A Comment on “Extensive Reading” Combined with Study Abroad
Submitted for publication
O’Neil and Edelman (2020) reported that including an “extensive reading” requirement as part of a study abroad program “had a negative effect on reading affect” (p. 251).
Their subjects were two similar groups of undergraduates studying science and engineering in Japan who participated in a program in the United States that lasted for one month. It included lectures and field trips in science and the local culture, interaction with local university students, and workshops on research in which students presented reports in areas of their interest. The experimental group engaged in extensive reading and controls did not. Questionnaires were administered to both group four months before the program began, at the end of the program, and one year later.
The experimental group experienced a clear decline in their opinion of the “practical value” of the reading program at the end of the program and this opinion had not changed one year later. They also felt more negative about the educational value of the reading program, but when asked one year later, their opinions on this issue were the same as those of control subjects.
This result is clearly inconsistent with the results of a large number of studies showing that programs that encourage self-selected pleasure reading are valued by students (Krashen, 2004, 28-34) and produce clear gains in language development (Mason and Krashen, 2017).
But the “extensive reading” program described by O’Neill and Edelman was not self-selected pleasure reading: it was forced reading (a minimum number of books per week was required), selected from limited range of books to choose from (only books from the Oxford Bookworm Series were made available), and highly constrained book reports were required in which students had to answer specific questions about each book. The decline in attitudes is consistent with what has previously been reported on the effects of book reports and lack of choice (Krashen, 2004, p. 127-128).
O’Neil and Edelman conclude that extensive reading should not be combined with study abroad programs. My conclusion is that extensive reading programs, as described here, should be not used at all.1
1. Also of interest is the finding that self-selected pleasure reading programs have been shown to be superior to at least some kinds of study-abroad experiences and “immersion” situations in terms of second language acquisition (Mason and Krashen, 2017).
O’Neill, B. & Edelman, C. (2020). Assessing the efficacy of extensive reading during study abroad: A time and place for ER? International Journal of Teaching and Educational Research, 19(6), 251-266.
Krashen, S. (2004). The power of reading. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Second edition.
Mason, B., & Krashen, S. (2017). Self-selected reading and TOEIC performance: Evidence from case histories. Shitennoji University Bulletin, 63, 469-475. https://tinyurl.com/yc9tc8ha
Mason, B., & Krashen, S. (2019). Hypothesis: A Class Supplying Rich Comprehensible Input is More Effective and Efficient than “Immersion.” IBU Journal of Educational Research and Practice, 7: 83-89. https://tinyurl.com/y4zdwmmz