A Think-Aloud Study: Cognitive and Metacognitive Reading
Strategies of ELT Department Students
Yaylı, D. (2010). A think-aloud study: Cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies of ELT department
students. Egitim Arastirmalari-Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 38, 234-251.
Problem Statement: The main purpose of reading instruction is to foster strategic readers who are capable
of using cognitive reading strategies flexibly and controlling their comprehension. Since cognitive and
metacognitive reading strategies play a pivotal role in reading comprehension, there is a need for
studies focusing on strategy use by EFL learners from contexts other than mainstream ESL. There is
little research that uses think-aloud and/or retrospective protocols to investigate strategy use by
learners of English in Turkish universities.
Purpose of Study: This study employs think-aloud and retrospective protocols to gather verbal report
data on cognitive and metacognitive reading strategy use by the students enrolled in an English
Language Teaching (ELT hereafter) department in Turkey.
Methods: This study relies on the think-aloud and retrospective protocols of 6 proficient (PR hereafter)
and 6 less proficient readers (LPR hereafter), who were chosen as participants according to their mid-
term (20%) and final reading exam scores (40%) in the Advanced Reading and Writing course and their
paper-based Reading Comprehension TOEFL scores (40%). First, the participants were asked to read and
paraphrase an expository and a narrative text in the think-aloud session. Second, in the retrospective
session, they were asked to share how they comprehended the two texts, what comprehension
problems they encountered and how they solved them. Data analysis aimed to reveal both cognitive
and metacognitive reading strategy types and also the frequencies of their use, as included in the verbal
Findings and Results: The PRs used cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies more frequently than
the LPRs in both text types, and both groups mainly used the same strategy types. The findings also
revealed that the LPRs especially referred to cohesive ties, mainly while guessing the meaning of
unknown vocabulary items or making connections within the text. Therefore, ‘using cohesive ties’ and
‘awareness of cohesive ties’ were taken as cognitive and metacognitive reading strategy types,
Conclusions and Recommendations: The limited variety in reading strategy use may stem from the similar
literacy and foreign language education in the EFL context in Turkey, which is teacher-centered,
structural and behavioristic. Bearing this in mind, learners should be explicitly trained in what
cognitive reading strategies are and how they are used at different times, and this awareness will in
turn help learners monitor and evaluate their comprehension.
Keywords: English as a foreign language; cognitive reading strategies; metacognitive reading strategies;
1 Asst.Prof.Dr., Pamukkale University Faculty of Education, TURKEY, firstname.lastname@example.org