Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Language teaching

A Study of the Correlation between English Majors’ Tolerance of Ambiguity and Reading Comprehension Achievement

Author LiMeiYan
Tutor DuanMuQingYi
School Henan Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Tolerance of Ambiguity Reading Comprehension Achievement Cognitive Style Difficulty Index English Reading Teaching
CLC H319
Type Master's thesis
Year 2007
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Ambiguity is one of the inherent characteristics of natural language and exists widely in human language. There is no doubt that English makes no exceptions. In the complicated process of English learning, learners are not only confronted with the ambiguities of English language itself, but also the ambiguities or uncertainties due to the non-total correspondence between English and Chinese in their pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, meaning, pragmatics, culture and so on. Therefore, learners must own a certain degree of tolerance of ambiguity when absorbing and dealing with English information.Tolerance of Ambiguity (TOA) can be called“Ambiguity Tolerance”as well , which is closely related with people’s cognitive styles.“Ambiguity shows that a person does not have enough information or cues towards a certain stimulus or situation, while tolerance means begrudging acceptance and intolerance means rejection, and the degree of tolerance is a continuum form rejection to attraction”(McLain, 1993). One is tolerant or not depends on his/her reactions to ambiguous situations. If he/she regards ambiguous situations as sources of threat, he/she owns lower tolerance of ambiguity or he/she is an ambiguity intolerant person; on the contrary, if he/she considers ambiguous situations to be desirable, then he/she has higher tolerance of ambiguity or he is an ambiguity tolerant person.As one of the important cognitive variables, TOA attracts more and more researchers’attention home or abroad. While reading comprehension ability is widely regarded as one of the most important comprehensive abilities in Second Language Acquisition. Therefore, exploring the factors that affect students’reading comprehension achievement and the ways to improve reading abilities from cognitive perspective will greatly promote the development of reading theory and reading teaching.Reading comprehension is a complicated cognitive and psychological process and is also a creative action of extracting information actively. Hence, learners are always involved in ambiguous situations in reading English materials. Firstly, they are often in the new situations, which refer to meet new or strange words, phrases, grammatical patterns, cultures and so on; secondly, they are in the complex situations, which mean they often feel difficult to deal with the complicated and numerous clues or cues; thirdly, they are confronted with insoluble situations from time to time, i.e. they often feel passive and hard to understand the exact meaning of reading materials; finally, they are confused about the main idea of reading materials, although they know each word, thus, they involve in the confused situations.Due to the existence of these ambiguous situations, learners must own and develop a certain degree of tolerance of ambiguity. Moreover, learners with different degrees of TOA have different reactions towards ambiguous situations. Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to examine whether tolerance of ambiguity has some effect on reading comprehension achievement.This study is based on Ely and Budner’s theories about Tolerance of Ambiguity, and chooses 92 sophomores from Faculty of International Studies in Henan Normal University, and mainly employs the tools of questionnaire and reading comprehension test, and uses SPSS 11.5 to describe and analyze the collected data and materials, then tries to explore English majors’tolerance of ambiguity in reading comprehension and its relationship with reading comprehension achievement; meanwhile, to figure out if the difficulty index of test items has some effect on the relationship between tolerance of ambiguity and reading comprehension achievement. At last, the following findings are obtained:⑴English majors have higher tolerance of ambiguity in reading comprehension, but there is no excess TOA and ITOA.⑵There is a significant difference of English majors’TOA between reading and speaking, reading and writing, but there is no significant difference between reading and listening. ⑶There is a statistically significant positive correlation between English majors’TOA and reading comprehension achievement.⑷The difficulty index of test items has a complicated effect on the correlation between TOA and reading comprehension achievement. I.e. when the difficulty index of test items changes within a certain range, the correlation between TOA and reading comprehension achievement exists; however, if the difficulty index of test items goes beyond this range, such as too difficult, then the correlation between TOA and reading comprehension achievement does not exist.This paper makes tentative discussions to the above findings and asserts that they support the active role of TOA in reading comprehension. Based on this, the writer combines it with her personal learning and teaching experiences and offers some useful suggestions to English language learning and teaching. As for the purpose of this study, it means to attract teachers and learners’attention to the relevant issues and provide some implications to reading teaching. To summarize, in reading teaching, language teachers should pay attention to the individual differences and cultivate students’moderate tolerance of ambiguity, so as to develop reading activities more effectively and realize the harmonious combination of learning and teaching, and then achieve the best effect.

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