a certain topic, asking questions and/or making comments. In short, the small-group discussions provide opportunities for student interactions, which can be both instructionally and motivationally beneficial.
In summary, the members of small-group are sticking together to achieve collective ends; then team is a working group when each member is willing to work with the other to achieve group ends, despite individual differences. The members of small-group are hoped to be curious that all members of their group know the task and are able to explain the task whenever they are asked to do it so. They work in four-to five-member groups to discuss a particular topic.
Referring to pair work (dyad), Kagan (1994) states that the simplest form of group work is concerned with organizing students into pairs and offering each pair a task. This strategy motivates and activates students to think about the content, through which they compare their thoughts with those of their partners, and share their answers with the whole group.
Indeed, pair work asserts that students can learn to work with another student more easily than with a larger group. Working in pairs encourages each member of their pairs to express opinions or ideas. In other words, the involvement of the members of each pair is high when pairs are discussing the problem concerned. As stated by Harmer (1983) pair work seems to be a good idea because it immediately increases the amount of student practice. It permits the students to use language and also encourages students cooperation which is itself important for the atmosphere of the class and for the motivation it gives to learning with others.
Again, pair work involves students of the same or different ages acting as tutors for other students. The goal of this kind of organizational strategy is to prepare needed extra helps to students without making a lecturer/teacher busy working. Reviews of Otto and Eldrige (1984) of studies in pair work (peer), cross-age, and adult tutoring indicate there is a positive effect towards the academic performance of both tutor and tutees as a result of interaction.
Theory on Group Work Learning
Group work learning is one of the learning-teaching strategies, which is also founded on Learning Together theory as a cooperative learning model that involves students with four or five member heterogeneous groups on assignments (Johnson and Johnson, 1994). Through this strategy, the groups stress on team-building activities before students start collaborating and regular discussions within group how well they are working together.
Further, Slavin (1995) explains that learning together encourages students collaborating in small groups to help one another learn academic content. Students are expected to discuss and argue with each other, to assess each other’s current knowledge and fill in gaps in each other understand. These characteristics of learning together model are similar with the characteristics of group work.
Cooperative learning is not the same as group work. In line with this statement, Kauchak and Eggen (1998:234) state, “Cooperative learning is more structured than group work, otherwise, the two are quite similar.” In other words, supposing cooperative learning is not more structured, it is really the same as group work. Based on this quotation, it can be said that group work is not much similar with cooperative learning strategy.
The Nature of Reading
Rivers (1980) states that reading is the most important activity in any language class, not only as a source of information and a pleasurably activity, but also as a means of consolidating and extending one’s knowledge of the language.
Based on this statement, it can be said that reading is one of the basic ways of getting information in our society and in academic settings in particular. In other words, reading is a powerful activity that develops in time, with different types of process appearing at different moments. What a student comprehends after having read a passage is the result of these moment-by-moment activities.
In relation to what have been stated above, in the nature of reading students are introduced that reading involves acknowledgement of certain patterns of symbols and these bring specific sounds which form words. They can know with ease particular words, which clarify the function of other words close to them, and words showing logical relationship among parts of sentences or other segments of discourse. They also learn to recognize certain word groups that bring a meaning going beyond the meaning of the individual units of which they are composed. This implies that the students learn to extract from the printed patterns of three levels of meaning: 1) lexical meaning (the semantic content of the words and expression), 2) structural or grammatical meaning which they are from inter-relationships among words, and 3) social cultural meaning (Rivers, 1981).
Generally speaking, the nature of reading process is often introduced with different views by several authors or experts. Bond et al. (1974:4), for instance, state “Growth in reading is developmental in nature. Each of new learning is a kind of an addition to or an expansion or a refinement of the previous attainment. This growth involves the gradual acquisition of skills, which together enable learners (students) to interpret printed symbols correctly and so to enter into meaningful language experiences.”
On the basis of what Bond et al. state above, the nature of reading process in this study is only related to the mature or skilled readers (students), not to the basal readers (students). Therefore, the mature readers or skilled students are not bound to encounter many visually unclear words in which they should not parse the letter string into sets of one or more letters that correspond to phonemic units.
In essence, when a student is reading, she or he tries to get meaning from a printed or written message, when she or he gets the meaning of a verbal message, she or he will comprehend and interpret the words in their particular grammatical functions, and will somehow apprehend the general grammatical patterning of each sentence.
