Assessment of Optimal Pedagogical Factors for Canadian ESL Learners’ Reading Literacy Through Artificial Intelligence Algorithms


  •  Ya Xiao    
  •  Jie Hu    

Abstract

The current study explored the effective pedagogical factors that distinguish high-achieving from low-achieving ESL (English as a second language) primary school learners in reading literacy in Canada. In total, 203 samples (167 high-achieving learners and 36 low-achieving learners from 128 primary schools) in the 4th grade were drawn from the public database of Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016, which is the benchmark for large-scale assessments of reading literacy targeting fourth-grade students. For the first time in the ESL-related research, this study applied an artificial intelligence approach, support vector machine (SVM), to concurrently analyze 41 pedagogical factors associated with reading materials, classroom organization, reading strategies, in-class reading activities and post-reading activities. The overall 41 factors collectively distinguished the high-achieving readers from the low-achieving readers with a high accuracy score (0.793) via SVM. Then, these 41 factors were ranked according to their contribution to the SVM model through SVM-based recursive feature elimination (SVM-RFE). Eventually, an optimal factor set was selected by the SVM-RFE cross validation, which contained 10 effective pedagogical factors centered on reading materials, reading strategies and in-class reading activities for fourth-grade high-achieving ESL learners in reading literacy. Suggestions based on solid data analysis would facilitate infrastructural and pedagogical improvements in ESL reading education.



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