This paper explores whether the reading comprehension of complex texts can be facilitated through an online reading platform designed for novice readers with English proficiencies below the Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) threshold. We hypothesize that computer-mediated text glosses could speed up lower-level processing in the readers’ working memory and thus enhance the overall comprehension of complex texts for study purposes. We tested 46 participants with estimated International English Language Testing System (IELTS) reading scores between 5 and 5.5, sampled from a pool of 1,406 students who took a diagnostic reading test and 631 students who completed a survey on their reading practices. Our participants were randomly assigned to read one General Reading IELTS text and one Academic Reading IELTS text, either on an on-screen Word file or on the e-reading platform with the glossing tool. The tests were video-recorded and the participants completed post-test interviews for further qualitative analysis. While the Mixed-model ANOVA did not suggest an interaction effect between the two language proficiency categories and the mode in which the tests were administered, it revealed a main effect on the use of online reading (p < 0.01) across the 5–5.5 IELTS spectrum, indicating that the electronic glosses enhanced reading comprehension. Implications for further research and pedagogy are discussed.
Bibliographical noteThis work was supported by a teaching development grant from the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (grant number SG171818).
- design-based research
- electronic glossing
- e-reading instruction