In addition, beyond getting the simple meaning of the text she or he is reading, she or he is probably reacting to it in various ways. She or he may be checking it against her/his own experience or knowledge. She or he may find that it is reminding her/him of the previous thoughts or she or he may begin thinking about its implications for her/his future actions. She or he may make inferences or draw conclusions from what she or he reads that go beyond what is explicitly stated in the text. In doing any or all of these things, she or he may be encouraged to combine ‘bottom-up and top-down’ models, and ‘interactive’ model as being put forward.
The bottom-up model of reading is actually concerned with the process of interpreting print to meaning that begins with print in which a reader decodes the graphic symbols into sounds, then she or he first recognizes the features of letters by combining them together to form words; and then proceeding to recognize the sentences, paragraphs, and text level processing.
According to Gebhard (1996) bottom-up model refers to a process of decoding a message, which the reader reads via the analysis of sounds, words, and grammar. To comprehend written language, we rely on our ability to recognize words, phrases, and sentences.
Likewise, another expert says “bottom-up processing models focus learners on the individual components of written messages, that is the phonemes, graphemes, individual words and grammatical elements which need to be comprehended in order to understand the messages” (Nunan, 1991:4).
In conjunction to the statement above, Nunan continues commenting that the central notion behind the bottom-up model is that reading is basically a matter of decoding a series of written symbols into their aural equivalents. The reader processes each letter as it is encountered. These letters, or graphemes, are matched with the phonemes of the language, which it is assumed the reader already knows. These phonemes as the minimal units of meaning are blended together to form words.
Concerning the above quotations, it can be said that these quotations are practical introductions to the ideas that understanding meanings takes precedence over decoding of letters in either basal reading or advanced reading. Therefore, bottom-up model can be applied to both basal readers and mature/skilled readers when they are taught Reading Comprehension.
In bottom-up models of the reading process according to Harris and Sipay (1980) is that reading is basically a translating, decoding, or encoding process, in which the reader starts with letters (or large units), and as she/he attends to them, begins to anticipate the words they spell. As words are identified, they, then, are recorded to inner speech, from which the reader derives meaning in the same way as in listening.
Marzano et al. (1987:50) state, “The top-down model of reading deals with the emphasis on having the student (a) recognize that reading is a process of obtaining meaning, and (b) utilize his or her knowledge of the world and of information in print to extract meaning.” Based on this quotation, it can be said that to comprehend a printed page, the students rely on their background knowledge connected to the content of what they are reading is called top-down model.
In relation to all mentioned above, the central option of top-down model is focused on a search for meaning or process of matching the information in the text to the reader’s knowledge base on the basis of the top-down model that assumes that reading begins at the schema level and works down to the letter level. In terms of schemata related to top-down models, Anderson (in Singer and Ruddell, 1985) states that in schema-theoretic terms, a reader comprehends a message when he is able to bring to main a schema that gives a good account of the objects and events described in the message. In other words, the top-down model calls for activating schemata and applying them when setting expectations for reading and making reference. It helps the student overcome ambiguities or select between alternative possible interpretations of the incoming data.
The interactive models of reading suggest that readers process a text by using information prepared concurrently from several different sources, and that they can shift deficiency at one level by drawing on knowledge at other levels, namely: higher level processes refer to the processes of understanding a text from schema level – discourse level – syntactic level – word identification level – phonemic level – letter recognition. In contrast, the lower level refers to the processes of understanding a text from letter recognition to schema level. These sources are seen separately in bottom-up and top-down processes (Nunan, 1991).
The reading process involves a complete set of interaction between a reader and a text to derive meaning. A model representing this process assumes that ‘top-down’ or’ conceptual driven’ processing works simultaneously and in conjunction with ‘ bottom-up’ or ‘data driven’ processing to provide a sort of multiplicity of force that jointly determines what readers perceive (Singer and Ruddell, 1985).
Basically, an interactive model of reading assumes that a reader uses both bottom-up and top-down strategies when reading. The top-down process needs to activate schemata and uses them when setting hopes for reading and makes inferences. The reader’s aims and expectations greatly influence what is read and chosen for reading. In contrast, bottom-up processing appears when the reader reads the text and then searches for structures (schemata) within which to fit the next information. The reader searches information from the bottom-up, replacing the earliest expectations with new ones written in the text (Robert et al., 1987).
