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Examining the Interaction among Components of English for Specific Purposes Ability in Reading

The Triple-Decker Model

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Yuyang Cai

The book presents the Triple-Decker Model that describes the interactive mechanism among key constituents of English for Specific Purposes Ability (ESPA): language knowledge, strategic competence and background knowledge (nursing knowledge).

First, the model reveals that ESPA constituents can be assigned to three groups according to their roles in determining ESPA in reading: automators (language knowledge and background knowledge) that respond most directly, assistants (the cognitive aspect of strategic competence) that come to assist when automators are insufficient or boggle down, and regulators (the metacognitive aspect of strategic competence) that supervise all cognitive activities. Second, the model demonstrates the effect of strategic competence and background knowledge on ESPA fluctuated with the continuous increase of language knowledge.

The book also demonstrates the use of two innovative analytical techniques: composite scores based on bifactor multidimensional item response theory for scoring ESP reading tests and the multi-layered-moderation analysis (MLMA) for detecting linear and nonlinear moderation relations.

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Chapter 2 Literature Review

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This chapter reviews relevant literature. It first introduces the fundamental concept of English for Specific Purposes Ability (abbreviated as ESPA; Douglas, 2000). This is followed by a review of recent conceptualizations of ESPA components (i.e. background knowledge, grammatical knowledge and strategic competence). The third section covers empirical studies examining the effects of these components on reading comprehension. The final section introduces the primary statistical procedures used in the current study — multidimensional item response theory (MIRT) and structural equation modeling (SEM) — and reviews empirical studies that have used these procedures in ESP/L2 reading testing literature.

Under the well-documented language-testing model of Communicative Language Ability (CLA; Bachman, 1990; Bachman & Palmer, 1996, 2010), language ability has been framed as the interaction between language knowledge and strategic competence. A prominent feature of this language ability view lies in its vague attitude towards background knowledge. Seeing the difficulty in separating background knowledge from the core concept of language ability, Douglas (2000) argued that, in ESP context, background knowledge should be included as a core component of language ability together with language knowledge and strategic competence, thereby the need for the theoretical justification ←35 | 36→of ESPA. Douglas conceptualizes ESPA as a special case of CLA by making a strong argument for the role of background knowledge and its interaction with language knowledge and strategic competence in affecting ESPA.

Table 2.1 ESPA Components

1. Language knowledge

Grammatical knowledge

• Knowledge of vocabulary

• Knowledge of...

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