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Academic skills

Scaffolding Academic Reading in a Second Language through Task Design and Teacher Feedback

January 2023 | Academic reading | Academic skills | Assessment | Linguistics | Non-native speakers | Research | Teaching & Learning

Mežek, Š., McGrath, L., Negretti, R., & Berggren, J. (2021). Scaffolding L2 academic reading and self-regulation through task and feedback. TESOL Quarterly. doi:

What this research was about and why it is important

Reading strategy instruction does not always help university students to become effective and self-regulated readers when reading academic texts in their own study contexts. This study examines the effects of a specific task combined with teacher feedback, designed to support three phases of self-regulation: forethought, performance control, and evaluation. Students read texts related to their university course and, based on the task prompt, posted blogs documenting their reading. A teacher then provided feedback on each post. Through the analysis of the student blogs and the teacher feedback, we found that the task prompted students to reflect on their reading. The teacher feedback redirected students’ attention to new ways of reading and to less superficial aspects of the task, and reminded students of reading behaviours they had previously engaged in successfully.

What the research did

Data were collected from students on an academic English course at a Swedish university.

  • Students read academic texts and posted 5 blogs, each time after reading a text, as well as a final post at end of the course.
  • The teacher gave students feedback on their blog posts before they engaged with the subsequent text.
  • The task and teacher feedback were carefully designed with the purpose of helping students become effective readers and to scaffold their self-regulation when reading.
  • Teacher feedback was analysed by looking at what type of feedback was given and what the topic of it was.
  • Student posts were analysed by looking at how students engaged with teacher feedback and how the posts showed evidence of self-regulation.

What the researchers found

Teacher feedback was mostly provided as a question and focused on the performance control and evaluation phases of self-regulation.

  • Students verbally responded to teacher feedback frequently, although they rarely did so explicitly. Questions were the most likely feedback type to be followed by an explicit response.
  • All students, even those who did not engage extensively with feedback, showed evidence of all three phases of selfregulation, particularly evaluation of their reading, which means that the task prompt scaffolded their reading.
  • Feedback was also found to be needed, as it redirected students’ attention to new ways of reading, focusing students on less superficial aspects of the task, and reminding them of behaviours they had previously successfully engaged in. In other words, teacher feedback helped students to make connections in their learning and supported the recursive
    aspect of self-regulation.

Things to consider

The study suggests that a carefully developed pedagogical approach, with a well-designed task and feedback that scaffolds students’ reading, can positively influence what students do outside of the classroom, in an authentic reading context.

  • To support the teacher in giving good feedback which will support students’ academic reading, training, a clear framework, rationale and examples of feedback should be provided.
  • To encourage students to do their reading on time, write blog posts, and engage with teacher feedback, a clear explanation of the purpose of the intervention and the potential learning gains must be provided to them. Being given time to share learning experiences in seminars may also encourage students to post blog posts more regularly.


How to cite the summary: Mežek, Š., McGrath, L., Negretti, R., & Berggren, J. (2021). Scaffolding academic reading in a second language through task design and teacher feedback. OASIS Summary of Mežek, McGrath, Negretti, et. al. (2021) in TESOL Quarterly

Download the summary here: OASIS_Summary_Mezek_et_al_2021

This summary has a CC BOASIS_Summary_Mezek_et_al_2021Y-NC-SA license

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