Likewise, Sweet and Anderson (1993) state that on the basis of interactive process of reading, the reader arranges meaning by combining text information with information, which is already in memory. The interactive model assumes that the information the reader provides and the information on the text influence each other concurrently to produce comprehension. As the reader feels concrete the information from the text, she/he remembers a number of sources of knowledge like the awareness of letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns, knowledge of word meaning, knowledge of syntactic possibilities and language patterns, and memory of the preceding text. The sources interact to help the reader to collect information about the textual input, connect meaning to it, and combine it with what has appeared before. Thus, the reader is able to construct the larger meaning of the text.
Obviously, there is no single strategy of reading since reading varies as a function of who is reading, what she or he is reading, and why she/he is reading. It can be said that the reader’s purpose may be the most urgent decision of the reading process. A reader who skims a passage for the main point reads differently than someone who is attempting to memorize a passage, or another reader who is reading for entertainment. To carry out this purpose of reading, some strategies of reading are presented below.
Under the heading ‘reading strategies’ Spiro et al. (1980) include carefully planful control of activities in which the activities deal with clarifying the goal of reading, that is, understanding the task demands explicitly/implicitly, identifying the aspects of a message that are important, giving attention to the primary content area, monitoring ongoing activities to determine whether the ability to comprehend is appearing, involving review and self-interrogation to decide whether the goals are achieved, picking the true action up when failures in comprehension are discovered, and detecting the obstacles.
To be able to do all what have been stated above, the students are advised to use a particular reading strategy called intensive reading. This strategy provides students with linguistic information about how a text conveys meaning so that the students can use that information in order to understand not only the text under careful inquiry, but any text of their investigations may demand them to cope with since all information in a text is signalled linguistically.
Nuttall (1982:23) states, “The aim of intensive reading is to arrive at a deepest and detailed understanding of the text: not only what it means, but also of how the meaning is produced.” Based on this strategy, the reader (student) is trained to respond the plain sense of words and sentences, and to review their uses, to follow relationships of thought between sentences and paragraphs, and to combine information in the text with her/his own knowledge and/or experience.
In addition, Rivers (1980:278) states, “Intensive reading will provide a basis for explaining difficulties of structure and for extending knowledge of words (vocabulary). It will also provide material for developing greater control of the language in speech and writing.” Bearing in mind the idea of this strategy as a basis for extension of active knowledge of the language, the main purpose of the intensive reading in conjunction to most comprehension lessons is to help students understand the text through the knowledge of vocabulary since good vocabulary and good reading go hand in hand. Unless readers (students) know the meanings of words, they will have difficulty in understanding what they are reading.
Being able to understand the text, readers (students) must be able to master and understand literal and implied meanings of sentences, paragraphs, and larger textual units. They should relate the meanings of the text to their prior knowledge and experience (Ronald et al., 1979).
Through intensive reading strategy, students are directed to answer the plain sense of words and sentences; to recognize the words and/or sentences uses (implications), to follow connections of thought between sentences/paragraphs, and to integrate information in the text with their own previous experiences and/or knowledge. Plain sense refers to essentially factual, deep and surface meanings; words/sentence implications deal with inference deduced information, emotional suggestion and figurative usage; connections of thought concern with sentences and paragraphs and summarizing (Mackay et al., 1979).
Pertaining to what Mackay et al. state above, it can be said that a student at advanced reading through intensive reading strategy, particularly at the university level, needs the ability to recognize and relate series of ideas. Therefore, she or he needs some guidelines for distinguishing ideas and determining relationships. She or he has to recognize the forms as tools for bringing ideas as well as facts in a logical sequence.
Another reading strategy is called ‘questioning strategy.’ Harry and Ruddell (1985) state that grouping and/or pairing students for formulating and asking each other questions resulted in more comprehension than studying alone.” They continued commenting that questions have the function of transferring information from short to long term memory. As students learn the types of questions to ask in a particular subject area and as they acquire background information and frame work for content comprehension, they can ask their own content-relevant questions.
With respect to what have been stated above, Rubin (1982) states that one way to facilitate comprehension from text during reading is to engage students in selves-interrogation strategy as one model of reading strategy. This strategy leads the student to an active comprehension which involves reacting to a text with questions and seeking answers with subsequent reading. In short, this kind of reading strategy encourages the student to (a) set purposes for study, (b) identify and underline important segments of the material, (c) ask questions which require comprehension of the text to be correctly answered, and (d) think of possible answers to the questions (Harry and Ruddell, 1985).
