The Impact of Negotiation for Meaning on Reading Comprehension Among Singapore Primary Students

Project Number
OER 29/08 RS

Project Duration
March 2009 - February 2012


This project examines the extent to which negotiation for meaning enhances primary school students' reading comprehension and vocabulary development in English in the Singapore context. It follows up on prior research on the key role of negotiation for meaning (NFM) in increased comprehension and second language learning (e.g. Ellis, Tanaka, Yamazaki, 1994; Loschky, 1994; Pica, Young & Doughty, 1987) and partially replicates one study done on NFM and reading comprehension in Dutch as a second language (Van den Branden, 2000). The project also continues prior research on the use of peer work in primary classrooms in Singapore - Peer Work and Peer Talk in the Singapore Primary Classroom (PWPT) (e.g. Silver, 2006, 2007, 2008). The PWPT studies have examined use of peer work in primary lessons (frequency, activity types, teacher rationales) and student language use during peer work (NFM, use of Mother Tongue). The proposed study is based on findings from the earlier PWPT studies; however, the focus in this project is student outcomes. The proposed study will also consider both teacher-fronted and peer interactions with NFM in reading comprehension lessons. Briefly, NFM is a form of modified interaction which has been recognized as contributing to language learning especially in second language acquisition. Negotiations occur in non-understanding routines: ''those exchanges in which there is some overt indication that understanding between participants has not been complete'' (Gass & Varonis, 1985: 151). Much research done in this area has focused on the use of NFM in oral communication tasks. Most of these studies involved adult second language learners. However, some research has indicated that children can and do negotiate for meaning (Oliver, 1995, 1998, 2002; Silver, 2008), although their interactions are somewhat different from those of adults. Despite the extensive research on conversational interaction, NFM, and language learning, there has been a notable lack of research on student learning outcomes and children. Ellis and Heimbach (1997) found that NFM increased children's comprehension but did not have a significant impact on vocabulary learning. On the other hand, Van den Branden (2000) showed that children who negotiated for meaning achieved greater gains in reading comprehension test scores. Further studies, which investigate student learning outcomes, are needed for a better understanding of and how NFM impacts learning. In addition studies which address teacher-fronted and peer interaction with NFM and skills which are commonly taught in Singapore (e.g. reading comprehension) have implications for Singaporean pedagogy.

Research Themes
English Language & Mother Tongue Languages

Funding Source

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