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Volume 15 Number 4, Winter 2018, Pages 900-1238 PDF Download

Interplay of Working Memory, Strategy Use, and Task Difficulty in L2 Reading Comprehension

    Jeongsoon Joh

In pursuit of the precise mechanism by which working memory (WM) functions in second language (L2) reading comprehension (RC), the current study examined whether strategy use or task difficulty influences the role of WM in L2 RC. Eighty Korean adult EFL learners participated, and their WM capacity, RC performance, and strategy use were measured. The variable of task difficulty was operationalized by the relative difficulty of texts on which RC items were based. The results showed that difference in strategy use brought about significant difference in RC performance when the readers with insufficient WM capacity had to comprehend difficult texts, whereas no such difference was found with easier texts or among L2 readers with more WM capacity. These findings not only illustrate intricate interrelationships among WM and other variables in L2 RC, but also provide a noteworthy implication for L2 reading instruction that L2 learners with deficient WM capacity could benefit from active strategy use when faced with a difficult L2 reading task. The compensatory role of strategy and the necessity of remedial strategy training for the learners with limited WM is further implicated for L2 reading classrooms.

Keywords: working memory, L2 knowledge, strategy use, task difficulty, L2 reading comprehension