How readers extract meaning from a text has long been a focus of attention because the process of extracting meaning gives learners invaluable information about readers’ cognitive processes during reading (Salataci & Akyel 2002). In addition, studies conducted on reading instruction and reading strategies indicate that strategy instruction with a focus on comprehension monitoring can help less skilled readers overcome their difficulties in reading (Franco-Fuenmayor, Kandel-Cisco & Padron 2008; Salataci & Akyel 2002; Pretorius 2002; Grabe & Stoller 2002; Granville 2001; Anderson 1999). In addition, Oxford (1990) points out that it appears that successful language students have the ability to orchestrate and combine particular types of strategies in effective ways according to their own learning needs. Thus, strategy teaching is an important part of teaching a second language and constructing meaning is the goal of comprehension (Dalton & Proctor 2007). In addition, McKeown, Beck and Blake (2009:28) point out that recent research on comprehension has certainly provided increased understanding of the comprehension process and broad and general knowledge of what makes for effective instructional practice. According to Antoniou and Souvignier (2007), the main aims of strategy training are monitoring understanding, enhancing understanding, acquiring and actively using knowledge, and developing insights. In addition, Cubukcu (2007) points out that to be effective, students must have a wide array of reading strategies at their disposal and know where, when and how to use these strategies.
The literature on strategy instruction has shown that there are two different approaches to teaching reading strategies. These are explicit instruction and implicit instruction. According to Hall (2009), explicit instruction is a systematic instructional approach that includes a set of delivery and design procedures derived from effective schools research merged with behaviour analysis. Hall further points out that there are two essential components to well-designed explicit instruction:
1. Visible delivery features are group instruction with a high level of teacher and student interactions.
2. This concerns the less observable, instructional design principles and assumptions that make up the content and strategies to be taught. According to Van Keer (2004), explicit reading strategies instruction and engaging learners in interaction with the text promotes learners’ reading comprehension ability.
In addition, Van Keer states that even when children do not use effective comprehension strategies on their own, explicit reading strategies instruction is a feasible tool for teaching learners to apply them successfully. The current study has been triggered by this view because it seeks to improve the reading comprehension and strategy use of disadvantaged learners. The literature reveals that explicit instruction in reading comprehension is the widely recommended method of improving learners’ reading comprehension and strategy use (Franco-Fuenmayor, Kandel-Cisco & Padron 2008).
On the other hand, the US Department of Education (2008) points out that implicit learning is acquisition of knowledge about the underlying structure of a complex stimulus environment by a process which takes place naturally, simply and without conscious operations. In addition, Dalton and Proctor (2007) point out that implicit reading strategy instruction refers to a reading environment that provides the learner with a variety of embedded features that are designed to support individual learning needs whilst being sensitive to the interactive nature of the reading process. Dalton and Proctor further point out that those learners who struggle with creating meaning are supported in an apprentice model of reading strategy instruction where scaffolds decrease as learners’ understanding and self- regulation improves.