Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Sedique Popal

Second Advisor

Xornam Apedoe

Third Advisor

Kevin Oh


Reading skills are critical for English as a Second Language (ESL) students in higher education to achieve academic success. However, effective ways to promote student success in ESL reading courses are under-researched. Identifying factors that may enhance the quality and outcomes of learning ESL reading is essential. One such factor identified by previous research is learning strategies. Explicit instruction on learning strategies may lessen the problems and difficulties that international students encounter. Explicit strategy instruction can bring a systematic scaffold into a language learning process, guide students toward proper learning strategies, and promote constructive cognitive processing during learning.

This study aimed to examine how cognitive learning strategy intervention that explicitly models the use of learning strategies could facilitate English as a Second Language (ESL) students’ reading comprehension and change the perceptions of their reading skills. In this mixed-methods study, intact groups of 33 ESL community-college students enrolled in Reading and Writing II courses participated either in the learning strategy treatment group or the traditional instruction comparison group. Three cognitive learning strategies based on the theoretical framework of Mayer's (2005, 2014) select-organize-integrate (SOI) model of generative learning were explicitly modeled and taught: strategy# I (finding the main idea and supporting details), strategy # II (mind mapping), and strategy # III (self-explaining). Differences in scores of reading comprehension tests pre-intervention and post-intervention were examined. Then an online survey and semi-structured individual interviews were conducted to explore how participants experienced the strategy intervention in terms of their awareness of the benefits of the learning strategy and the perceptions of their reading skills. Results indicated that the treatment group’s post-test scores compared to their pretest increased significantly with a large effect size. There was no statistically significant difference in the gain scores between the low and high proficiency students in the treatment group. Both low and high proficiency students increased their post-test scores, indicating strategy intervention was equally beneficial for low and high proficiency students. Furthermore, participants in the treatment group who underwent a six-session cognitive learning strategy intervention outperformed those who received no strategy intervention in the reading comprehension post-test. Qualitative data were coded and analyzed for emerging themes. Participants in the treatment group reported that learning strategy instruction helped them better comprehend, organize, summarize, and remember what they read; hence they could improve their reading comprehension skills. In addition, students’ perceptions of their reading skills changed positively. More specifically, students described their reading confidence, ability to focus on reading, and completing reading journal assignments were enhanced. Furthermore, participants acknowledged that they would continue to use the cognitive learning strategies after the strategy intervention ended. The most helpful strategy the participants opted for was mind mapping. These findings suggest a great opportunity to integrate the learning strategy instruction into regular ESL language courses.