Likewise, Kauchak and Eggen, 1998) state that questioning strategy of Reading Comprehension is used to train students finding out what they know and what they do not know, how they think about the topic through at least three functions of questions: 1) assessing current understanding, 2) increasing learner motivation, and 3) guiding new learning. Firstly, interactive questioning is a useful strategy for informally assessing students’ current understanding of the topic they are reading. Secondly, effective questions increase the learner’s motivation because they engages students, challenge their thinking, and pose problems for them to consider. Thirdly, questioning strategy is concerned with the instructional function which focuses on the role that questions play in helping students interrelate new ideas and integrate new learning with their current understanding.
Perhaps a good starting point for the term ‘reading comprehension, is concerned with its definitions. ‘Reading Comprehension’ is a complex intellectual process involving a number of abilities (Rubin, 1982). Based on this definition, it can be said that Reading Comprehension needs readers (students) to use their cognitive and linguistic abilities while processing a text, which has particular structural organization. These three elements: the cognitive ability of the reader, the linguistic ability of the reader, and the structural organization of the text are closely related to the complex intellectual process.
Although Reading Comprehension definition is different in many ways, it can be argued that Reading Comprehension is an interactive process. It is the result of an interaction between reader resources and text data. According to Singer and Ruddell (1985) reading comprehension is the process of selecting and verifying conceptual schemata to account for the situation to be understood.
Based on the definition above, it can be said that Reading Comprehension is the process of remembering which involves the process of selecting and providing an exact shape of schemata to explain about the memorial fragments discovered. In other words, schemata are the widest organizational files used to keep information, which play a basic role in the reading process.
Furthermore, Rumelhart (1980) states that schemata are fundamental elements upon which all information processing depends. Schemata are used in the process of rendering sensory data (in terms of linguistics and non-linguistics), in getting back information from memory, in organizing actions, in determining aims, in allocating resources, and, widely in directing the stream of processing in the system.
On the basis of Rumelhart’s opinions mentioned above, it can be said that a schema theory is basically a theory about knowledge – a theory about how knowledge is presented and about how that representation facilitates the use of the knowledge in certain ways in which all knowledge is wrapped into units called schemata. These schemata are data structures for representing the general concept in memory about knowledge of all concepts such as underlying objects, situations, events, sequence of events and actions. In short, schemata play some main roles in comprehending things, and affect students’ abilities to comprehend or interpret a text (Flood, 1984).
Another opinion about the process of Reading Comprehension stated by Spiro et al. (1980) is that the process of Reading Comprehension involves such things as abstracting the main ideas, understanding sequences of events, knowing the author’s purposes, and drawing inferences. Based on these opinions, it can be argued that reading comprehension is a complex intellectual process involving a number of abilities, which are concerned with word meanings and reasoning with verbal concepts.
In line with the above abilities, students can comprehend a text through recalling experiences and meanings with the graphic symbols. They understand a text by interpreting words in the context and selecting the meaning that fits the context. They are able to comprehend a text by giving meaning to units of increasing size (the phrase, clause, sentence and paragraph). They comprehend a text by making inferences, by recognizing the author’s purpose, and by recognizing literary and semantic devices (Rubin, 1982).
Levels of Reading Comprehension
Reading Comprehension involves thinking in which the levels of Reading Comprehension can be distinguished on the basis of the hierarchy of thinking. Therefore, the various levels of comprehension are obviously classified into some categories. Each category is cumulative in that each builds on the others.
Each expert introduces different levels of Reading Comprehension but she/he comments them in the same purpose. For instance, Durkin (1978) presents ‘three levels of comprehension such as 1) literal comprehension, 2) interpretative or inferential comprehension, and 3) critical reading. Whereas, Harris and Sipay (1980) classify four levels of comprehension, e.g.: (a) literal comprehension, (b) interpretation which refers to the probing for greater depths of meanings, (c) critical reading which means the evaluating and passing of personal judgment, and (d) creative reading which starts with an inquire and goes beyond implications derived from the text. Likewise, Nuttall (1982:32) states, “there are five levels of comprehension, viz.: (1) literal comprehension, (2) reorganization or reinterpretation, (3) inference, (4) evaluation, and (5) personal or creative response.” Another expert, Rubin (1982) presents four kinds of comprehension level, i.e.: (a) literal comprehension, (b) interpretation, (c) critical reading, and (d) creative reading. While, Spiro et al. (1980) introduce three levels of comprehension, e.g.: literal comprehension, interpretative (or inferential), and critical reading.
Literal comprehension is the retrieval from written discourse of what is explicitly stated. Often, explicit has to do with detail (Durkin, 1978). As stated by Harris and Sipay (1980) literal comprehension is the simplest level of comprehension and the one that makes the least demands on reasoning. Research indicates that questions calling for literal meaning are the kinds most frequently asked by elementary school teachers.
