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Improving reading fluency and comprehension in adult ESL learners using bottom-up and top-down vocabulary training

Rhonda Oliver, Shahreen Young



The current research examines the effect of two methods of vocabulary training on reading fluency and comprehension of adult English as second language (ESL) tertiary-bound students. The methods used were isolated vocabulary training (bottom-up reading) and vocabulary training in context (top-down reading). The current exploratory and quasi-experimental study examines the effectiveness of these methods in two intact classes using pre- and posttest measures of students’ reading fluency and comprehension. The results show that bottom-up training had a negative impact on fluency and comprehension. In contrast, top-down training positively affected fluency but had no impact on comprehension. Further, the results do suggest that fast-paced reading may potentially lead to improved comprehension. These findings have implications for the type of language instruction used in classrooms and, therefore, for teachers of adult ESL learners.


reading fluency; comprehension; isolated word training; bottom-up strategy; context word training; top-down strategy

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