Original Research

Using role play and explicit strategy instruction to improve first-year students’ academic reading proficiency

Naomi A.Y. Boakye
Reading & Writing | Vol 12, No 1 | a285 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v12i1.285 | © 2021 Naomi A.Y. Boakye | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2020 | Published: 27 October 2021

About the author(s)

Naomi A.Y. Boakye, Unit for Academic Literacy, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Many first-year students find the reading of academic texts to be challenging and overwhelming. In particular, first-year students studying sociology at the South African institution where the study was conducted complain of comprehension challenges. This may be due to the presence of numerous theoretical and abstract concepts in sociology texts, which have to be unpacked in order to gain a greater understanding of social phenomena. A high level of reading proficiency is required in the reading of sociology texts; however, some students are poor readers and find it difficult to cope.

Objectives: The article reports on a support programme aimed at improving first-year sociology students’ academic reading proficiency.

Method: In addition to explicit strategy instruction, which has been used by many researchers to improve reading comprehension, role play was introduced to the reading of sociology texts during tutorials in order to promote deep reading and improve comprehension. Pre-tests and post-tests, together with closed-ended and open-ended questionnaires, were used to determine the efficacy of the intervention. The tests were analysed using t-tests, and the questionnaires were analysed using descriptive statistics for the closed-ended section and content analysis for the open-ended questions.

Results: The findings showed that a significant number of students had improved their reading proficiency and reported both cognitive and affective benefits.

Conclusion: Recommendations are made in relation to the use of role play in addition to explicit strategy instruction in order to maximise the improvement of students’ academic reading ability.


role play; strategy instruction; reading proficiency; cognitive and affective reading strategies; first-year sociology students


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