Likewise, Rubin (1982) states that literal comprehension represents the ability to achieve a low-level type of understanding by using only information that is explicitly stated. Answers to literal questions simply demand that the students recall from memory what the text says. Whereas, Nuttall (1982) comments that literal comprehension deals with questions whose answers are directly available in the text. Questions of this kind could often be answered in the words of the text itself. In other words, the answers of literal query are stated explicitly in the text.
Accordingly, Spiro et al. (1980) state that literal comprehension refers to word meanings, context clues, sentence meanings, and paragraph organization – the ability to derive explicit meanings from a text. Whereas, Carnine et al. (1990) state that literal comprehension is in the simplest written comprehension exercise since in the literal comprehension exercises, the answers are directly stated in passage, and it is usually used for basal readers or low level readers of reading comprehension.
Interpretative comprehension actually means the same as inferential comprehension. Based on this category, students read to find out what the author says and means, and how to use the idea (Singer and Ruddell, 1980). On the basis of this category of Reading Comprehension, it can be said that in making inferences or interpretations readers go beyond surface details and ‘read between the lines’ to obtain information logically.
When students read, certainly, they develop ideas from exact information they have before. Concrete details in what they read provide the basis of their previous knowledge. Sometimes not every bit of information is easily apparent or clearly stated; therefore, students have to build upon with their own knowledge and prior experience in order to understand something fully.
Rubin (1982) states that interpretation (inference) is the next step in the hierarchy. This category demands a higher level of thinking ability because the questions in the category of interpretation are concerned with answers that are not directly stated in the text but are suggested or implied. In other words, interpretive or inferential comprehension involves several reading skills: (1) determining word meaning from context, (2) finding main idea, (3) reading between the lines or drawing inferences, (4) drawing conclusion, (5) making generalization, (6) recognizing analogies.
Likewise, Nuttall (1982) states that interpretation or inference is considerably more difficult than that the literal comprehension is, because its questions need students to understand the text well enough to work out its implication. Its questions oblige the students to read between the lines. It suggests students to consider what is implied but not explicitly stated.
Further, Wiener and Bazerman (1988) state that inference or interpretation is a process by which a reader (student) uses indications to collect information. In making inferences, the student goes beyond surface details and “reads between the lines” to gain information logically. By this level of Reading Comprehension, it can be said that when the student reads, obviously, she or he develops ideas from the precise information she or he has before her/him. Factual details in which she or he reads prepare the basis of her/his knowledge.
In line with what has been stated above, it can be commented that when making inferences/interpretation, a student has to be cautious not to step too far beyond the information at hand. Otherwise, her/his inferences might be incorrect. To avoid being wrong in making inferences, the student’s inferences must be based on valid, available information, not simply unclear predictions or guesses.
Another comment stated by Spiro et al. (1980) under interpretive or inferential reading, the authors include: reaching conclusions, drawing inferences from what is read, identifying purposes, anticipating outcomes, recognizing the main idea, and making generalisation.
Critical Reading (Evaluation or Judgments)
As stated by Spiro et al. (1980) critical reading is also called judgment reading or evaluation reading that is concerned with recognizing the diversity between facts and opinions, recognizing the logic of arguments, and judging the appropriateness of arguments and conclusions. In addition, Rubin (1982) states that critical reading is at a higher level than the other two categories such as literal and interpretive comprehensions since it involves evaluation, the making of a personal judgment on the accuracy, value, and truthfulness of what is read.
In line with what has been stated above, it can be stated that before students are asked to read critically, they must be able to distinguish between facts and opinions. They must recognize that facts are statements that tell what really happens or really is the case. They must understand that a fact is based on direct evidence. Further, students must also know that opinions are statements of belief, judgment, or feeling. In essence, they must recognize that opinions show what a person thinks about a subject in which solid opinions, of course, are based on facts.
Harris and Smith (1986) state that critical reading is the ability to apply relevant criteria in examining a selection. It is the judgment of the truthfulness, validity, and value of what is read, based on criteria or standards developed via previous knowledge and experience. Further, critical reading involves analysis and judgment in evaluating written material through which the reader interprets the writer’s message accurately.
In addition, Carnine et al. (1990) present several steps used in the critical reading process that can be regarded as essential component skills: (1) identifying the author’s conclusion; (2) distinguishing fact from opinion; and (3) determining the truthfulness of fact. In terms of identifying the author’s conclusion, the students should be able to select the main idea and list supporting details from the passage that guide them to draw conclusion. In terms of distinguishing facts from opinions, the students should recognize that when a person says something that obviously happened, she/he really states a fact but when she/he feels, thinks, or believes that something has happened, actually, she/he expresses an opinion.
