Impact of virtual literature circles on Chinese university EFL students' independent English reading
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of virtual literature circles (VLCs) on Chinese university English as a foreign language (EFL) students’ independent English reading. The importance of independent reading for EFL students to develop critical thinking, language proficiency, and good readership was extensively discussed and supported (eg. Day and Bamford, 1998; Krashen, 1989, 1993, 1995; Mason & Krashen, 1997; Ro, 2013; Yamashita, 2013). However, lack of empirically validated approaches hindered the ability of EFL teachers to effectively promote such reading. This study proposed a VLC approach for EFL teachers to engage their students in independent English reading. The VLC approach integrated the use of social media into traditional literature circles. To validate this approach in an EFL environment, VLCs were implemented with a sample of Chinese university EFL students. A quasi-experimental between-subjects posttest design was selected to investigate the effectiveness of the VLC. The 118 research participants were enrolled in four reading classes. Two classes (n=59) were randomly assigned to the VLC treatment and the other two (n=59) to the summary-writing treatment, while reading two American young adult novels outside of school. To measure participant reading experiences and reading achievement, five book-dependent instruments (the Reading Experience Survey, the Written Retell Test, the Vocabulary Acquisition Test, the Reading Comprehension Test, and the Reading Engagement Essay) were developed and administered to all research participants after the eight-week experiment. A one-way MANCOVA showed that, overall, VLC participants outperformed the summary-writing participants on the composite score of the posttest. Univariate analysis revealed that participation in VLCs led to statistically better performance in the Reading Experience Survey and the Reading Comprehension Test. The research provided empirical evidence for the overall effectiveness of the VLC. The findings have important implications for EFL reading instruction and research.
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