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Cognitive Processes and Foreign Language Reading: Investigating Students' Test Taking Behaviour with a Reflective Questionnaire

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Klaus Siller
Salzburg College of Education, Austria

Andrea Kulmhofer-Bommer
Federal Institute of Quality Assurance of the Austrian School System, Austria

Ulrike Kipman
Salzburg College of Education, Austria


Commonly, models of reading emphasize the relevance of cognitive processes and metacognitive strategies when it comes to reading comprehension. Although these models are derived from research into first language (L1) reading, they often serve as the basis for operationalizing foreign language (FL) reading comprehension tests. This is also true for the FL Reading Test (E8 Reading Test) administered in 2013 and 2019 in Austria. However, little is known about test takers’ behaviour regarding their cognitive processes and metacognitive strategies when taking the test. Undoubtedly, such information could be useful for the FL classroom and to inform foreign language reading instruction as well as test development. Therefore, this paper investigates which cognitive processes and metacognitive strategies students (n=106) apply when taking the E8 Reading Test. Data was collected using a reflective questionnaire. The results show that compared to weaker readers, strong readers apply the expected cognitive processes more frequently. There is no statistically significant difference, however, between stronger and weaker readers regarding metacognitive strategies applied. Furthermore, the data revealed that some good readers arrive at the correct answer by making use of different/other cognitive processes and metacognitive strategies than expected. These findings emphasize the importance of explicit, guided foreign language reading instruction focussing not only on the product of reading (comprehension) but also on the processes involved. However, more research is needed to better understand what the absence or presence of skills and strategies mean regarding individual learner abilities.

Foreign language reading, foreign language instruction, assessment, metacognitive strategies, cognitive processes