Harris and Sipay (1980:495) state, “Creative reading may be described as going beyond understanding of the reading matter to arrive at the new ideas or conclusion.” Whereas, Rubin (1982:108) states, “Creative reading uses different thinking skills to go beyond literal comprehension, interpretation, and critical reading levels. In creative reading, the reader attempts to involve with new or alternative solutions to those presented by the writer/author.”
Harris and Smith (1986) state that creative reading primarily deals with combining the reading experience into the knowledge and feelings of the reader and with producing a response unique to each individual. It fosters different thinking whether the results are stated orally, in writing, through motion or via an art form.
Referring to what have been mentioned above, creative reading deals with the divergent thinking that has to do with various different ways of viewing things, looking beyond the actual new ideas or alternative solutions with which readers (students) are encouraged to attempt solving the problems in many different ways. In other words, creative reading helps students to recognize that divergent thinking needs that students may go beyond the truth and that they seek alternate ways to overcome problems. Further, Harris and Smith (1986) state that creative reading fosters different thinking whether the results are orally, in writing, through motion or via an art form. It primarily deals with combining the reading experience into the knowledge and feelings of the reader and with producing a response unique to each individual.
Components of Reading Comprehension
The process of Reading Comprehension involves a complex set of interaction between a student and a text to derive meaning. This process incorporates several important interactive components of Reading Comprehension which play an urgent role in understanding a printed page, for instance, syntactic knowledge, lexical knowledge and text structure knowledge which are wrapped in one package called “language knowledge.” As stated by Singer and Ruddell (1985:766), “Language knowledge includes lexical, syntactic, and text structure knowledge necessary to the understanding and production of language.”
Furthermore, Singer and Ruddell (1985) continue stating that reading is a linguistic process and needs language knowledge if the reader/student is to form a representation of the text. This process makes use of the reader’s syntactic, lexical, and text structure knowledge. These components of reading play important roles in comprehending a text since if they are absent in the reader’s knowledge, the reader cannot rend or comprehend messages in a text.
The development of syntactic knowledge is a process that begins very early and directly influences the comprehension of the text. The knowledge of syntax permits the reader to compile messages into larger units than single words. Thus, with improving syntactic knowledge, the reader develops the ability to divide words into larger meaningful segments (Singer and Ruddell, 1985).
Syntax is the essential means by which learners can specify the designed relation among words. Thus, it serves combination not only by disambiguating the referents of the words but also by defining the new relations among them (Spiro et al., 1980). Based on this statement, it is clear that syntactic knowledge is a primary proportion of linguistic competence in general in which Reading Comprehension requires a syntactic awareness because if the reader does not have the important competence to organize written material into syntactic constituents, both memory and comprehension for the material will suffer.
Additionally, another role of syntax in language processing is to start with the means of language that allows a message to be presented only in sequential fashion the reader’s knowledge of, and expectations about, syntax helps her/him to integrate the meaning of the sequential representation of the information. If the sequential information is not expressed in a familiar structure, the reader has difficult case interpreting it (Marzano et al., 1987).
On the basis of what have been stated above, the students must recognize several aspects of syntax. First, they must know how single words are combined to form larger syntactic units, for examples, a noun and a verb to form a sentence, a determiner, an adjective and a noun to make a noun phrase. Second, they must master simple syntactic rules, namely those used to generate the passive or the negative, which modify the order of the constituents or introduce auxiliary verbs or function words where necessary. Third, they must recognize how single syntactic rules are integrated to generate complex sentences.
Furthermore, another role of syntactic knowledge is to help students parse the meaning of the sequential representations of the information. If the sequential information is not presented in a familiar structure, the students have difficulty interpreting it (Robert et al., 1987). Based on this premise, syntactic knowledge must be taught to the students because it helps students organize information into units of meaning larger than the word. It helps them parse the meaning of the sequential representation of the information.
The learning of a lexical word involves learning the set of relationships into which it enters with other words in the language, which is called its ‘sense of relationships’: incompatibility, synonymy, antonym, hyponymy, polysemy, and so on. In relation to this set of relationships, Singer and Ruddell (1985) state that the lexical knowledge is concerned with the knowledge of vocabulary and word meanings. It is very important to the reading process.
