Purpose: The purpose of the three-year study is twofold: (1) to examine the longitudinal effects of remedial-based and mix-ability grouping and English competence-oriented reading-skill instruction on the English reading-strategy use, English comprehension of junior high school students over 1.5 years; (2) and to describe the curriculum-collaboration culture perceived by teachers and principals.
Method: The study adopted the explanatory sequential design of the mixed-method research that first administered the qualitative interview protocol probing teachers’ suggestions for the curriculum and instruction design, then analyzed quantitative data on English reading skills and strategy use of the students at several time-points, and finally adopted the interview protocol probing teachers’ and principal’s perception and evaluation of the instructional intervention and curriculum-collaboration culture. Participating students were Grade 7 students from a Taipei junior high schools (around 77 students), and Grade 7 students from a Hualien junior high school (around 102 students), and 10 teachers. The two schools are participating in a project of English re-grouping instruction in their city or county. The instruction intervention of the experimental group mainly addressed the curriculum suggestions of the new guidelines, in comparison with the control/baseline group. Instruments included the metacognitive awareness of reading-strategy inventory, the reading skill tests, the English proficiency tests, the teaching-log contents, and the interview questions.
Results: The results are detailed below. First, the slower learners in the experimental group gained higher phonics skills after the 1-year or 1.5-year experimental intervention. Second, there was a cross-school difference in the progress of English proficiency (i.e., listening and reading skills) of the students. In the Taipei school, no significant difference was found between the experimental and control groups. But the slower learners in the experimental group outperformed their counterpart in the fourth and fifth tests. In the Hualien school, the experimental group outperformed the control in terms of their progress in the English proficiency. Also the slower learners in the experimental group outperformed their counterpart in the first, second, and fifth tests. Third, particularly in the Taipei school, the experimental group outperformed the control group in terms of their use of overall and problem-solving strategies. Also the slower learners in the experimental group outperformed their counterpart. Fourth, the students in the Taipei school reported the better use of the reading skills and strategies (e.g., identifying the main ideas), while the students in the Hualien school encountered difficulties in doing so due to their difficulties in recognizing vocabulary and grammar at the sentence level. Fifth, the teachers in the experimental group perceived the positive effects of the instruction intervention on both the regular and slower students. They also reported a routine practice in co-constructing lesson-plans, in-class worksheets, and assessment items in their professional learning community at school. Sixth, the school administration in the two schools are willing to support the remedial-based and mix-ability grouping English program by all means, so as to help each student in their schools reach their fullest potential.
Conclusion: The findings provide empirical support the preliminary, longitudinal effects of the competence-based remedial-based and mix-ability grouping English program. On the basis of these findings, four policy implications are drawn:(1) Provide empirical data to support the feasibility of implementing the remedial-based and mix-ability grouping instruction at Grade 7. Yet future research is much needed, particularly for the longitudinal research on the instructional effects on the English proficiency and reading strategy use of the elementary school students in Taiwan. (2) Promote a lesson-planning mode by teachers from different counties. (3) Promote the explicit, skill/strategy-based English reading instruction for junior high school students. (4) Develop a mechanism evaluating the program effectiveness by the longitudinal research.