Assessing EFL reading comprehension: The case of Ethiopian learners

Anat Stavans, Brenda Oded

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The established means of assessment may not measure the actual learning of some students with particular learning styles. Recent studies on reading comprehension strategies used by unsuccessful language learners have revealed that some of these learners use the same kind of strategies at the same frequency as do successful learners. Yet their performance on reading comprehension assessments is appreciably lower. The present study was undertaken to diagnose and aid a group of unsuccessful Ethiopian EFL university students in Israel with reference to a typical Israeli EFL group on the same level. It was hypothesized that the failure of the unsuccessful group was attributable to cultural differences in the mode of information transmission, i.e. a teaching and assessment methodology which relies heavily on a written modality as opposed to the group's oral tradition, and imposes an inappropriate set of expectations and requirements on these learners. This study examined the use of strategies in answering reading comprehension questions and the differences in performance on various test formats ranging from most structured to least structured, namely multiple-choice questions, open-ended (OE) questions, and an unstructured oral retell task. Strategy reports were elicited by immediate introspection and general retrospection. The results show that though the unsuccessful learners use similar strategies to those used by successful learners, their use of such strategies is "mechanical," resulting in poor performance. No evidence was found to support the notion that the group's oral tradition contributed to their failure on written tasks; instead, there was evidence of the effect of the previous learning experiences of the group on their "mechanical" implementation of strategies. Furthermore, the OE test format was found to be the most facilitating as an assessment tool. In conclusion, this study points to the need for adjusting and individualizing teaching methods and means of assessment to the students' learning styles to ensure that students realize their potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-494
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1993


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