Based on the statement stated above, the problems of comprehending a written material are usually caused by the lack of understanding the words in a text. Therefore, the learning of Reading Comprehension course must always be related to the semantic approach in which vocabulary also play important roles because to be able to comprehend or interpret a written text, a reader must have a lot of vocabulary and background knowledge (schemata) of semantic.
Text Structure Knowledge
The text structure knowledge is an important part of language knowledge. It deals with the general forms of oral and written text on the basis of the form of structure schemata (Singer and Ruddell, 1985). Based on this quotation, it can be said that to understand printed materials, the reader must make a wide variety of inferences based on schemata that represent the reader’s knowledge of relevant non-linguistic information. In short, understanding text requires an analysis at many different levels and requires the interplay of linguistic knowledge and schemata-based knowledge of the world.
Considering to what have been mentioned above, the schemata students have, obviously contain the “previous information/experiences.” These schemata (background knowledge) are used to interact with ‘new information/experiences’ as readers are reading. Likewise, schemata also play several important roles in comprehending a text since they help students process the text at a deeper level.
Bearing in mind the text structure knowledge, students are expected to be able to recognize the text whether it is narrative or expository because these two terms are obviously different each other. The students must be able to know the probable structure of the text and form expectations for the structure of the content. They must recognize that the narrative text can have characters, story telling, characters’ problems and goals, episode, attempt to overcome problems and resolution, while the expository text has divergent expository structures namely: cause and effect patterns, descriptive and informational patterns, problem and solution pattern, and comparison and contrast patterns (Singer and Ruddell, 1985).
Further, other characteristics of organizational design also contribute to complexity of expository materials such as cause-effect relationships, comparison and contrast are common in expository materials, especially in science and social studies textbooks. It is clear that expository reading is chopped by headings and subheadings; references to glossaries, pronunciation keys and graphic aids.
Factors Affecting Comprehension
The success or failure in comprehending a written text actually depends on many factors. These factors are classified into several categories: (a) linguistic knowledge, (b) psychological factors, and (c) instructional text.
Linguistic knowledge refers to the reader’s ability to handle effectively the language components of the text – this is syntax, semantic, pragmatics and discourse. All together, these linguistic elements influence comprehension in reading. Therefore, the students must master these elements before the written materials are offered to comprehend.
It is widely admitted that when a reader is reading a printed text, she/he has at least three types of information available in the act of reading. The first two are syntax and semantic clues, which the reader uses in anticipating the content. She or he then uses the third type of information, graphic representation. She or he uses whatever graphic clues she or he needs for meaning, and she or he then checks the accuracy of her/his reading by the sense it makes.
As Flood (1984) states that semantic and syntactic knowledge refer to knowledge of word meanings in the context of various structures, for instance, comprehension of the sentence. “The cat killed the mice” needs knowledge of the meaning of each morpheme in the sentence (cat, kill, -ed, mice) and the relation between morphemes (the modifies cat and mice; the cat is the subject and the mice is the object; -ed modifies kill).
The psychological factors deal with students’ motivation, attitudes, and interest. Thus, motivation is the term used to describe what energizes a person and what directs her/his activity. In other words, the word motivation is used to describe a desire, need, or desire to do something. It can be applied to behaviour in a wide variety of situation. Further, one use of the concept of motivation is to describe a general tendency to struggle to particular types of goals. In this sense, motivation is often seen a relatively stable personality characteristic (Slavin, 1997).
In line with the statement above, the motivation of students is very essential because motivation can serve as both an objective in itself and a means for further achievement of other educational objectives. As a tool, motivation becomes one factor affects in learning to comprehend the text. In short, motivation determines whether students will gain the knowledge, understanding, or skills that we want them to have. As stated by Singer and Ruddell (1980) motivation is an inherent and inseparable dimension of thought, in the sense that it is part of the ongoing process of intellectual activity which influences in reading. Likewise, Robert et al. (1987) state that motivation is a key component of reading process. It is responsible for much of the performance relative to reading.
It is necessary to comment here that motivation and attitudes are closely interrelated in the sense that motivation is strongly influenced by attitudes. If the certain attitudes are present in a particular situation, then students are motivated; if these attitudes are absent, then students are unmotivated (Robert et al., 1987).
In conclusion, the students’ attitudes toward something consist of their feeling for or against what they imagine that thing to be. So an attitude involves emotion (feeling), directionality (for or against), an object (the something), and cognitive elements (what the students imagine the object to be). If a student likes language in terms of the reading subject, it means she or he gets pleasure out of being involved in activities that represent language (the reading subject) for her/him. She or he is likely to seek out activities toward which positive attitudes are held. In essence, attitudes, like motives, arouse and direct purposeful activity.
