The effect of implementing an interactive reading project on reading comprehension in the third-semester Russian language class
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In recent years, a number of empirical and conceptual studies about Project-Based Learning (PBL) have presented consistent arguments rationalizing this approach to language learning and teaching. The most common benefits attributed to project work in the second- and foreign-language settings have been located and described in recent research. However, only a few empirical studies have been conducted to evaluate the effect of project work on language learning, and even fewer on specific language skills. This dissertation presents the results of a quasi-experimental research study that investigates the effect of incorporating a semester-long reading project into a third-semester Russian classroom and reports the measured effects of this experimental treatment on students’ reading comprehension, their reading habits and beliefs, perceived reading skills, and overall language proficiency. The dissertation provides data on a semester-long project allowing students to research a topic of their interest through a set of readings (which substituted for the textbook texts) with an ultimate goal of reporting their findings in the form of a newsletter article. The project entailed interconnected sets of sequenced tasks during which students are actively engaged in information gathering, processing, and reporting, with the ultimate goal of increased content knowledge and language mastery. The context for this project was primarily text-based (extensive readings served as a base for all activities and assignments), task-driven (creating an end-product in written form), collaborative, technology-enhanced (extensive use of the Internet), and individualized (students researched topics they were interested in). The results of the study demonstrate that students’ reading comprehension increased by using an integrated methodology where reading was taught through maximizing students’ previous knowledge of a subject matter of their interest and following the procedural model for interactive reading. Additionally, the results suggest that the project implementation had a positive effect on some reading habits and beliefs regarding foreign language (FL) learning, while no significant shifts were found in students’ perceived reading skills, or their overall language proficiency.