ESL Students’ Reading Behaviors on Multiple-Choice Items at Differing Proficiency Levels: An Eye-Tracking Study

Theorists have been concerned with the overlap of reading and problem solving for at least a century (Thorndike 1917, 1973-1974; Sternberg & Frensch, 2014). Various reading models have been proposed including bottom-up and top-down reading processing (Goodman, 1972; Gough, 1972). In second language literature, theorists have further noted that reading consists of strategic, purposeful, and interactive processes (Grabe, 2009). In test taking situations, problem solving is important because it can compensate for students’ language proficiencies. In spite of research showing the use of problem solving in reading, less is known about how learners actually read and problem solve in test-taking situations. This study centers around Khalifa, Weir and colleagues’ model for cognitive processing in reading (Weir, Hawkey, Green, Unaldy, & Devi, 2009) in combination with eye-tracking technology in order to examine ESL readers employ careful and expeditious reading. Data were gathered from 50 students attending a university sponsored Intensive English Program. Participants read eight validated reading comprehension items at varying difficulty levels while their eye movements were recorded. Results indicate that student level may not be a factor in how carefully and expeditiously a student reads. However, statistical analyses suggest that text difficulty may be a factor in how carefully students read.

Thesis Author: Juan M. Escalante Talavera

Year Completed: 2018

Thesis Chair: Grant Eckstein


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