Commander, M. & de Guerrero M. C. M. (2013). Reading as a social interactive process: The impact of shadow-reading in L2 classrooms. Reading in a Foreign Language 25(2), pp. 170-191.
This article adds to literature seeking to reconceptualize what it means to read. The authors “address L2 reading as a collaborative process” by exploring shadow-reading techniques (p. 170). Shadow-reading is described as “an adaption of conversational shadowing (Murphey, 2000, 2001), a pedagogical technique in which L2 learners “shadow” their interlocutors’ oral language through complete and selective repetition” (p. 171). In other words, students work with a partner to repeat passages of text read aloud and collaborate via conversation to improve reading comprehension.
The authors of this study are “teachers of low-proficient L2 learners” at a private university in Puerto Rico who work with Spanish-speaking students enrolled in a basic English as a second language (ESL) course (p. 171). 47 learners participated in this study, 18 females and 29 males. The students were all members of separate sessions of the same basic ESL course. Students were divided into two groups, one of which (N=26) participated in shadow-reading exercises, while the second group (N=21) did not. Initial participant proficiency was measured through the English as a Second Language Achievement Test (ESLAT), which students took upon enrolling in the university.
Results indicate that in subsequent retellings of the story through writing, the shadow-reading participants performed noticeably better than those who “relied only on their own individual resources and on silent reading processes for comprehending and internalizing the text” (p. 184). The students who worked together to read the text benefited “from the multiple opportunities they had for reproducing and internalizing the story through repetition, summarizing, and collaborative talk” (p. 184). Data consisted of recordings from the shadow-reading sessions, as well as written recalls. Participants read “Lost and Found,” a story the authors modified from Heyer (1987) in order to make the reading more difficult and more strategic. The shadow-reading process involved one partner reading a portion of text, while the other partner repeated various aspects of the text and commented on comprehension. Next, participants switched roles to read the second portion of text. At the end of the activity, students individually wrote recalls of the story in English. They wrote a second recall in English five days later, as well as a final recall in Spanish.
The authors analyzed the data for strategies such as “supporting, simplifying, and clarifying moves that helped the learners jointly obtain meaning” (p. 176). Multiple excerpts of student conversation from the shadow-reading activity highlight various aspects of reading strategies and offer examples for qualitative interpretation. Researchers then used “quantitative-statistical” measures, the Mann-Whitney U test, to analyze the written data (p. 183). This qualitative-quantitative, or mixed methods, approach allows for a rich understanding of what happens when students employ shadow-reading techniques. In addition, the article provides readers enough evidence to follow procedures and replicate the study.
The authors of this study rely on Vygotskyan sociocultural theory (SCT) and “characterize reading comprehension as a result of another kind of interaction” (p. 171). The social aspect of shadow-reading is derived from learners working together to construct meaning via retelling and commenting on the text. This study departs from previous research on L2 reading by examining “real-time reading,” where students negotiate meaning as they interact and discuss the text (p. 171). This study is an example of the positive correlation between reading and collaborating in terms of enhancing reading comprehension. By working together to process the text, students maintain agency over their learning, which reinforces understanding and retention of content. In addition, this article supports current L2 research on new practices of literacy, such as social reading, and insists on the benefits of collaborative learning in the L2 classroom.