Furthermore, students with an interest in the reading subject tend to pay much attention to it. These students probably feel that it makes a difference to them, and that is why they want to become fully aware of its character. They enjoy dealing with it either for what it can guide to or for its own sake. Their attention level is high, their work output is sustained or supported, and their satisfaction is great. Their interest can refer to selection of stimuli or attending to something. Thus, it is possible to say that the reading comprehension subject will simply not be noticed and not be attended to unless interest in the object, event, or ideas is present.
In line with the category of the instructional text, Reading Comprehension instruction tends to focus on helping all students to be more active as they read, activate their schemata and knowledge about particular topic(s) in reading passage (Sweet and Anderson, 1993). Likewise, a primary purpose of reading instruction is to enable the students to gain meanings from written language (Harris and Sipay, 1980).
The main goal of the statement above can be achieved if the text selected for reading instruction can create students’ interest to read, and are suitable to the students’ level both in the vocabulary contents and structural complexity of the texts. Further, for the development of comprehension, students must be motivated and encouraged to read a great deal. This will only be possible if the subject matter provided is of real interest to them and suitable for their age level.
Being able to achieve the idea of what have been mentioned above, a lecturer/teacher of English must consider the selection of texts for receptive skills work. She or he must filter the reading texts for use in the English language class, which represent the kind of the text by which the students are required to read for information in the course of their studies. She or he selects the text taken from the specific area of the field upon which the students are engaged. She or he chooses the texts that should be one aimed at neither a broader nor a narrower readership than the students represent. After she or he selects the texts from the particular area of the field upon which the students are engaged, she or he must filter the texts that should be no more advanced than students’ knowledge of the area.
The belief about learning is that cooperative behaviour is stimulating not only socially but also intellectually and, hence, learning tasks should be associated with student activities for developing students’ communication and social skills through group discussions. In other words, learning is essentially a social process then using group for learning is more likely to be effective than if it is limited to more individualistic approaches. Based on this belief, there are more reasons for using groups when the goal is to learn about group processes, to develop the skills necessary in working with others in problem solving or planning, to obtain an understanding of the difficulties which can arise in groups, or to develop self-confidence via expressing and defending one’s own ideas.
A further reason for using group work in education is that this process of collective enquiry provides students for a society based on democratic principles. Not only do students learn better in this way, not only does group work reflect more realistically the way knowledge is generated, but also learning in group work helps develop individual to be able to live and work participate and to support a society based on those ideas.
Learning through group work involves more than an exchange of ideas and information. In a certain design, the relationships defined between students of each group will affect how much is learned and the quality of learning. However, more than that, these develop social processes inevitably form the part of the students’ experiences of the activity through at least three types of group work namely, small groups, and a pair work (peer, dyad and trio).
Group work is based on the cooperative learning theory in terms of Learning Together theory. Learning Together theory itself shares the ideas that students work together to learn and are responsible for their teammate’s learning as well as their own, and so does group work.
Reading is a process of gaining meanings of words in a text in which at least three primary processes play roles in comprehending the text. The important processes are classified into bottom-up, top-down, and interactive processes. The processes may reflect the strategies of reading such as intensive reading.
Being able to do what have been mentioned above, readers (students) must recognize other elements of Reading Comprehension that can help them understand a text through the components of reading comprehension, e.g. syntactic, lexical, and text structure knowledge. The students who do not have knowledge of these components will get difficulties or trouble in learning the reading comprehension course because those components are the basic tools of reading comprehension in understanding the text.
Further, the components of Reading Comprehension mentioned above, can be achieved through several levels of Reading Comprehension, such as literal comprehension, interpretive/inferential comprehension, critical (evaluation or judgment) reading, and creative reading. These levels are obviously important categories, which lead students to improve their English in comprehending the text. The students’ knowledge of Reading Comprehension can be observed and evaluated through these levels since these levels are generally involved and applied in examining how far students achieve Reading Comprehension course.
A number of factors affecting comprehension are linguistic knowledge, psychological factors, and instructional text. The linguistic knowledge refers to syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse. The psychological factors deal with motivation, attitudes and interest. The last factor is the instructional text, which helps students to activate their schemata and knowledge about special topic(s) in the reading passage. In short, the success or failure in comprehending the written discourse basically depends on those factors mentioned above. Therefore, students must pay much attention to them and simultaneously master them.